Skip to content

Monthly Archives: July 2009

Make Aid Watch Better

That Aid Watch blog — you must be thinking — always insisting on accountability and responsiveness from others. When are we going to see a little accountability and responsiveness from them?

Well . . . how about now?

Please help us improve this blog by taking our 3-minute, completely painless reader satisfaction survey. The survey closes this Monday, August 3rd at 5 pm EST.


Posted in Meta | 18 Comments

USAID funding Iraqi insurgents? Well, on the plus side, they finally answered one of our emails

USA Today ran a story this week on a $644 million program in Iraq suspended by USAID four months short of its end date.

The program was launched three years ago to create jobs and infrastructure in cities throughout Iraq. The Community Stabilization Program, said one hopeful report from 2006, “will provide safe and productive alternatives to insurgent activities while reinforcing democratic values and processes.”

Posted in In the news, Organizational behavior | Tagged , | 3 Comments

R2P: A Priest, A Linguist, and an Economist Walk into the General Assembly…

Miguel D’Escoto, GA president

What kind of issue would cause a left-wing priest, a radical linguist, and a free market economist to take the same side? The answer: opposition to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) at the United Nations. The priest is the nutty General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, the linguist is the flaming radical Noam Chomsky, and the economist is the sensible young academic Christopher Coyne.

R2P is the principle that the international community…

Posted in Grand plans and aid targets | 20 Comments

From the “aid agency” that nobody knew existed

We received this response to today’s post on the Global Forum for Health Research, from Susan Jupp:

Dear Professor Easterly,

It’s not surprising that we are not known as an aid agency because we’re

not one!

The report of the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank to which you refer is not yet available on the Bank’s website so you probably saw an advance copy, perhaps still in draft. That could explain the…

Posted in Global health | 7 Comments

The aid agency nobody knew existed is even worse than nobody realized

I recently saw a June 2009 World Bank (Independent Evaluation Group) evaluation of the Global Forum for Health Research, an 11-year-old international organization that had received $56 million (through 2007) in official aid funding, about half from the World Bank. The Global Forum’s mission is “demonstrating the essential role of research and innovation for health and health equity, benefiting poor and marginalized populations.”

The evaluation report is 162 pages long, but two sentences in…

Posted in Organizational behavior | 7 Comments

Smart rules and stupid outcomes: the Skip Gates teachable moment


This teachable moment is not only about race. It includes understanding why the Cambridge MA police department would arrest Skip Gates for breaking into his own home, and then continue to insist after a huge outcry that they did the right thing.

My guess is that Sergeant James Crowley was following an inflexible rule that you arrest anyone who shouts angrily at a cop. This may be a good general rule to identify dangerous…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, In the news | 15 Comments

We try to make comprehensible the incomprehensible responses from those we criticize

Our targets for criticism have evolved a new tactic of writing longwinded unreadable responses (at least Vernon Smith had brilliant ideas underlying his unreadable book reviewed today). So the Global Development Network wrote us a bureaucratic reply to the charge that they were too bureaucratic. World Vision’s reply to our charge that they were inappropriately manipulating our feelings towards children generated a similarly long-winded reply. To avoid the “tl;dr” comment we…

Posted in Meta | 8 Comments

You’re rational after all: unconscious development insights from unreadable books


Vernon Smith is a Nobel Prize winner. You quickly realize on reading this book that he got it for economics, not literature. But if you can slog through this book (which took me about 4 months), you will be rewarded with some great insights about development. (But why I am working so hard when Tyler Cowen’s blog is about topless French sun-bathers?)

His big picture is familiar to readers of Hayek: societies develop…

Posted in Academic research | 12 Comments

Shameless aid behavior awards of the month

3. Bono sings “Every generation gets a chance to change the world.” Another inspirational call to arms to fight African poverty? No, Bono is commercially exploiting his “save Africa” image to shill for Blackberry, who are sponsoring the latest U2 tour.”

2. “Children trust adults to keep their promises.” A parental advice web site?

No, World Vision UK is manipulating our feelings about children to campaign for increased aid.

Children rely on

Posted in Badvocacy and celebs | 16 Comments

Official Global Development Network Management Response to our post on GDN Research

The following entry was written by the management of the Global Development Network in response to our June 15 2009 post, A $3 million book with 8 readers? The impact of donor-driven research.

The main point of our post was that GDN’s annual budget of $9 million had produced paltry results in publications, readers, or citations. We attributed this partly to a decision made early on to administer research through a bureaucracy rather than…

Posted in Data and statistics | 4 Comments