Faith and development – what’s the connection?

October 6, 2009
I’ve worked in and with many faith-based organizations over the years and have long argued that development organizations can’t afford to be blind to the importance of faith. Research shows that people living in poverty trust their churches more than any other institution, and faiths are vital in forging the attitudes and beliefs that underpin (for good or ill) the

Sensibilist or Swivel Eyed? Weighing the arguments for greater radicalism in NGO advocacy

October 2, 2009
At what point does an advocacy NGO cease being ‘ahead of the curve’, ‘visionary’ etc (choose your own cliché) and instead become simply bonkers, a prophet ranting in a wilderness uninhabited by anyone with a smidgeon of decision-making power? This subject kept cropping up at an Oxfam internal discussion the other day. Unfortunately, I framed the discussion in terms of

Is financial independence for the IMF a good thing?

October 1, 2009
Ngaire Woods, a veteran IMF watcher, came and briefed us on the Fund and the crisis, based on her recent paper for the European Parliament. Here are some highlights: There is a gulf between public perceptions that the IMF is helping the poorest countries, and the reality, that it’s main role has been sorting out the financial disaster in Eastern

Do we need to ration growth, and if so, who gets what’s left?

September 30, 2009
Spoke at a Quaker conference on the ‘zero growth economy’ at the weekend. Quaker meetings are different: when I finished speaking to an audience of 350 people, there was total hear-a-pin-drop silence. Instead of clapping, people reflect, eyes closed, on what they have just heard. And no, even though it was after lunch, they weren’t asleep (well, most of them) and it

What happened at the Pittsburgh G20?

September 29, 2009
I didn’t attend the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last week, but I’ve been poring over the communiqué. Here are some initial thoughts on what it all means (numbers in square brackets refer to paragraphs in the original), incorporating analysis and intel from the Oxfam team at the event. Headline: Pittsburgh formally enshrined the rise of the BRICs and relative decline

Do poorer countries have less capacity for redistribution? A new paper

September 28, 2009
When can a country end poverty by redistributing wealth from its rich people, and when must it instead rely on aid or growth? That’s a question Martin Ravallion, head of the World Bank’s research department seeks to answer in a new paper. Essentially he is trying to put precise numbers on the relatively obvious point that the richer a country

All the latest stats on the global crisis and its development impact

September 24, 2009
In time for the G20 summit later this week, my indefatigable colleague Richard King has revised and updated his invaluable synthesis of the key data on the global economic crisis and its development impact. Here goes: Unemployment (ILO)  Gender impact of the economic crisis in terms of unemployment rates is expected to be more detrimental for females than for males

GDP v Well-being – the Stiglitz Commission and other news

September 23, 2009
According to Otto von Bismarck, the father of modern Germany, ‘Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.’ Having skimmed the report of the ‘The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress’, commissioned by President Sarkozy and released last week, I would say GDP (Gross Domestic Product, the standard measure of a country’s

What’s happening in Brazil? Round up from a quick visit

September 22, 2009
I spent last week racing round Brazil launching the Portuguese-language edition of From Poverty to Power (Da Pobreza ao Poder, the publishers are looking for distributors in Portugal, Angola and Mozambique – any suggestions?). Here are a few impressions: A year after the Lehman’s collapse hit the global panic buttons, there’s a striking level of optimism about Brazil’s handling of

Is this guy the world’s best lecturer on development?

September 18, 2009
I’m conscious that this blog has been somewhat heavy going this week, so here’s a reward to anyone who got through to Friday (especially for any saddoes like me who end up watching youtube at the weekend). Hans Rosling is a youtube phenomenon, a Swedish economist whose lectures on data and development have deservedly become legendary. He specializes in showing

The UN lays into finance, speculation and the IMF: UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Report 2009

September 17, 2009
Another day, another UN report, this time the Trade and Development Report 2009, from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), released last week. It’s surprisingly forthright. Set up in 1964, in the table-thumping days of the New International Economic Order, in recent years UNCTAD had become markedly more cautious, not least under its current secretary general, the distinctly un-fiery

Cash for Climate: how the financing numbers break down

September 16, 2009
Cash will be king in the next few months as the crescendo of climate change negotiations builds to the big December summit in Copenhagen. In the words of Alf Wills, a South African negotiator, ‘no money, no deal’ (although European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is also credited with the soundbite). If developing countries are going to get anything like