What are the links between authoritarianism, democracy and development? Magisterial (and short) new overview

December 19, 2014
Sometimes, with heavy heart, I pick up yet another example of ‘grey literature’ only to find I’ve wandered into an Aladdin’s cave of ideas. That was my sensation on reading Tim Kelsall’s new paper for the Developmental Leadership Program, on ‘Authoritarianism, democracy and development’. In just 14 pages, he summarizes a huge literature, with the aim of boiling it all down

$2 leaving developing countries for every $1 going in – big new report on the state of global financial flows

December 18, 2014
A very useful new report from Eurodad, published today, provides ‘the most comprehensive review of the quantity of different financing sources available to developing countries, and how they have changed over the past decade.’ This in the run up to the big UN summit on financing for development (FfD) in Addis Ababa in July 2015. Here are some highlights from

Local First: an excellent (and practical) counterweight to the more top-down versions of ‘doing development differently’

December 17, 2014
I’ve been both engaged and excited by a lot of the recent networking on ‘thinking and working politically’/’doing development differently’, which emphasizes the importance of understanding and working with the grain of local context, and a project cycle which replaces ‘The Plan’ with a messy process of trying, failing, learning and adapting (and trying again). But one anxiety I have

The new World Development Report (on mind, society and behavior): lots to like, but a big fail on power, politics and religion

December 16, 2014
This probably doesn’t need saying, but the World Development Report is a big deal. The World Bank’s annual flagships have a track record of shaping debates on particular issues, and raising them up the endlessly churning development agenda. So it pays to pay attention. This year’s WDR, published this month, is on ‘Mind, Society and Behaviour’. I (like most people)

The Living Wage: a remarkable story of global progress – how big could it get?

December 12, 2014
A few years ago, I was struck by the fervour with which a student activist acquaintance of mine, Stefan Baskerville, talked about the Living Wage. Every holiday he would leave his life of student activism (and occasional study) in Oxford and head for the East End of London, where he worked for Citizens UK, a community organization, in a campaign

How can small countries make a difference with their aid programmes?

December 11, 2014
Had a fun couple of days in Malta last week – amazing place, dripping with history – massive battlements, the Knights of Malta (right), amazing blinged-up churches, and some spectacular Caravaggios (my favourite one below). I was there to deliver a Kapuscinski Lecture  on ‘Citizen Empowerment and Mobilization’ – I’ll link to it when it goes online. But I also had a

You can’t take a supertanker white-water rafting: what future for International NGOs?

December 10, 2014
This post also appears on the ‘Practice for Change’ blog I try to avoid those endless bouts of INGO navel gazing, but don’t always succeed. Which is lucky, because recently, I had a really interesting session on ‘the future of INGOs’ at La Trobe University’s Institute for Human Security and Social Change in Melbourne. I kicked off summarising a recent

Did Britain’s Aid Programme (and maybe aid in general) just get its Mojo back?

December 9, 2014
[Mojo: NOUN (plural mojos), chiefly US: A magic charm, talisman, or spell] I got back from Malta on Friday, just in time to watch the end of the House of Commons debate on enshrining in British law the longstanding, but widely ignored, international commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on international development. By an overwhelming majority (146 to 5), the bill passed. It still has to go

How the Other Half Farms: Important new book on Gender in Agriculture

December 5, 2014
This guest post is from Dennis Avilés (right), Oxfam’s Sustainable Agriculture and Gender Advisor Trying to explain why half of the world’s farmers are systematically underperforming can be elusive. However, the recently published “Gender in Agriculture. Closing the knowledge gap” by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has just done that. The book is a series of background studies commissioned

If you read one paper on the post-2015 process, make it this one

December 4, 2014
The SDGs/post 2015 debate just got interesting. Regular readers of this blog will know that up to now I have been a convinced sceptic on the post-2015 circus (see this 2012 paper on why). But now the endless attempt to hang more/fewer development baubles on the SDG Christmas Tree is coming to an end, and we are coming to the moment

Measuring the difficult stuff (empowerment, resilience) and learning from the results; where has Oxfam got to?

December 3, 2014
I’m not generally a big fan of measurement fetishism (too crude, too blind to complexity and systems thinking). When I used to (mis)manage the Oxfam research team and wanted a few thousand quid for some research grant, I had to list numbers of beneficiaries (men and women). As research is a global public good, I always put 3.5bn of each.

People Power: what do we know about empowered citizens and development?

December 2, 2014
This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live) Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by