October 2010

The Five Standard Excuses of all politicians, everywhere, for everything: this week’s Friday Formula

admin - October 29, 2010

Listening to the exchanges in the British Parliament recently brings back the genius of Yes Minister, a long gone British political comedy that, I am told, has been used to train French civil servants in understanding their Brit rivals, counterparts. The references are from 1981 (with links for younger readers, non-anglophiles and amnesiacs), but the excuses are as good as ever. The exchange is between Jim …

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What does the end of North-South mean for the development sector?

admin - October 28, 2010

I spoke last night at an event in the House of Commons. It was held at Portcullis House, an architectural monstrosity next to Big Ben which despite its name is a new bit, so no-one’s been executed there. Yet. The subject was a BS (blue skies) session on ‘Beyond the MDG Summit: What next for global poverty reduction?’ The thread of the discussion that most …

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Whose bottom billion?; another disease eradicated; the world's richest women; what price aid?; crazy food prices; Africa from the outside and death by consultation: links I liked

admin - October 26, 2010

“My bottom billion is better than your bottom billion”: Andy Sumner v Paul Collier on an IDS podcast (and Paul comes out swinging – these academics take no prisoners). Further briefings on Andy’s boat-rocking Bottom Billion paper (previously reviewed on this blog) here. And if you’re in central London at 5pm tomorrow, why not drop in to the House of Commons to hear Andy, me …

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Some good news from Africa: Burkina Faso's farming miracle

admin - October 25, 2010

Just been reading ‘Helping Africa to Feed Itself: Promoting Agriculture to Reduce Poverty and Hunger’, a paper by Steve Wiggins and Henri Leturque, both of the ODI. It’s a brilliant and to my mind, very fair overview, with one of its main messages being that regional generalizations about Africa are usually misleading – some subregions of Africa (eg West and North) have actually done very …

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How to write the recommendations to a report on almost anything: introducing Friday Formulae

admin - October 22, 2010

I really enjoyed (if that’s the right word…) the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, but when it got to its recommendations, it struck me as incredibly formulaic. In that respect, it resembled an awful lot of the stuff I read (and, I fear, write) from thinktanks, international organizations and NGOs – fascinating diagnosis; shame about the cure. So based on the MAE, and in the spirit of …

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An evening with Bill and Melinda Gates and the decade of vaccines: is this the future of aid?

admin - October 21, 2010

On Monday night I joined the besuited masses of the UK development scene to sit at the feet (OK, in a crammed 400 seat lecture theatre) of Bill and Melinda Gates as they promoted the ONE campaign’s ‘Living Proof’ project on effective aid. It was great to hear an optimistic message on aid and development for once, especially when it was laid out brilliantly in …

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Social scientists v advocates; Europe's worst lobbyists; GSK's free pills; China's rare earths; suffragettes in Ethiopia; thirsty farms; communist facebook; intro to scarcity and resilience: links I liked

admin - October 20, 2010

Texas in Africa is running a ‘how social scientists think’ week, in particular examining the differences between social scientists and advocates. Part I: what constitutes evidence? Sylvia Pankhurst, heroine of Ethiopian independence as well as her better known role as leader of the British suffragette movement Want to help select the worst lobbyist in Europe? This year’s focus is climate and finance – send your …

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What does ageing mean for development? Guest blog from someone who knows

admin - October 19, 2010

Last week I blogged on the rapid pace of global ageing (even though I’ve just noticed that I can’t spell ‘ageing’), and asked for suggestions on what it might mean for development policy. Mark Gorman, HelpAge International’s Director of Strategic Development, obliges with this guest blog. “So what does ageing mean for development? Will low and middle income countries grow old before they grow rich? What can be …

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Agriculture is key to development – why I (partly) disagree with Owen Barder

admin - October 18, 2010

It was World Food Day on Saturday, in case you missed it, and Owen Barder had a typically thought-provoking reflection on the links between agriculture and development. He starts off by quoting Amartya Sen’s words from 30 years ago, “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat” and the subsequent …

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