Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Better Life Initiative

Is there a correlation between well-being and wealth?

FOR more than 70 years, economists have been fixated with measuring economic ouput. Their chosen measure, gross domestic product, has limitations—it takes no account of natural-resource depletion and excludes unpaid services such as volunteering.

On May 24th the OECD launched its alternative measure of well-being which includes 20 different indicators across 11 sectors in its 34 member countries, from life satisfaction to air pollution. It has produced an interactive tool which allows users to change the weight of each sector according to their own view of its importance.

The chart below (from The Economist) shows the results of its headline Better Life index (which is equally weighted) plotted against GDP per person at purchasing-power parity (which adjusts GDP for differences in the cost of living across countries). Money may not buy you happiness. But it can buy a strong correlation with a fancy new index that aims to put a number on contentment.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Building Capacity through Security Force Assistance

Extract from Congressional Research Report linked here.

Historically, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) have had primary responsibility for training, advising, and assisting foreign military forces.

Today, although this mission has not been completely relegated to conventional forces, the National Security Strategies of the current and previous administrations direct the U.S. military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to organize, train, and equip themselves to carry out these activities on a larger scale with conventional (non-SOF) forces. This responsibility in its broad sense of building the capacity of partner states has been termed “security force assistance” (SFA).

Each of the military services has undertaken to organize, train, and equip themselves for SFA. However, while SOF have units specifically dedicated to a long-term role in SFA, the conventional forces services do not. Each of the services does have Security Cooperation and Security Assistance organizations that are dedicated to SFA activities, although they do not have SFA in their titles. The services also standardize training for deploying forces to support combatant commanders in their SFA mission. This effort to “train the trainers,” although an object of consistent inquiry in congressional hearings, has been endorsed in testimony by combatant commanders.

The training, organizing, and equipping of U.S. forces to conduct SFA competes for scarce fiscal and personnel resources among the services. Some critics of SFA attest that committing to this capability within the services detracts from their ability to conduct traditional combat roles. Others suggest that building the security capacity of weak and failed states is a misguided effort.

This report provides the following elements:

• An overview of the SFA rationale, focused primarily on Department of Defense support for and relations with foreign security forces.

• Description of the possible employment of U.S. conventional forces and platforms in support of the SFA mission (see “SFA in Current and Previous National Security

• Exploration of current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (see “SFA Linkage to Iraq and Afghanistan Strategies”).

• Resident training capability in U.S. forces as a tool for geographic combatant

• Issues Congress may consider (“Do Legislative Authorities Restrict Conducting SFA?”) The report summarizes congressional reaction to SFA proposals.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The U.S.- UK Partnership for Global Development

The White House

May 25, 2011

Joint Fact Sheet: The U.S.-UK Partnership for Global Development Excerpt - Full text here

Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama reaffirm our commitment to changing the lives of the 1.2 billion poor people in the world today. Recent success and new technologies provide hope and opportunities to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Combating poverty, mitigating disasters and preventing conflict is morally right and is firmly in line with our respective national interests and fundamental values. The President and Prime Minister are pleased to announce our collective interventions to achieve the best results for the world’s poorest people—advance economic growth, prevent conflict in fragile states, improve global health particularly for girls and women, and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Economic Growth

The private sector is the key to stimulating sustainable economic growth, which helps countries pull themselves out of poverty. We will help create the right environment for business, markets and investments in education, skills and innovation, in addition to building capable and accountable institutions and governments. 

Together, we will tackle corruption and bribery that prevent resources from reaching the people they are intended to help. We will renew our efforts to stimulate trade and regional integration – especially in Africa, where the potential is immense.

... Over the next five years, we will: help 18 million vulnerable women, children and family members escape the grip of hunger and poverty; prevent stunting and child mortality in 17 million undernourished children; generate $2.8 billion agricultural GDP through research and development activities; and leverage $70 million in private investment to improve market opportunities and links with smallholders.

Conflict and Fragility

Fragile states pose a significant, yet distinct, development challenge. As a group, fragile states have not achieved a single Millennium Development Goal, and most remain heavily dependent on foreign assistance... We will strengthen local economies, make job creation a priority and ensure that women are involved in every level of the decision-making process. .... We will continue to work together to improve international responses and to encourage other donors to bear their share of responsibility. In all of our programs, we will measure the results we achieve so that we base our investment and policy decisions on solid evidence.

Aid Effectiveness – Accountability, Transparency and Results

The United States and the United Kingdom believe the quantity of our aid must be seen as equal in importance to its quality and we must be open, transparent and accountable in how we are spending our taxpayers’ money. Together, we have put in place mechanisms such as the UK Aid Transparency Guarantee and the U.S. Foreign Assistance Dashboard so the public – both at home and abroad – are able to access clear, comparable information about our aid programs. In so doing, we will help individuals understand the results being achieved, provide developing countries a stronger voice, and encourage other donors to follow our lead. We will ensure that the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in November 2011 transforms the way bilateral aid is delivered around the world and we will continue to work together to strengthen multilateral organizations.

Global Health

Twenty first century technology and innovation can help us achieve our development goals. We will continue to work together, not least at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) Replenishment Conference in June, and to ensure the GAVI Alliance has the resources it needs to do its job. The introduction of new and underused vaccines could result in another 250 million children being immunized and prevent four million childhood deaths by 2015. We will also work to increase the level of care given to pregnant women and newborn babies by supporting the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women and Children. Our alliance with Australia and the Gates Foundation should help 100 million more women meet their need for modern family planning by 2015.

Girls and Women

Women disproportionately bear the burden of poverty as they own only 10 percent of the world’s property and represent two-thirds of the developing world’s illiterate. But we know that investing in girls and women has transformative impacts on growth and poverty reduction. It is also cost-effective as women tend to invest returns in their families and communities. Over the next five years, our investments alone will: save the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth; get more than five million girls into primary and secondary school; help 18 million women to access financial services and; do more to prevent violence towards women in at least 15 countries.

Climate Change

Without urgent global action, climate change could reverse our hard-won gains and increase the risk of insecurity and fragility in many parts of the world. The United States and the United Kingdom therefore continue to seek to hold the increase in temperature below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We also continue to work towards implementing the key agreements reached in Cancun... Our support for the REDD+ partnership will increase the incomes of the 1.2 billion of the world’s poorest people who depend on forests for their livelihoods

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AidData Financial Analysis Tool

About AidData

AidData is a collaborative initiative to provide products and services that promote the dissemination, analysis, and understanding of development finance information. 

At the core of the AidData program is the AidData web portal, which is a gateway to nearly 1 million records of development finance activities from donors around the world. Complementing the work of the OECD, whose Creditor Reporting System (CRS) is the official source of statistics for all OECD member countries, the AidData portal aims to provide access to development finance activities from a wide range of donors in an accessible format. In addition to providing access to these data, the team works on other projects that make it easier to access and analyze aid information, such as geocoding.

The AidData Vision

The AidData team is committed to providing access to the largest number of development finance activities possible, but we have plenty of additional work to do. Better data will help increase aid targeting and coordination, and it will enable better measurement and evaluation of aid effectiveness. 

AidData has developed a publicly-accessible interface that will enable researchers, field workers, and policy makers interested in development finance to access detailed project level data in order to increase transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.

Access the website here.