Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Missing Pieces: Foreign Aid, Global Growth, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, January 27, 2012
Kadija Mohamed cooks food for her children in a camp set up for internally displaced people in Dinsoor, Somalia, January 5, 2012 (Feisal Omar/Courtesy Reuters). Kadija Mohamed cooks food for her children in a camp set up for internally displaced people in Dinsoor, Somalia, January 5, 2012 (Feisal Omar/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow reviews writings on the foreign aid debate, global economic growth, democracy in Asia, and state capitalism in this week’s Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

  • Assessing Aid Efforts: Is foreign aid a success or a waste? The debate is long-running. A recent report from Oxfam and Save the Children evaluates international assistance to combat last year’s Horn of Africa famine. It faults donors and relief providers (including those NGOs themselves) for delays in mounting a full response, despite warnings of failing rains starting in 2010. It is a positive example of humanitarian actors holding themselves and others accountable and suggesting ways to improve. Meanwhile, Bill Gates offers a full-throated defense of foreign aid in an International Herald Tribune op-ed this week and his recent Gates Foundation annual letter. He notes that child mortality and extreme poverty in the world have fallen by more than half in the last fifty years, gains he credits “in large part to aid-funded programs to buy vaccines and boost farmers’ productivity.” As he concludes in his letter, “The relatively small amount of money invested in development has changed the future prospects of billions of people—and it can do the same for billions more if we make the choice to continue investing in innovation.” For more on the foreign assistance debate, see video interviews by Isobel Coleman with Don Steinberg, deputy administrator of USAID, and Daniel Yohannes, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Read more »

Open Data for Better Government

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, January 26, 2012
World Bank President Robert Zoellick, a major supporter of open data initiatives, speaks in at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington in September, 2011 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). World Bank President Robert Zoellick, a major supporter of open data initiatives, speaks at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington in September, 2011 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

Open data is the new thing in development. In the last three years, the World Bank, the United States, the United Kingdom, Kenya, and now the new Open Government Partnership have made raw data available to the public in forms that can be manipulated and interpreted by techno-savvy people to improve governance. The implications of this are huge, although we are just at the beginning of realizing the potential benefits. Over the long term, providing greater access to raw information – including census tallies, government expenditures, poverty statistics, draft budgets, agricultural data, and government procurement – could make the delivery of public goods far more efficient and effective, lower levels of corruption, and engage citizens in the running of their societies in profoundly new ways. World Bank President Robert Zoellick, an evangelist on the subject of open data, sees it as a way to demystify development economics and bring new brain power to bear on solving the world’s thorniest problems. As he said in a speech at Georgetown in 2010: Read more »

Libya’s Transition Continues

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, January 24, 2012
NTC Chairman Abdel Jalil talks to protesters in Benghazi on January 21, 2012 (Esam Al Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). NTC Chairman Abdel Jalil talks to protesters in Benghazi on January 21, 2012 (Esam Al Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Libya continues down its path of exciting if unsteady transition.  Earlier this month, more than a million children returned to school after a nine month hiatus during the war. One of the first things the National Transitional Council (NTC) did was set up a committee to rid the curriculum of Qaddafi’s “teachings.” Parents across the country expressed hope at the prospect of a better education and brighter future for their kids. Protests, however, continue with some intensity. On Saturday, a group of disgruntled revolutionaries stormed the NTC’s headquarters in Benghazi, demanding compensation for their participation in the fighting to overthrow Qaddafi. They carried away office furniture and computers as the NTC’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, holed up inside the building. Six representatives from Benghazi were suspended from the NTC as a result. The protesters also accused the NTC of corruption and nepotism in appointing civil servants. In another worrying development,  reports today allege that NTC loyalists were chased out of Bani Walid, one of the last pro-Qaddafi strongholds to fall during the uprising. With well-armed militias still staking out their turf, the NTC continues to struggle with extending its control over the whole country. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Global Growth, Taiwan’s Election, and More

by Isobel Coleman Monday, January 23, 2012
A view of the World Bank headquarters building in Washington, DC, April 12, 2008 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). A view of the World Bank headquarters building in Washington, DC, April 12, 2008 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow reviews growth and democracy around the world and news from Taiwan, Nigeria, and Indonesia in this installment of Missing Pieces. Let us know your thoughts.

  • Gloomy Global Growth: The World Bank last week released a grim update of its Global Economic Prospects. The report projects that developing countries will grow by 5.4 percent in 2012 and 6.0 percent in 2013, down from 6.2 and 6.3 percent in the previous projections last June. Although countries such as China, India, Nigeria, and Bangladesh remain set for solid growth, the Bank warns that developing countries are increasingly vulnerable to a potential crisis stemming mainly from the Eurozone’s disarray. Capital flows to developing countries have plunged, exports from them have slowed, and many governments’ deficits are rising. Among the potential casualties is Egypt, whose growth is projected at only 3.8 percent this year and 0.7 percent in 2013. Read more »

Faezeh Hashemi and Women’s Sports in Iran

by Isobel Coleman Friday, January 20, 2012
The Iranian women's national soccer team before a qualifying match against Jordan for the 2012 London Olympic Games in June 2011. FIFA banned the Iranian team from the match (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). The Iranian women's national soccer team before a qualifying match against Jordan for the 2012 London Olympic Games in June 2011. FIFA banned the Iranian team from the match (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

In recent weeks, the Iranian regime has cracked down on journalists and activists in the lead-up to parliamentary elections in early March 2012. In another instance of the regime eating its own, Faezeh Hashemi, the prominent daughter of former president Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani, was one of the activists targeted. On January 3, she was sentenced to 6 months in prison for spreading propaganda about the Islamic Republic. The charge is related to comments she made in April 2011 to an opposition news source accusing the regime of being run by “thugs and hooligans.” Hashemi herself was harassed by security forces on several occasions. As part of her sentence, she has been banned from any political or organizational activity for 5 years. She can appeal, but clearly the regime wants to keep her – and by extension her father – quiet in the run-up to the March elections. She’s a de facto hostage. Read more »

Education and Employment in North Africa

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, January 19, 2012
Students stand in line to receive new textbooks after a curriculum change by the Ministry of Education following the collapse of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, in Benghazi in January 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students stand in line to receive new textbooks after a curriculum change by the Ministry of Education following the collapse of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, in Benghazi in January 2012 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

I have been attending the US-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference this week in Marrakech, Morocco, hosted by Partners for a New Beginning – the North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (PNB-NAPEO). This is the second annual entrepreneurship conference in North Africa, and it has brought together an impressive array of business executives, policy makers, civil society organizations, and entrepreneurs to focus on some of the most critical components of economic and political development: the connection between education and employment, creating an entrepreneurial environment, and fostering small and medium enterprises. Read more »

Missing Pieces: China’s Economy, India’s Economy, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, January 13, 2012
General view of residential and commercial buildings in Haikou, Hainan Province, China, May 5, 2010 (Courtesy Reuters). General view of residential and commercial buildings in Haikou, Hainan Province, China, May 5, 2010 (Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and the European Parliament in this week’s Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection and let us know your thoughts.

  • Wobbling Growth in China…: Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post this week considers the prospect of a major slowdown in China. Ingredients include a potential housing bubble, weak demand for Chinese exports abroad, and rising government debt. A “soft landing,” or modest reduction in GDP growth, is still seen as likely, but a Nomura report cited by Samuelson sees a one-in-three chance of a steeper drop. A recent op-ed by CFR president Richard Haass reviews China’s daunting economic to-do list. The current Foreign Affairs also features a debate over the prospects for China’s continued rise. Read more »

Women and the Elections in Egypt

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, January 12, 2012
Women read their ballot papers before casting their votes at a polling station on the outskirts of Cairo on Januray 4, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Women read their ballot papers before casting their votes at a polling station on the outskirts of Cairo on Januray 4, 2012 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

On January 3 and 4, Egyptians voted in the third and final stage of elections for the lower house of Parliament, the People’s Assembly. Seventy-one out of 498 seats are still being decided through runoffs, but the results for the other 427 seats are final. One clear outcome already is that Islamist parties will wield significant influence in the People’s Assembly. So far, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)  has gained approximately 41 percent of total seats and the Salafist Nour Party has gained another 21 percent, giving Islamist parties a significant majority in the assembly. However, FJP reports no current plans to form a coalition with the Salafis, and it is possible that FJP will create a moderate alliance with more liberal parties. Read more »

Quotas for Women’s Political Participation

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Iraqi election officials count ballots at a polling station in Baghdad in January 2009 (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters) Iraqi election officials count ballots at a polling station in Baghdad in January 2009 (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters)

Quotas for women seem to be the hot thing in the Middle East these days. Libya just announced a 10 percent quota for women in its new election law. Tunisia used a form of quotas to enhance women’s participation in its recent election. Iraq has used quotas in parliament and just expanded the use of quotas for women to the civil service; Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan have also used quotas. Over the past week, I’ve received several queries from blog readers about quotas: Which countries use them? How do they work? Are they democratic? Are they even effective? These are all big questions, and to answer them thoroughly is beyond the scope of this blog post, so here is just a snap-shot. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Pictures of Poverty, Democracy’s Discontents, and More

by Isobel Coleman Monday, January 9, 2012
Women carry full jerry cans away from a communal water tap in the outskirts of the Dagahaley settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp near the Somali border, August 31, 2011 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). Women carry full jerry cans away from a communal water tap in the outskirts of the Dagahaley settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp near the Somali border, August 31, 2011 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow highlights a trio of Foreign Affairs articles, new surveys of international relations scholars and practitioners, and news from Singapore in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

  • Pictures of Poverty: In the January/February Foreign Affairs, Timothy Besley reviews three noteworthy books on global poverty: Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Poor Economics, Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel’s More Than Good Intentions, and Daryl Collins et. al.’s Portfolios of the Poor. The former two volumes use behavioral economics and randomized control trials to chronicle poverty’s problems and potential solutions. The latter employs interviews to illuminate the complex financial arrangements used by many poor households. Besley gently notes that none of the books deals much with political economy–questions of government effectiveness in promoting development. Still, he praises all three as useful for understanding poverty. Isobel Coleman held a CFR meeting with Dean Karlan last spring. Read more »