Ha-Joon Chang uncovers what’s worked in the history of agricultural policy

November 16, 2009
I vividly remember the impact of Ha-Joon Chang’s 2002 book ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’. At the time I was an NGO lobbyist on the WTO’s Doha round of trade talks, and Ha-Joon’s book showed how when they were still poor, today’s rich countries had systematically used the industrial policies and other forms of state management of the economy that they

Which governments are best/worst at ending hunger?

November 13, 2009
League tables are a powerful weapon in the armoury of NGO advocacy. Politicians in the country that ends up in the top slot feel like they are getting some fleeting recognition for their efforts, while those at the bottom are annoyed and hopefully prodded into action. Newspapers love them too as they reduce a complex issue to a nice simple

What have we learned from the Global Economic Crisis?

November 12, 2009
Last week we (Oxfam International) met to discuss a series of studies on the impact of, and response to, the global economic crisis (GEC). Partly because the discussion took place in Bangkok, the research (and therefore this summary) was very weighted towards East Asia and the Pacific, but here are some initial impressions. From studies in 11 countries, if one

Why has the Tobin Tax gone mainstream?

November 11, 2009
So the Tobin Tax finally went large at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting last weekend. Gordon Brown supported a financial transactions tax to repay some of the costs of the bailout and provide extra cash for development and climate change action, and a predictable backlash promptly consumed the finance pages. I won’t rehearse the press coverage (try Heather Stewart or Larry

Migration and Development: lead author of this year’s Human Development Report responds to my review

November 10, 2009
Jeni Klugman responds to my fairly critical review of this year’s HDR: ‘It is good to see interest from Oxfam GB’s head of research in the migration and development debate — however, this blog about the 2009 Human Development Report (HDR) misses basic and important aspects of the report’s analysis and policy recommendations. In particular, this critique appears to have

Eight introductory powerpoints on development – please plunder

November 6, 2009
I recently gave a two week introduction to development (undergrad level) at the University of Notre Dame, consisting of eight 45 minute lectures – here are the powerpoints for anyone wanting to nick them. Each lecture includes a brief illustrative video clip of campaigns, social movements etc. Subjects covered are: Risk and Vulnerability; The Global Economic Crisis; The International System;

Why demanding ‘political will’ is lazy and unproductive

November 5, 2009
I find myself getting increasingly exasperated by the term ‘political will’. Let me explain. The standard NGO shtick, whether on development, environment or pretty much anything else, is a three parter a) description of the problem b) clever proposal for solving the problem c) call for leaders to show ‘political will’ in adopting the proposed solution A talk on climate

Mobile phones and magic bullets

November 4, 2009
The Economist continues its love affair with the mobile phone in a recent special report. Highlights: ‘In 2000 the developing countries accounted for around one-quarter of the world’s 700m or so mobile phones. By the beginning of 2009 their share had grown to three-quarters of a total which by then had risen to over 4 billion. [see chart] China is

Can the law advance education and healthcare in poor countries?

November 3, 2009
I recently spent two weeks doing jury service in an inner London court – a grim experience of leaking municipal toilets, undrinkable coffee, frequently incompetent barristers and Dickensian judges, overseeing a squalid litany of petty crime. In between the alleged threats and beatings, I read Courting Social Justice, a new book on the use of the courts to enforce social

100 indicators of well-being or just one? Stiglitz v Layard

October 30, 2009
The OECD conference I’ve been attending is winding down. Lots of banquets, but not much booze, so I never had to try the hotel’s tempting room service item ‘outer leaves of cabbage broth to chase a hangover.’ What’s the takeaway (ideas rather than food)? The key debate seems to me to be over complexity. The various presentations described literally hundreds

Joe Stiglitz addresses ‘the movement’ on well-being v GDP

October 29, 2009
I’m still surrounded by the world’s statisticians (not as bad as it sounds) at the OECD Measuring the Progress of Societies conference in South Korea, where yesterday Joe Stiglitz gave a great presentation. Rather than simply rehearse the findings of his commission’s report to President Sarkozy, he reflected on why criticisms of GDP, which have been around for almost as

How could we measure well-being in a crisis? Some thoughts from Korea

October 28, 2009
I am currently in Korea’s second city, Busan, attending a big OECD conference on ‘statistics, knowledge and policy’, organized by its ‘Measuring the Progress of Societies’ project. The massive conference centre looks out on a consumerist paradise, including a giant Tesco’s supermarket (everything’s big here, giving you that sense of suddenly having shrunk that you get in Tiananmen square) and