June 2010

Ford v Toyota – is it time to change the way we do research for development?

admin - June 30, 2010

I took part in a conference on fragile states last week. Because it was held under Chatham House rules, I can’t say much about it, (except for the excellent on-the-record presentation by Tom Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which I blogged on at the time), but it got me thinking about a wider issue. Do we need a new model for conducting …

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An effective public campaign (on palm oil)

admin - June 29, 2010

You know you’ve had an impact when the Economist devotes three pages to your campaign, so hats off to Greenpeace and the other organizations featured in this week’s spread on palm oil. Here are some excerpts: “Palm oil is a popular, cheap commodity, which green activists are doing their best to turn into a commercial liability. Companies are finding them impossible to ignore. Early on …

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Urban Vodou; climate change technology; the meaning of McChrystal; big bad (and good) pharma; blogs and Facebook and marshmallow-induced agony: links I liked

admin - June 28, 2010

Urban Vodou: Politics and Popular Street Art in Haiti, a book of photographs by Pablo Butcher, published today, reveals the beauty that lies behind the earthquake imagery Political Climate provides some lessons on technological innovation to combat climate change (and they apply to development too) McChrystal-izing a Problem: The Militarization of American Statecraft [h/t Paul O’Brien] The good, the bad and the ugly among big …

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How important is growth to improvements in health and education? Not at all, says a new UN paper

admin - June 25, 2010

The first batch of background papers to this year’s big Human Development Report has just been published. The one that caught my eye is by George Gray Molina and Mark Purser. “Human Development Trends since 1970: A Social Convergence Story” crunches a big dataset of Human Development Indicator (HDI) numbers and comes up with some pretty heretical conclusions. It finds that that the links between …

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Social protection – have aid agencies got it wrong?

admin - June 24, 2010

‘Has social protection in sub-Saharan Africa lost its way?’ asks a brilliant new paper from a consortium of thinktanks, including IDS and ODI. Their overall finding is that donors’ preference for evidence and pilots, and lack of engagement with national political realities, have undermined their impact. Hard to summarize – it’s a treasure trove – but here are some highlights: Where are we at? ‘The …

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What distinguishes a nice technology from a nasty one?

admin - June 23, 2010

Gave a short presentation to the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum last week on the thorny topic of food security, innovation and safety. The speakers and audience were mainly on the science/policy interface, (a very different epistemic community from last week’s EU aid gabfest, but the powerpoints were just as bad). Most of the discussion concerned the UK, rather than international issues, but there were …

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Where have we got to on fragile states and what comes next?

admin - June 22, 2010

Another week, another conference. This time it’s hosted by the UK development ministry, DFID, which among other things, has an impressive track record of funding research on development issues (declaration of interest – I worked for DFID for a year in 2004, and sometimes advise them on research issues). This week’s gabfest is called ‘The Politics of Poverty: Elites, Citizens and States’, and it is …

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Climate change – where next? + some good news; the dismal consensus; everyone hates charter cities; modern and mobile; losing leaders and the fear of Jolie: links I liked

admin - June 21, 2010

A long, but thought-provoking post from Alex Evans on the state of the response to climate change And some good climate news (for a change)? New Scientist reports that low lying Pacific islands seem to be responding to rising sea levels by growing Dani Rodrik finds some new data showing just how bad the Washington Consensus years have been for Latin America A big, new …

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How can a whole developing country switch to renewables? The example of Tonga

admin - June 18, 2010

Continuing the theme of renewables, here’s a (small) developing country which has decided to pursue an energy transformation. I bumped into a Chatham House researcher called Cleo Paskal the other day, who was singing the praises of the Pacific island of Tonga. She wrote a piece for the Toronto Star on this – here’s a précis. Tongans are fiercely independent – it’s the only unconquered …

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Are renewables the answer to Africa's energy deficit?

admin - June 17, 2010

Thanks for the feedback on yesterday’s post – let’s continue this mini-series of posts on energy. A new paper from the energy wonks at the World Bank. ‘The Economics of Renewable Energy Expansion in rural Sub-Saharan Africa‘ asks whether renewables (solar, hydro, wind and so on) are mainly an issue for the rich north, or a potential solution to energy poverty in poor countries. The authors …

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