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Helping the Oppressed, not the Oppressors

by Isobel Coleman
A Uighur worker pulls a cart past a statue of the late chairman Mao Zedong at the People's Square in Kashgar, China, September 2003 (Courtesy Reuters). A Uighur worker pulls a cart past a statue of the late chairman Mao Zedong at the People's Square in Kashgar, China, September 2003 (Courtesy Reuters).

As protestors from Kiev to Khartoum to Caracas take to the streets against autocracy, a new book from economist William Easterly reminds us that Western aid is too often on the wrong side of the battle for freedom and democracy.  In The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the PoorEasterly slams the development community for supporting autocrats, not democrats, in the name of helping the world’s poorest. Ignoring human rights abuses and giving aid to oppressive regimes, he maintains, harms those in need and in many ways “un-develops” countries.

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Fighting Poverty with Unconditional Cash

by Isobel Coleman
A customer conducts a mobile money transfer, known as M-Pesa, in Nairobi, Kenya, July 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya). A customer conducts a mobile money transfer, known as M-Pesa, in Nairobi, Kenya, July 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya).

Rather than building schools and clinics, or donating solar lights and cows, is the best way to fight global poverty simply to give poor people money? That’s the question a group of smart economists are testing, and their answers could stand the multi-billion dollar aid industry on its head.

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Emerging Voices: The Broken Promises of the Paris Declaration

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Outstretched hands, Kukes, Albania, 1999 (Courtesy Reuters). Outstretched hands, Kukes, Albania, 1999 (Courtesy Reuters).

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is by Paul Callan, Andria Thomas, Sebastian  Burduja, Leticia Kawanami, and Adam Bradlow of or formerly of Dalberg Global Development Advisors. Here they review how the agreements of the Paris Declaration played out in practice.  

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The Benefits of No-Strings-Attached Cash

by Isobel Coleman
A man uses the M-PESA mobile banking system in Nairobi, Kenya, May 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Noor Khamis). A man uses the M-PESA mobile banking system in Nairobi, Kenya, May 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Noor Khamis).

What if I suggested that the best way to fight poverty is simply to give money to poor people, no strings attached? You’d probably say I was crazy. Just dropping cash on the world’s poorest might result in a temporary improvement in their quality of life, but only until the money runs out and then they would be back where they started. Or maybe you’d be skeptical of even that short-term improvement, since you’d think the lucky recipients would just blow the money on guilty pleasures like alcohol, tobacco, or worse.

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Emerging Voices: Natalie Bugalski and David Pred on the Dark Side of Development

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Ruqia Aroo, 80, carries her malnourished grandson near carcasses of dead cattle, Ethiopia, April 2000 (Courtesy Reuters). Ruqia Aroo, 80, carries her malnourished grandson near carcasses of dead cattle, Ethiopia, April 2000 (Courtesy Reuters).

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is from Natalie Bugalski and David Pred of Inclusive Development International. Here they discuss the World Bank’s Safeguard Policies review process.

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Africa’s Arrested Development

by Isobel Coleman
A student writes on a blackboard in a classroom outside of Lome, Togo, April 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi). A student writes on a blackboard in a classroom outside of Lome, Togo, April 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi).

Last month, I wrote about the economic and social reforms that have boosted Africa’s growth, and the challenges the region still faces going forward. This week, David Smith of The Guardian wrote on a similar theme, questioning the popular narrative of “Africa rising.” Based on survey data, Smith argues that recent optimism about the continent is misguided: although there has been economic growth, it has not helped average Africans. Indeed, in some countries – including in South Africa, the continent’s largest economy – poverty rates are increasing.

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New From CFR: Shannon O’Neil on Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America

by Development Channel Staff
A Brazilian worker assembles a Volkswagen car in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Nacho Doce). A Brazilian worker assembles a Volkswagen car in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Nacho Doce).

In 2012, Latin America received more foreign direct investment than ever before. In a recent blog post, Shannon O’Neil describes the implications of this investment. She explains: Read more »

What’s Next for Global Development?

by Terra Lawson-Remer
A UN worker rests after checking the temporary General Assembly Hall at the UN headquarters in New York, September 22, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Eduardo Munoz). A UN worker rests after checking the temporary General Assembly Hall at the UN headquarters in New York, September 22, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

This week, the United Nations convenes its sixty-eight General Assembly session, bringing together heads of state and other high officials from all 193 members of the UN. Although many pressing global challenges crowd the agenda of world leaders, the major theme of this year’s session is the global development agenda after 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have guided global development policy since 2000, expire. In several earlier blog posts, I discussed issues that should be considered in crafting the new development agenda. Now the international community must come together to determine what comes next.

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Boosting Businesswomen in the Bottom Billion

by Isobel Coleman
A woman at work in Nieuw Aurora, Suriname, September 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Ranu Abhelakh). A woman at work in Nieuw Aurora, Suriname, September 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Ranu Abhelakh).

Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 per day, has declined significantly in recent decades. Thirty years ago, more than half of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty – today, less than a quarter do. Still, that translates into some 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, and a disproportionate number of them are female. Overall, seventy percent of the world’s poor and about two-thirds of the world’s hungry and malnourished population are women and girls.

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New From CFR: John Campbell on Doctors Without Borders Leaving Somalia

by Development Channel Staff
Residents stand outside a medical center run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in central Mali, February 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Alain Amontchi). Residents stand outside a medical center run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in central Mali, February 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Alain Amontchi).

Doctors Without Borders recently announced that they will be leaving Somalia, due to an uptick in violence against medical personnel. Read more »