On World Humanitarian Day: Could We Do Better with Cash?

World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to celebrate the courage of humanitarian workers, but also to think about how to improve the system. I am chairing a High Level Panel looking at the role of cash transfers in humanitarian aid.

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Rows of people in suits, many looking at blackberries or laptops, in the UN Conference Centre

Addis: A Good First Step, but a Terrible Last Word, for 2015

The Financing for Development Conference in July 2015 in Addis Ababa was never going to solve all the world’s development problems. The policy framework is pretty good, but will only be important if government, companies and organisations now take specific actions. Read the full post »
Owen Barder and Bill Easterly addressing the audience at the Center for Global Development

My debate with Bill Easterly

The video of my debate this morning with Bill Easterly. Read the full post »
Owen Barder & Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof: from activist to investor [podcast]

Celebrity activists who campaign about development are often sneered at by development economists and by commentators; they are variously accused of ignorance, of exploiting a cause to further their own career, or even of wanting to perpetuate poverty to justify their own public profile. Bob Geldof has given an extended interview on Development Drums about his work over three decades; you can judge for yourself if this criticism of celebrity activists is fair. (But beware: the language is colourfully and characteristically explicit in places.)  You can listen to the 35 minute version here, or listen to the entire extended interview. Read the full post »
Parliament House Canberra, Australia, with a blue sky

Achieving policy impact

The video of a talk I did at the Development Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australian National University on 9 October 2012. Read the full post »
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at a press conference after a meeting with the German Chancellor in the Chanclery in Berlin.

Not about the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

Following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, this blog post reminds readers of an earlier blog post explaining why I don't write much about Ethiopian politics, despite (then) living there. Read the full post »
Logo of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Your hustings for the EBRD President

On Friday the Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will decide who will be the Bank’s next President.  I've interviewed four of the candidates and the interviews are now online for you to listen to, and you can read the transcript here. Read the full post »
Women preparing food in mud hut on March 20 , 2014 in Jaisalmer,India

End of year reflections

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 … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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Screenshot showing the Simpsons in an Ethiopian restaurant

The Simpsons go to little Ethiopia

Bart (eating injera and wot): “I wish I lived in Ethiopia”. Lisa: “Exotic. Vegetarian. I can mention it in a college essay. Mom: this is amazing!”.

Simpsons Ethiopian Restaurant from Folu Aladelusi on Vimeo.… Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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How to spend $1m reducing climate change

We would get three or four times as much bang for our buck - in terms of climate change benefits - from population policies and girls' education as we would from the most cost-effective investments in forest management, and in addition we'd get the broader economic and social benefits for the people of developing countries.

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The RAF dropping food from the back of a British Hercules

The BBC sexed up a report about aid to Ethiopia

The BBC has today apologised for giving the false impression that a substantial part of aid given to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted for military use.  This impression was given by a programme in March by Martin Plaut, and compounded by the BBC's publicity for the programme on television and radio and online.   It isn't just Band Aid to whom the BBC owes an apology, but to the British Government, other donors, a vast number of charities, and the public who gave so generously.  There is no evidence that any of the aid effort in the government-held areas of Ethiopia - the vast majority of the aid to Ethiopia - was diverted. The BBC report was about a completely distinct, and very much smaller, relief effort in rebel-held areas. Either deliberately or accidentally the BBC sexed up their report in a way that smeared an extremely successful effort to save lives and an operation of which those involved are rightly proud.   As Mark Twain remarked, “a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on”.
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Fifty years since the death of Sylvia Pankhurst, Ethiopians pay tribute

There was a memorial service this morning for Sylvia Pankhurst at the Holy Trinity cathedral (or Haile Selassie cathedral) in Addis Ababa, presided over by the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The Pankhurst name is familiar in Britain because … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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Ethiopia pictures

Here are some photos taken as we travelled around Ethiopia last week.

[slickr-flickr tag=”ae2010″ type=”galleria” delay=”3″]… Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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Geeky stuff for the weekend

Social media

I can think of a couple of organisations which have embraced social media exactly like this:


New aidinfo website

In work-related geek news, my team has a brilliant new website: http://www.aidinfo.org. (I can call it brilliant without … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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Family planning in Ethiopia and the new UN strategy

This week I attended the inauguration a new Marie Stopes family planning clinic in Woldia in northern Ethiopia. Together with yesterdays announcement by the UN of a new "Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health", Every Woman, Every Child, this has led me to reflect on the importance of family planning and maternal health in Ethiopia and in other developing countries.  There is huge unmet need for family planning here in Ethiopia which, if met in full, could both directly improve the lives of many families in Ethiopia, and result in a substantial increase in incomes per head.  A decade of sustained access to modern contraception could have increase incomes per head in Ethiopia by roughly the same amount as the whole of today's international aid to Ethiopia.  The new UN strategy, Every Woman Every Child, isn't really a strategy, but it is a welcome restatement of the importance of the health of women and children. It is shocking that it is almost completely silent on abortion. (Here in Ethiopia, unsafe abortion is responsible for a third of maternal deaths.)

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Lalibela kids on football

Will Ross has a nice piece on BBC Radio 4 Today this morning in which he goes to Lalibela, a small, quite remote, mountain-top town in Northern Ethiopia, and interviews the kids there about the World Cup. They know … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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(Not) about Ethiopian politics

People sometimes ask me to write more about political situation in Ethiopia (eg in a comment yesterday on my website).

This has caused me to consider why I don’t write much about Ethiopian politics.  I decided that there are … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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Aid effectiveness after Paris

Why the Paris agenda won't deliver aid effectiveness: my presentation at the Ethiopia Donors Assistance Group meeting yesterday. Also my first experiment with publishing a narrated presentation. Read the full post »

Spare a thought for exporters from poor countries

In among the many problems caused by the decision not to fly in the ash-cloud, spare a thought for several very poor African countries who earn important foreign exchange by selling fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to European markets and … Go to www.owen.org to read the rest

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