(lots of ) Other worlds are possible

December 4, 2009
‘We are confronted with two alternatives: to be a demagogue or to be a realist. If, based on the law of supply and demand, I say that there is a greater demand in the world for bread than for plastic surgery; and much more for the treatment of malaria than for apparel of haute couture; or if I propose a

Seattle + 10 = Copenhagen?

December 3, 2009
I went out for a celebratory (if that’s the word) drink this week with a heroic band of Seattle Survivors. Ten years ago we were besuited NGO delegates at the notorious WTO ministerial, which collapsed in a welter of tear gas and turtles (or at least people dressed in turtle suits protesting at WTO rulings on the environment). It’s been

Should aid support patronage politics?

December 2, 2009
In this month’s Prospect, Alex de Waal wrestles with the problems posed by state-building in countries where patronage trumps politics. This kind of ‘what do we do about fragile states’ discussion is one of the most intractable issues in development, so don’t expect simple solutions, but Alex (who is one of the most original thinkers on this kind of thing)

Is Growth with Equity getting old?

December 1, 2009
Growth with Equity has been one of the development industry’s overarching economic narratives for over a decade (Oxfam published ‘Economic Growth with Equity: Lessons from East Asia’ in 1998). OK, it’s better than just ‘Growth’, and where it’s been achieved, it has an unrivalled impact on poverty, but thinking has moved on in a number of areas, and G+E is

Oil melts glaciers, Gandhian climate marchers and hitch-hiking polar bears

November 27, 2009
A Thanksgiving and pre-Copenhagen treat – this vintage 1962 Life Magazine advert from Humble Energy – which became Exxon after its merger with Standard Oil. In those days, big oil really told it like it was [h/t Alex Evans]. By the way, if you’re somewhere between Oxford and Copenhagen and you see a footsore Indian hiker with flowing locks, be

How has the World Bank performed on the global economic crisis?

November 26, 2009
The Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group – an internal watchdog with a good track record in spotting problems, has just published an evaluation of the World Bank Group (WBG)’s response to the crisis. Nothing earth-shattering, but here are some highlights: ‘The greatest part of the Bank’s response in fiscal 2009 was a large increase in IBRD lending, which was unprecedented relative

A unique 30 year portrait of a shanty town and its people

November 25, 2009
In 1978 Caroline Moser, a young British anthropologist went with her two children and film-maker husband to Indio Guayas, a new squatter settlement in the swamps surrounding the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. They built a 4 x 8 metre bamboo house joined to dry ground by long, rickety walkways, and lived there for 7 months while Brian Moser made a

Millions Fed: 20 case studies of agricultural success

November 24, 2009
‘In the late 1950s around a billion people—about one-third of the world’s population—were estimated to go hungry every day. Famines were threatening millions in Asia and Africa in particular, and prospects for feeding the world’s booming population looked bleak. In response to this alarming picture, scientists, policymakers, farmers, and concerned individuals initiated a concerted push to boost agricultural production and

How archaeology holds the key to climate change adaptation in Bolivia

November 20, 2009
Climate Change is giving Bolivia a rough ride. One of the poorest, most unequal, and most biodiverse countries in Latin America, it has been buffeted by ‘natural’ disasters in recent years and is home to 20% of the world’s tropical glaciers, which are melting faster than most experts thought possible. Bolivia is also home to an exciting change process under

What can the BRICS teach us about reducing poverty?

November 19, 2009
An excellent new paper from the prolific Martin Ravallion, head of the World Bank’s research department, compares the successes in poverty reduction in three of the biggest beasts of the developing world: China, India and Brazil. Between them, these countries are home to a bit less than half the world’s poor people, but it used to be a lot more.

Has the IMF really changed? Academic arm-wrestling from Washington…..

November 18, 2009
A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC tries to work out whether the IMF has really changed its thinking in response to the global economic crisis and the general perception that countercyclical responses (rather than belt-tightening austerity) are the right way to go in a recession. After a (fairly polite) public row with

Ripples from the future; realtime climate change; food prices; throwing rocks; seduced by stories and why does she always guess right? Links I liked

November 17, 2009
‘Scientists at the £3.6bn Large Hadron Collider (LHC) found their plans to emulate the big bang postponed this week when a passing bird dropped a “bit of baguette” into the machine, causing it to overheat’ records the Guardian.  But there’s a much more sinister explanation from the whackier frontiers of theoretical physics: ‘ripples from the future are travelling back in time