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The Role of Government in Agriculture

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
A farmer harvests tobacco in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo). A farmer harvests tobacco in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo).

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is by Evan Axelrad, a recent graduate of the Master of Public Policy program at University of California Berkeley and former program specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service. He has also consulted with organizations including the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Kiva Microfunds.

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Segovia: A New Player in Cash Transfers

by Isobel Coleman
Customers are seen at mobile money transfers kiosks, known as M-Pesa agents, near Ngong township in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya). Customers are seen at mobile money transfers kiosks, known as M-Pesa agents, near Ngong township in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya).

For several years now I’ve been following the progress of an innovative new philanthropy: GiveDirectly. Its cofounders, Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus, started the organization in 2008 while doing their PhD’s in economics at Harvard. Their idea was simple. Given mounting evidence that cash transfers are among the most efficient and effective ways to address poverty (and that the poor know very well what to do with money), why not start a charity that skips the rigmarole of providing services to poor people in poor countries and just gives them cash?

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World Bank Report on Women’s Empowerment Breaks New Ground

by Isobel Coleman
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman participate in an event on empowering woman and girls at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst). Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman participate in an event on empowering woman and girls at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Over the past several decades, the World Bank has been an important thought leader on the value of investing in women and girls. In 2001, the Bank released a seminal report, “Engendering Development – Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice,” which made the incontrovertible case that investing in girls’ education and other aspects of female empowerment is critical for poverty alleviation. More recently, in 2012, the Bank devoted its annual World Development Report to women and girls, highlighting that, despite gains, gender gaps persist and greater gender equality is critical to growth.

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The Potential of Clean Cookstoves

by Isobel Coleman
A woman cooks inside her home in San Juan, Honduras, August 2008 (Courtesy Reuters/Edgard Garrido). A woman cooks inside her home in San Juan, Honduras, August 2008 (Courtesy Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

For decades, global health experts have recognized that smoke from indoor cooking is a major contributor to premature death.  Yet, in poor countries around the world, some 3 billion people still rely on wood, coal, or animal dung to cook their food over indoor fires. The impact of the resulting indoor air pollution is devastating, particularly for the women and girls who are largely responsible for cooking and bear the brunt of the smoke. A new study calculates that the toll from indoor air pollution is even larger than previously thought: the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that exposure to smoke from traditional cooking was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 – more than was attributable to HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, and double the number estimated just five years ago.

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The Implications of China’s Economic Slowdown

by Terra Lawson-Remer
An investor in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, May 9, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Jon Woo). An investor in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, May 9, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Jon Woo).

News of a credit crunch and broader economic slowdown in China once again raises the question of how that country’s evolving economy might affect its political trajectory. Read more »

New Insights on the Relationship Between Democracy and Wealth

by Terra Lawson-Remer
Protesters in Cairo rally against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, February 22, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters in Cairo rally against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, February 22, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Do the chances of democracy’s success in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, or Myanmar depend on each country’s wealth? And does China’s growing prosperity portend a democratic transition there anytime soon?

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Emerging Voices: Blair Glencorse on Higher Education in Nepal

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Nepalese students protest against the decision made by the meeting of Constitutional Council (CC) on Sunday to recommend President Ram Baran Yadav to appoint Lokman Singh Karki as the chief of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) in Kathmandu, May 7, 2013 (Navesh Chitrakar/Courtesy Reuters). Nepalese students protest against the decision made by the meeting of Constitutional Council (CC) on Sunday to recommend President Ram Baran Yadav to appoint Lokman Singh Karki as the chief of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) in Kathmandu, May 7, 2013 (Navesh Chitrakar/Courtesy Reuters).

Emerging Voices features regular contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is from Blair Glencorse, executive director of the Accountability Lab. He analyzes the problems plaguing Nepal’s colleges and universities and argues for higher education as a crucial concern on the post-2015 development agenda.

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Egypt’s Civil Society–and Democratic Transition–on Trial

by Terra Lawson-Remer
Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge's verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cairo, June 4, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Friends of Egyptian suspects react as they listen to the judge's verdict at a court room during a case against foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Cairo, June 4, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week an Egyptian court sentenced over three dozen people working for foreign NGOs to prison terms for “receiving illegal funds from abroad and operating unlicensed organizations.” These convictions are not just a sign of a weak and faltering democratic transition. By discouraging the formation of a vigorous civil society, they also strike a fundamental blow to the sustainability of freedom and democracy in Egypt over the long term.

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New From CFR: Joshua Kurlantzick on Democracy’s Woes

by Development Channel Staff
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 22, 2013 (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters). Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 22, 2013 (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters).

In an interview and op-ed last week, CFR fellow Joshua Kurlantzick analyzes the setbacks facing democracy as autocratic powers such as China and Russia advance their own political philosophies in the developing world. Read more »

New From CFR: Joshua Kurlantzick on the China Model and Shannon O’Neil on Mexico’s Economy

by Development Channel Staff
China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with Wen Jiabao as China's President Xi Jinping and other delegates clap during the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). China's newly elected Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with Wen Jiabao as China's President Xi Jinping and other delegates clap during the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

In two recent pieces, CFR fellows weigh political and economic developments in a pair of emerging giants: China and Mexico. In an excerpt on TheAtlantic.com from his recently released book, Democracy in Retreat, CFR fellow Joshua Kurlantzick analyzes the appeal to developing countries of China’s development model. Read more »