Current affairs

The Guardian development blog is running a series of end of year reflections on development, including one by me. Many of the articles are upbeat about progress in developing countries, but pessimistic about the short term economic prospects for the industrialised world and for global cooperation to tackle shared global problems.

The series so far includes:

  • Duncan Green from Oxfam, who contrasts progress in developing countries over the last year with the gloom of the ‘formerly rich’ countries of the G-8.
  • Calestous Juma from Harvard, who identifies regional integration and better links with the diaspora as key drivers of Africa’s growth.
  • Shanta Devarajan from the World Bank, who is cautiously optimistic, especially in the light  of increased demand by Africans for their governments to be accountable.
  • Linda Raftree from Plan, who also emphasizes progress towards more inclusive and open societies.
  • Kevin Watkins from Brookings and UNESCO, calling for “a properly financed global fund for education like those that have delivered such striking results in the health sector“.
  • Jonathan Glennie from ODI and the Guardian, who is pessimistic about the prospects for international cooperation in the face of rising protectionism and nationalism as a result of poor economic prospects in the US and Europe.
  • and my contribution, reproduced below, which gives a positive account of progress in many countries in Africa over the past year, and emphasizes the importance for developing countries of better global decision-making.

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Michael Woolcock sent me this excellent quote from Thomas Paine:

When it shall be said in any country in the world, ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of… Continue reading

During the mass migration between the middle of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of the first world war, about a third of Europeans migrated from their country of birth, mainly to America.  Today levels of migration are proportionately… Continue reading

An interesting Economist article about the uses of prizes to promote innovation is a missed opportunity to explain the economic logic of prizes for innovations for developing countries. The reported comments by Tachi Yamada at the Gates Foundation about the value of market success do not seem to take account of the shortcomings of the system of patents and markets when it comes to developing drugs for diseases that mainly affect developing countries, nor to the problem of ensuring access in developing countries for new drugs.

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We have been told that the three largest parties in the UK are committed to retaining DFID as a separate government department, with its own Cabinet Minister, and with a budget that rises to meet the UK's commitment to increase aid to 0.7% of GDP. If we want to help to accelerate development, then some of the time we will need to put the UK's broad, long-term interest in building a safer, more equal and prosperous world ahead of the UK's narrower and short-term commercial or political interests. The most important international development question for the UK election should be: which of the political parties is willing to do that? Continue reading
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