Africa’s tax systems: progress, but what is the next generation of reforms?

November 20, 2013
Taxation is zipping up the development agenda, but the discussion is often focussed on international aspects such as tax havens or the Robin Hood Tax. Both very important, but arguably, even more important is what happens domestically – are developing country tax systems regressive or progressive? Are they raising enough cash to fund state services? Are they efficient and free

Disasters as Opportunities – your thoughts please

November 19, 2013
Sticking with yesterday’s theme of how our humanitarian work is evolving, one of our more extraordinary Oxfamistas in the Philippines (Lan Mercado, profiled here) has asked a few of us to help her team think through the longer term implications of Supertyphoon Haiyan for our work. I have no idea how she manages to find headspace to think about that

What are the global trends in humanitarian response? How well is Oxfam responding?

November 18, 2013
Twice a year Oxfam’s Regional Directors gather with its UK-based big cheeses to swap notes (they let me join them, for some reason). It’s an opportunity to allow the collective mind to catch up with all those accumulating individual impressions of how the world and our work is changing. Last week’s ‘deep dive’ was about humanitarian work: two days of

Let’s Save Africa. The 3 minute youtube version. (It’s the Norwegians again)

November 15, 2013
What is it about Norwegians and aid satire? First Jan Egeland, then Africans for Norway and now this. Let’s Save Africa: not quite up to the standards of the other two, but well worth a watch (and better than answering your emails). Friday fun c/o @johanhermstad.

What does ‘big business’ say about Africa when it’s off the record?

November 14, 2013
I get a lot of random invitations along the lines of ‘come and be a token esteemed NGO rep at our next gabfest’, and accept a few of the more promising ones. So this week I ended up at a conversation on ‘Africa’s Reformers’ hosted by the Africa Governance Initiative and the FT’s This is Africa magazine (which has just

What’s happening with the world’s civil wars and how do they end?

November 13, 2013
Here’s an edited-down version of a brilliant overview of the state of civil wars around the world in this week’s Economist: Ending civil wars is hard. Hatreds within countries often run far deeper than between them. The fighting rarely sticks to battlefields, as it can do between states. Civilians are rarely spared. And there are no borders to fall back

What’s the added value of bringing together projects on the same issue in lots of countries?

November 12, 2013
I’m always on the look out for particularly interesting and innovative Oxfam projects, and usually big them up on this blog (think Tanzania, Tajikistan, We Can). After a few years of doing this, one of the striking (and depressing, at least for me) things is how seldom these pioneering projects have (so far, anyway) been picked up and adapted/replicated elsewhere.

What have we learned about women’s empowerment from a 17 country global programme?

November 11, 2013
Oxfam is increasingly going in for ‘global programmes’, bundling up work on similar issues across various countries. More on that model tomorrow, but first I want to highlight the findings of a final evaluation (published today, right) of Raising Her Voice (RHV), a big (£5.8m), 5 year global programme to enhance women’s voice in decision-making, covering 17 countries and two

How complexity thinking cut malnutrition in Vietnam by two thirds

November 8, 2013
To end complexity week, another of the fascinating case studies from Ben Ramalingam’s Aid on the Edge of Chaos In December 1991, Jerry and Monique Sternin arrived in Vietnam so Jerry could take up the role of Save the Children US Country Director. The country was still labouring under a US-led economic embargo and had seriously high levels of child

Aid on the Edge of Chaos, a book you really need to read and think about

November 7, 2013
I held off reviewing Ben’s book til after last night’s launch at ODI, so that I could add any useful extra info or soundbites. Here goes. It’s smart, well-written and provides a deeper intellectual foundation for much of the most interesting thinking going on in the aid business right now. Ben Ramalingam (right)’s Aid on the Edge of Chaos should

Complexity 101 – part 2: Getting to the So Whats

November 6, 2013
It’s complexity week on the blog, coinciding with the launch of Aid on the Edge of Chaos today at 5pm UK time (long since full, but being livestreamed). I’m a discussant, and will nick any clever comments for tomorrow’s review of the book. Meanwhile, the ODI’s Harry Jones continues his stocktake on complexity and development Yesterday, I tried to pose

Should India be sending a rocket to Mars when 40% of children are malnourished? Vote now.

November 5, 2013
We interrupt complexity week with a quick question – what do you think about India’s Mars space  project? The Indian Space Research Organisation today launches a rocket which it hopes will get to Mars before the Chinese space programme – BRICS in space. Cue lots of outrage – in a country where 40% of children are malnourished and half the population have