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Each year billions of dollars are spent on development programs with relatively few rigorous studies of whether they actually work. In 2004, CGD set out to address this lack of good quality impact evaluations and our recommendations led to the creation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) in 2009. The number and quality of impact evaluations has risen significantly, but there is still a long way to go to make sure future development interventions are based on evidence of what works.
In December CGD announced that Howard White had been selected as the first director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation or 3IE ("Triple I E"). The announcement, a milestone in the creation of a new international entity independent from CGD, came just 20 months after the release of a CGD working group report that offered recommendations on how to close the "evaluation gap"--that is, dramatically increase the number of rigorous impact evaluations in areas such as health and education. White, who is currently based in Cairo, has set an ambitious agenda for getting the 3IE up and running.
The sudden death of World Health Organization director general Lee Jong-wook at the start of the World Health Assembly has created a leadership vacuum at a time when the WHO faces immense challenges. Ruth Levine, who heads CGD's Global Health Policy Research Network, argues that the WHO leadership must become more independent so that science can shape public health policies and practice.
Each year, donors spend more than $30 billion and developing countries spend hundreds of billions more on programs to improve health, education and other social outcomes. But few programs are evaluated to learn whether they make a difference in people's lives. CGD's Evaluation Gap Working Group is investigating ways to fix this problem. Ruth Levine, CGD director of programs and a co-author of the Evaluation Gap Working Group draft report, recently traveled to Mexico to hear from senior Latin American officials their views about closing the evaluation gap.
CGD senior fellow and director of programs Ruth Levine has urged the U.S. Congress to push for independent evaluation of development assistance. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Levine said that independent impact evaluation is crucial for ensuring that the billions of dollars spent on development actually helps poor people.
In September 2008 official aid donors and recipients will meet in Accra, Ghana, to discuss how to make development assistance more effective. CGD president Nancy Birdsall and co-author Kate Vyborny suggest that advocates of better aid who really want a win at Accra forget haggling over broad conceptual issues and focus instead on getting a public commitment from donors to one or more very concrete steps to improve aid effectiveness and to hold donors accountable.