There were two major gatherings of global leaders this year – in New York for the UN General Assembly and in Paris for the climate talks. In some ways, the agreements that came out of both meetings look similar. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a bunch of aspirational targets for national and global progress without any legal authority, some of which look simply implausible without truly revolutionary global policy change of which there is little sign to date. Paris
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The research organization Aid Data has been getting a lot of attention in the aid world of late with its survey of recipient country policymakers and practitioners and their views of the utility, influence and helpfulness during reform of various aid agencies. Suggests the press release: “According to nearly 6,750 policymakers and practitioners, the development partners that have the most influence on policy priorities in their low-income and middle-income countries are not large Western donors like the United States or UK. Instead it is large multilateral institutions like the World Bank, the GAVI Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria." That conclusion is based on average worldwide agency scores from the survey.
For the reader in a hurry, this gift-giving guide comes in two parts: one for those with $45 billion to spend and one for those of slightly more modest means. Please feel free to skip to the part which is more applicable to your budget for presents.
Small Changes, Big Impacts, and Lingering Questions: The Inaugural Birdsall House Conference Series on Women
As part of our new Gender and Development program, CGD just hosted the first annual Birdsall House Conference on Women. This year’s session, “Small Changes, Big Impact: Creating Conditions for Women and Girls to Thrive,” explored the possibility that cheap and scalable aid-funded interventions could considerably improve the lives of women and girls. Short answer: small changes do have big potential, but their limits should be acknowledged — and they require continued study and fine-tuning in order to be more effective.
Has the effort to make the goals famous laid the foundation for a global movement? The initial evidence suggests ‘not yet.’ And in defense of the Global Goals organizers, that isn't for lack of trying.
In 2004, Michael Clemens, Todd Moss, and I wrote a paper on the Millennium Development Goals. It made a lot of forecasts about development trends, aid flows, and political fallout from the goal-setting exercise over the next 11 years.
There were a lot of speeches made around the SDGs by prime ministers and presidents this weekend that had a broadly similar format. The result was much stirring rhetoric, and almost nothing in the way of progress.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a model aid agency in a lot of ways, one of which is its commitment to learning from experience and evidence on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to development programs. Despite that, it still has an egregiously flawed way to deal with the risk of corruption. The MCC takes a slippery and poorly measured concept and puts it to the most blunt of zero tolerance tests: if a country is below the median in its income group on the Worldwide Governance Indicators measure of control of corruption, it doesn’t get a compact.
Do laws make a difference? It may seem an odd question, but there are certainly examples of cases where they don’t have the intended effect. And there is some skepticism in the gender and development field (and elsewhere) that a simple legal change will do much to alter entrenched norms and customs, particularly in countries where the rule of law is fragile.
Next week, President Obama will head up to New York to deliver two speeches to the General Assembly. One will be the "standard" once-yearly address at the opening of the new Assembly Session. The second will focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a fifteen year vision of development progress from ending extreme poverty to halting biodiversity loss that will be adopted by the largest ever gathering of world leaders.