All posts by Owen

Episode 42: The Idealist (Nina Munk on Jeff Sachs)

Nina Munk’s latest book, The Idealist, is about Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project. It is also a book about the efforts that people in industrialised countries make to help poor people. It is a book about vision, passion and hubris.munk

In this episode of Development Drums, Nina Munk tells the story of how she came to write the book, and what she learned about Jeff Sachs, and about development aid, as she did so.

Download the transcript

Episode 41: The Great Escape (Angus Deaton)

The great escapeAngus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University, talks about his book, The Great Escape, which brings together his research into health, well-being, and economic development.

In his book, Professor Deaton talks about the great progress that is being made in health and well-being, but also the problem of inequality within and between nations.  The book finishes with a robust critique of the aid business, leading Professor Deaton to recommend that industrialised countries should spend money for, but not in, developing countries.  In the podcast, I discuss with Professor Deaton the difference between happiness and well-being, the drivers of improved health around the world, and the implications of inequality of material well-being. We also debate his views about the impact of aid.

Here is a short video clip of part of the discussion. The full discussion – published in audio only – can be heard here on the website, or you can subscribe for free on iTunes.

Read the transcript of the podcast.

If you enjoy Development Drums, you may also enjoy CGD’s other podcast, the Global Prosperity Wonkcast.  Here is a longer list of development podcasts.

Episode 40: Why Nations Fail

Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson talk about their best-selling book, Why Nations Fail.

Why Nations Fail

In Why Nations Fail, Acemoğlu & Robinson argue that institutions matter for development and prosperity.  Economic institutions can be broadly inclusive, leading to sustained economic prosperity, or extractive, enriching elites but doing little for the majority of the population. So far, that is not very new or exciting. A lot of development thinking has focused on institutions for at least 20 years, following the disappointing results of the Washington Consensus. In this book Acemoğlu & Robinson make the key point that these institutions which block development come about and persist because they benefit powerful elites.

Too often we act as if institutions block development because the leaders of those countries don’t know how to make them better: Acemoğlu & Robinson say that they generally persist because the leaders of those countries don’t want to make them better.  As Acemoğlu says in the podcast, “Getting institutions right is not an engineering problem, it is a political problem”.

The podcast is in three broad parts. After the introduction, Acemoğlu & Robinson talk about their view that it is institutions which explain why some nations fail and others succeed, and why this explanation is better than alternative explanations such as geography or culture. Second, they talk abut the idea that institutions which block development tend to persist because of politics. And at the end, they talk about how change happens, and what (if anything) outsiders can do to accelerate and shape it.

Read the transcript of Development Drums 40.

This is the third in a series of three episodes of Development Drums looking at politics and power in development. In Episode 36,  Rakesh Rajani and Martin Tisné discuss accountability and openness. In Episode 37 Duncan Green talks about his book From Poverty to Power.

Links mentioned in the podcast 

Why Nations Fail on Amazon (affiliate link)

Arvind Subramanian’s review of Why Nations Fail

Blog post by Acemoğlu & Robinson about David Cameron’s Golden Thread

Pods in Print: the people who do our transcripts

Bill Gates’s review of Why Nations Fail

Acemoğlu and Robinson response to Gates

Jeff Sachs’s review of Why Nations Fail ($)

Acemoğlu and Robinson response to Sachs

Here are some global development podcasts:

 

Episode 39: Bob Geldof (full version)

This is the unabridged version of an interview with Bob Geldof; the shorter edited version is available separately as Development Drums number 38.

Bob Geldof and Owen Barder

Bob Geldof is a singer, songwriter, author, actor and part-time political activist. As lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had chart success with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a group of musicians under the name Band Aid to record a single they wrote together, Do They Know Its Christmas?, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time.  They went on to organise the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, and the Live 8 concert in 2005.

I met Bob Geldof in London to talk about his work fighting poverty in Africa. He talks in this podcast about 8 Miles, a new private equity company which he helped to establish to channel investment into Africa. We also talk about Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8 and the Gleneagles Summit.  He is characteristically robust about suggestions that Band Aid may have helped portray Africa in an negative light, and about allegations that money intended for famine relief was diverted to opposing sides in Ethiopia’s civil war.

In this longer version of the interview Bob reflects on how his own upbringing may have led to him responding as he did to news reports of famine in Ethiopia, and on the planning of Live Aid, Live 8 and Gleneagles. (Everything in the highlights is also in this longer version.)

Read the transcript of the full interview with Bob Geldof

Episode 38: Bob Geldof (edited)

This podcast presents the edited version (about half an hour) of a longer interview with Bob Geldof; if you prefer you can listen to the full interview (1 hr 15 minutes) in episode 39 of Development Drums instead.

Bob Geldof and Owen Barder

Bob Geldof is a singer, songwriter, author, actor and part-time political activist. As lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had chart success with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a group of musicians under the name Band Aid to record a single they wrote together, Do They Know Its Christmas?, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time.  They went on to organise the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, and the Live 8 concert in 2005.

I met Bob Geldof in London to talk about his work fighting poverty in Africa. He talks in this podcast about 8 Miles, a new private equity company which he helped to establish to channel investment into Africa. We also talk about Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8 and the Gleneagles Summit.  He is characteristically robust about suggestions that Band Aid may have helped portray Africa in an negative light, and about allegations that money intended for famine relief was diverted to opposing sides in Ethiopia’s civil war.

In the longer version of the interview, also available as a Development Drums podcast, Bob reflects on how his own upbringing may have led to him responding as he did to news reports of famine in Ethiopia, and on the planning of Live Aid, Live 8 and Gleneagles. (Everything in the highlights is also in the longer version.)

Read the transcript of the full interview with Bob Geldof

Episode 37: From Poverty to Power

Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam, talks about his book From Poverty to Power.

Duncan Green

 

From Poverty to Power argues that it requires a radical redistribution of power, opportunities, and assets to break the cycle of poverty and inequality and to give poor people power over their own destinies.  According to Duncan Green, the forces driving this transformation are active citizens and effective states. Active citizens are important because people living in poverty must have a voice in deciding their own destiny, fighting for rights and justice in their own society, and holding states and the private sector to account. Effective states are important because history shows that no country has prospered without a state structure than can actively manage the development process.

In this podcast Duncan Green talks about what he means by an effective state and by active citizens; whether there is a tension between them, and the scope and limitations for outsiders to try to accelerate and shape the change process.

Download the transcript.

 

Episode 36: Accountability and Openness

In this episode, Rakesh Rajani and Martin Tisné discuss accountability and openness.

Rakesh Rajani and Martin Tisne

Rakesh Rajani is a Tanzanian civil society leader who currently leads Twaweza (meaning ‘we can make it happen’ in Swahili), a 10-year initiative to enhance access to information, citizen agency, and public accountability in East Africa. Until the end of 2007 he served as the founding Executive Director of HakiElimu, an independent organization that promotes citizen engagement in education in Tanzania. He advises/serves on several boards, including Revenue Watch InternationalAidspan (a watchdog of the Global Fund), the International Budget Partnership (IBP), ONE, the Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania (FCS), and theHewlett/Gates Foundations initiative on Quality Education in Developing Countries (QEDC).

Martin Tisné is As director of policy at Omidyar Network. Before that, he director of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative where he helped found the Open Government Partnership. Previously, Martin founded the aid transparency campaign Publish What You Fund, helped launch Integrity Watch Afghanistan, and was a founding staff member at Tiri.

This is the first of three episodes of Development Drums which look at the relationship between effective and accountable states, active citizenship and development.

Download the transcript.

Episode 28: Tim Harford on Adapt (why success always begins with failure)

Tim Harford is a journalist at the Financial Times and the author of The Undercover Economist and, most recently, of Adapt: Why Success Always Begins with Failure.

In this interview, Tim talks about the implications for development of his idea that successful complex systems emerge from a process of trial and error.

Development Drums is hosted by Owen Barder and produced by Anna Scott at the Center for Global Development.

Running time 56 minutes; size 40.2Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 27: Tony Blair

Tony Blair at the Center for Global Development

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair talks about his Africa Governance Initiative which aims to improve governance in Africa.  He talks about his views on leadership and governance in Africa, and more broadly about UK attitudes to development, the role of the UK Department for International Development, liberal interventionism, and his own future.

If you are interested in international development, you may also like these other podcasts:

Running time 33 minutes; size 21.1 Mb.

Download the transcript (pdf)

Episode 25: Global development challenges

The twenty-fifth edition of Development Drums discusses the big challenges of development in the 21st century.

My guests are Malini Mehra from the Center for Social Markets and Alex Evans from the Center on International Cooperation at NYU.

Malini Mehra and Alex Evans
Malini Mehra and Alex Evans discuss the big development challenges of the 21st Century in Development Drums 25

The agenda for the discussion was a presentation given by Alex Evans to Members of Parliament in the British House of Commons.  In his presentation, Alex identified ten key issues for discussion: the changing distribution of poverty; demographic change; the financial crisis; oil prices; food prices; feeding the 9 billion; climate change; trade; the changing face of conflict; the global governance deficit; and the implications for UK development policy.

If you enjoy Development Drums, you may also enjoy the Center for Global Development’s Global Prosperity Wonkcasts, which are a bit shorter than Development Drums.  As with Development Drums, you can listen online, subscribe to the feed or subscribe free on iTunes.

The Guardian has also started a monthly development podcast.  The most recent editions are about “securitisation of aid” (that is, greater focus of aid on fragile states) and on so-called “land grabs“.  Again, you can subscribe to the feed directly, or get it free on iTunes.

Running time 1 hour 13 minutes; size 41 Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 24: The New Bottom Billion

Andy Sumner (Institute for Development Studies) has published a new paper which argues that the global poverty problem has changed because most of the world’s poor no longer live in low-income countries (LICs).  In 1990, about 93 per cent of the world’s poor people lived in LICs. Andy’s paper shows that in 2007-8, three-quarters of the world’s approximately 1.3bn poor people lived in middle-income countries (MICs) and only about a quarter of the world’s poor – about 370mn people – live in the remaining 39 low-income countries, which are largely in sub-Saharan Africa.

Andy Sumner and Claire Melamed

In this episode of Development Drums, Andy Sumner and Claire Melamed (Head of the Growth and Equity Programme at ODI) discuss the implications of this new data about where most of the world’s poor live.   If there are millions of people living in poverty in middle income countries, does this mean that growth does not lead to poverty reduction? What are the implications for donor countries? Do they have any interest in the income distribution in other nations, or is that an entirely internal matter?  Should aid be allocated differently as a results of these new figures? And what are the implications for non-aid development policies?

Download Andy’s paper, “Global Poverty and the New Bottom Billion”.

Running time 44 minutes; size 22.3 Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 23: Famine and Foreigners

Peter Gill talks on Development Drums about his new book, Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid.

The Ethiopian famine of 25 years ago was the greatest humanitarian disaster of the second half of the 20th century, killing more than 600,000 people before the world took notice. Peter Gill was the first journalist to reach the epicenter of the famine in 1984 and he returned at the time of Live Aid to research the definitive account of the disaster, A Year in the Death of Africa .

Peter Gill has returned to Ethiopia to tell the story of the last 25 years in Ethiopia. His book draws on interviews with leading Ethiopians and with foreign aid officials. He interviewed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the leading development economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs. Most important of all, Gill has traveled throughout the country and interviewed many of Ethiopia’s citizens.

What stands out in these pages are the graphic encounters with these Ethiopians–the supposed beneficiaries of western aid–who still struggle on the knife-edge of existence. What also emerges is the often tense relationship between official aid-givers and recipients–whether in the area of economic reform or the modern demands for “governance” and political change.

Twenty five years on, we can say that we did feed the world. But did we change the face of poverty, did we close the gap between rich and poor, did we fulfill the promise of “development?”

Episode 21: Randomized Evaluation

In this edition of Development drums, Owen talks to Rachel Glennerster, Director of the Poverty Action Lab, about rigorous evaluation of development programmes.

Rachel explains how rigorous evaluation techniques can give important insights into the effectiveness of development programmes.  She explains the role (and limitations) of randomised controlled trials, and she addresses some of the criticisms of this kind of evaluation.

Rachel Glennerster

Download Transcript (pdf)

Episode 18: Portfolios of the Poor

Portfolios of the Poor Book CoverDaryl Colliins and Jonathan Morduch discuss their book, co-authored with Stuart Rutherford and Orland Ruthven, Portfolios of the Poor.

Forty percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. You may be surprised by the extent to which they use financial services.  Daryl and Jonathan describe their work and their findings.

Running time 62 minutes; size 25.4 Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 17: Obama in Ghana

President Obama spoke in Ghana on July 11, 2009 about US policy towards Africa.

In this episode of Development Drums, Todd Moss and Chris Blattman join me to talk about the speech, and what it means for the US and Africa.

(Am I missing some? Post them in the comments please.)

Download transcript (pdf)

 
Particular thanks to my father, Brian Barder, who is turning into an expert sound engineer. He set up the link between me in Addis Ababa and the interviewees in the United States, and made the recording.

Episode 15: Peter Singer

Professor Peter Singer talks on Development Drums about his new book, The Life You Can Save. This book sets out an ethical case for why people should give more money to people in developing countries.

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast.

Running time 58 minutes; size 22.1 Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 12: The Hague

The authors of the WrongingRights blog, Kate Cronin-Furman and Amanda Taub, help to clear up the mysteries of international criminal law.

Running time: 46 minutes 47 seconds. Size: 22Mb

Download transcript (pdf)

In this episode of Development Drums we talk about the International Criminal Court and the arrest warrant that has been issued for the President of Sudan. Some links:

Also – Facebook Group for Development Drums

Episode 11: Moorgate

Nancy Birdsall (CGD) and Simon Maxwell (ODI) reflect on the London Poverty Summit on 9th and 10th March; and Minouche Shafik (DFID) talks about the forthcoming DFID White Paper.
 

Running time: 1 hour and 11 minutes. File size: 32.4 Mb

Download transcript (pdf)

The British Government held a 2 day conference on 9th and 10th March, bringing together some of the leading thinkers and practitioners on international development.

Episode 10: Oxford

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics at Oxford University and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies.

 Download transcript (pdf)

In The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier points out that poverty is falling quite rapidly for about eighty percent of the world.  He argues that the real crisis lies in a group of  58 failing states, home to the bottom billion, whose problems defy traditional approaches to alleviating poverty. He argues that these countries are the scene of a struggle between reformers and corrupt leaders.  Collier analyzes the causes of failure, pointing to a set of traps that snare these countries, including civil war, a dependence on the extraction and export of natural resources, and bad governance.   He argues that our standard solutions do not work against these traps: aid is often ineffective, and globalization can actually make matters worse, driving development to more stable nations.  The Bottom Billion, was the winner of the 2008 Lionel Gelber Prize for the world’s best book on international affairs, and the 2008 Gold Medal Winner of the Arthur Ross Book Award, given by the Council on Foreign Relations.

In his new book, Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, Paul Collier investigates the violence and poverty in the countries at the bottom of the world economy that are home to a billion people. He argues that pressures to introduce partial democratic reforms may have been counterproductive and that this may have increased the risk of political violence. He argues for 3 key policy measures that the rich world should implement to reverse the declining fortunes of these countries.

Episode 8: Timkat

Jonathan Glennie talks about his new book, The Trouble With Aid.

Jonathan Glennie is the Christian Aid country representative in Bogota, Colombia, and he campaigned as part of Make Poverty History. His new book, The Trouble With Aid, argues that when you take into account all the effects that aid has, it can do more harm than good.  In this episode of Development Drums, Jonathan explains why he thinks that many countries should make it a priority to reduce their dependence on aid.

Download transcript (pdf)

Episode 7: Sophiatown

The food crisis and international tax reform, discussed by Alex Cobham (Christian Aid) and Stephen Devereux (Institute for Development Studies).

Running time: 52 minutes. File size: 20Mb.

Download transcript (pdf)

In this episode of Development Drums, we discuss the continuing food crisis. What are the causes, and are we doing enough to tackle it?  We discuss policies to increase the incomes of farmers, and the impact of social transfer programmes.    We also look ahead to the forthcoming conference in Doha to discuss financing for development, particularly at proposals to reform the international tax rules so that developing countries get paid more tax.

And we mourn the passing of Miriam Makeba.

Episode 6: Grant Park

What will the US elections means for US foreign assistance? Guests Ruth Levine (Center for Global Development), Paul O’Brien (Oxfam America) discuss the implications for US foreign assistance of the US elections.  Dana Hovig (Marie Stopes International) explains the US global gag rule.

Download Transcript (pdf)

Running time: 51 minutes. File size: 24 Mb

In this episode of Development Drums, we look at what President-Elect Obama and an increased Democrat majority in Congress might mean for US foreign assistance to developing countries.  Will the new administration implement administrative and legal reforms that enables US aid to be more effective?  Will the administration be able to double foreign assistance as they pledged during the campaign?  Who might be put in charge of an “elevated” agency to oversee aid? The panel is cautiously optimistic that change will come, but it will be incremental.

Dana Hovig explains the Mexico City Policy, known as the Global Gag Rule.  Fist implemented by Ronald Reagan, it was overturned by Bill Clinton on his first day in office, and reinstated by George W. Bush on his first day.  But the panel does not expect President Obama to tackle this on his first day.

Links

Declaration of interest: my partner works for Marie Stopes International.