Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

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

USAID, Water, and Food Security

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, April 25, 2013
A Sudanese farmer prepares his land for irrigation on the banks of the river Nile in Khartoum on November 11, 2009 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh/Courtesy Reuters). A Sudanese farmer prepares his land for irrigation on the banks of the river Nile in Khartoum on November 11, 2009 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh/Courtesy Reuters).

With its recently released Water and Development Strategy, USAID highlights some practical and potentially powerful initiatives both to improve health by expanding access to clean water and sanitation and to improve food security through better water management in agriculture. With respect to food security, the report singles out two areas for action: Read more »

Graph: Sovereign Wealth Funds

by Isobel Coleman Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Numbers come from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute's Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings (last updated March 2013). Asterisks indicate where the assets of a country's multiple SWFs have been added together. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute notes that one of the Russian funds "includes the oil stabilization fund of Russia" and that the figure for China's largest fund "is a best guess estimation. Numbers come from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute's Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings (last updated March 2013). Asterisks indicate where the assets of a country's multiple SWFs have been added together. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute notes that one of the Russian funds "includes the oil stabilization fund of Russia" and that the figure for China's largest fund "is a best guess estimation.

Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Above, I show which countries have the largest sovereign wealth funds, and below, I show how these countries’ funds rank on a per capita basis. Data about the funds comes from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings, and I calculated per capita values primarily by using World Bank population data. It’s interesting to note that: Read more »

Developments in U.S. Food Aid Reform

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, April 18, 2013
A worker loads humanitarian aid onto a truck before it is sent to Lebanon from Amman, Jordan on August 31, 2006 (Muhammad Hamed/Courtesy Reuters). A worker loads humanitarian aid onto a truck before it is sent to Lebanon from Amman, Jordan on August 31, 2006 (Muhammad Hamed/Courtesy Reuters).

American food aid to countries in need is one of those broken policies that seem like such a no-brainer to fix. Yet despite well-intentioned efforts to do so, vested interests insist on maintaining the status quo, with ill effects. The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, is again trying to bring some sense to food aid, but prospects for reform are low. Read more »

Guest Post: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman Thursday, April 11, 2013
Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Women in the Middle East stand to play a vital role in the region’s economic and political future, if given the opportunity. This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank’s senior adviser to the chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Nadereh Chamlou, spoke about women’s economic empowerment in the Arab world. Today, my colleague Reza Aslan–author of books including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—writes about Chamlou’s remarks and the challenges to women’s participation in the workforce. Read more »

Questions About the BRICS Development Bank

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, April 9, 2013
(L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a family photograph during the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban on March 27, 2013 (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters). (L-R) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photograph during the fifth BRICS Summit in Durban on March 27, 2013 (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters).

The announcement last week by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to launch a new international development bank has raised many questions. At their annual summit, hosted in Durban, South Africa, the leaders of these dynamic economies gushed that this was the beginning of increased cooperation and “a structural shift in the global economy.” In a piece published today on ForeignPolicy.com, I ask ten questions about the structure and purpose of a potential BRICS development bank and its implications for international development and the global economy. I write: Read more »