Why does climate change adaptation in Africa ignore politics? Great broadside from Matthew Lockwood.

October 24, 2013
My friend Matthew Lockwood has a habit of asking really big, sensible questions about politics that change the way you see the world. He was so fed up with what he saw as the lazy, apolitical thinking behind aid in general and Make Poverty History in particular, that he abandoned the development scene, writing The State They’re In: An Agenda

Governance for Development in Africa: Solving Collective Action Problems: Review of an important new book

October 23, 2013
The last year or so has been a bit quiet in terms of big new books on development, but now they are piling up on my study floor (my usual filing system) – Angus Deaton, Deepak Nayyar, Ben Ramalingam, Nina Munk etc etc. I will review them as soon as I can (or arm-twist better qualified colleagues to do so).

Has the Arab Spring Failed? Not yet, reckons the Economist – Highlights from its excellent Special Report

July 16, 2013
By blog-reader standards, the Economist’s Special Reports can be pretty long (15 pages in this case), but they are sharply written and stuffed full with great stats. As long as they steer clear of economic policy, they are also not as ideology-laden as some of the magazine’s other content. So if you can spare half an hour, read this week’s report

Politically smart aid? Of course! Political aid? Not so sure. Guest post by Tom Carothers and Diane de Gramont

June 17, 2013
Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont summarize the arguments of their new book on aid and politics How political is development assistance? How political should it be? These questions provoke divergent reactions within the aid community. For some, being political means using aid to advance geopolitical interests aside from development. Others emphasize the far-reaching political consequences aid can have on

Are you a Progressive? If so, what’s your footprint?

March 4, 2013
I get irritated sometimes when a nameless Oxfam colleague (and no, there aren’t any prizes for guessing) asks ‘yes, but are you/they left wing?’, to which I of course, respond ‘depends what you mean by ‘left wing’’ (I think he finds me pretty annoying too). So in an effort to improve on this rather un-nuanced discussion, how about moving from

Why 'Why Nations Fail' Fails (mostly): review of Acemoglu and Robinson – 2012's big development book

December 12, 2012

Women in Political Dynasties

July 12, 2011

The new Future of Food and Farming Report: excellent diagnosis; patchy cure; no power and politics

January 27, 2011

The Five Standard Excuses of all politicians, everywhere, for everything: this week’s Friday Formula

October 29, 2010
Listening to the exchanges in the British Parliament recently brings back the genius of Yes Minister, a long gone British political comedy that, I am told, has been used to train French civil servants in understanding their Brit rivals, counterparts. The references are from 1981 (with links for younger readers, non-anglophiles and amnesiacs), but the excuses are as good as ever.

Book Review: Small Acts of Resistance

October 27, 2010
Writing a blog is a mixed blessing when it comes to freebies. You get sent some real turkeys in the shape of papers and books to review. But every now and then an unexpected treat drops into your pigeon hole. One such is ‘Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity and Ingenuity Can Change the World’, by Steve Crawshaw and

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