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Monthly Archives: January 2010

The best way nobody’s talking about to help Haitians

The following post is by Michael Clemens, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, and an affiliated associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

The earthquake two weeks ago hit Haiti hard because Haiti is poor. The rich U.S. had similar earthquakes with far less carnage. So, what would do the most to lift Haitians out of poverty?

Start here: What has done the most, to date, to lift Haitians…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Disaster relief, Migration | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

Bill Clinton for President…of Haiti?

The Economist leader on Haiti:

investment {should}  be targeted on infrastructure, basic services and combating soil erosion to make farmers more productive and the country less vulnerable to hurricanes.

The pressing question is who should do it and how. Haiti’s government is in no position to take charge, yet the country needs a strong government to put it to rights. Paul Collier, a development economist who worked on the plan, reckons that the answer is to

Posted in Disaster relief, In the news | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Dr. Lancet discovers hitherto unsuspected need for aid criticism

The Lancet has issued a severe editorial blast against the aid agencies (both official and NGO) for Haiti aid efforts. (Link requires free registration.)

Alanna Shaikh points out where the Lancet is off base.

The Lancet knowledge universe has the perception “the aid sector” has “largely escaped public scrutiny.” Who ever heard of any those obscure *&^%$#@ criticisms of foreign aid? That “coming age of accountability” crap? Sigh.

But, forget all that, here’s a belated welcome…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Disaster relief | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Telethon: “We’ve seen the earth quake but the soul of the Haitian people it will never break.”

You might expect a certain critic of celebrity-aid to make fun of the Haitian telethon last night.

And there were indeed some cringe-inducing moments in this 4-minute video summary I just watched.

But it’s a little-known dark secret that crotchety skeptics often have a sentimental streak.  So what’s really wrong about some well-meaning gushy-anthem-belting megastars raising money for some currently very needy people?

I just hope that some day we will get to the point…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Badvocacy and celebs, In the news | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The coming age of accountability

There was such a great audience yesterday at the Brookings event on What Works in Development. (If you are a glutton for punishment, the full length audio of the event is available on the Brookings web site.)

In the end, what struck me was the passion for just having SOME way to KNOW that aid is benefiting the poor, which dwarfed the smaller issue of Randomized Experiment methods vs. other methods.

And extreme dissatisfaction with…

Posted in Metrics and evaluation | Tagged , | 18 Comments

A multiple choice post on Haiti disaster

Which best describes Port-au-Prince?

A) A hotbed of looting, machete-wielding gangs and violence.

“Downtown Port-au-Prince now feels like a war zone. Gangs with machetes rule the streets here.” – CBS News 1/14/2010

“Hundreds of people desperate for food and supplies swarmed downtown Haiti yesterday, climbing atop piles of broken rubble and shards of glass to get to canned goods, powdered milk, and batteries buried underneath. On the main boulevard, the Grand Rue, their desperation flared

Posted in Disaster relief | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Don’t cite global numbers unless you know they’re trustworthy (They usually aren’t)

Precisely 1.419 billion live in extreme poverty in our world today. Oh, and it’s equally plausible that precisely 0.874 billion live in extreme poverty. Or maybe it’s 1.7517 billion.

Most development people confidently cite global statistics without knowing what they are based on. Sorry, that’s no longer allowed with today’s greater demands for transparency. Angus Deaton’s AEA Presidential Address just given at the AEA meetings will not let you ever trust the World…

Posted in Data and statistics | 13 Comments

Too much of a good thing? Making the most of your disaster donations

The global outpouring of support for people affected by the South Asia earthquake and tsunamis of 2004 added up to more than $14 billion.

One notable fact about this $14 billion is that it represents the most generous international response to a natural disaster on record. Another is that it exceeded the total estimated cost of damages from the storm by some $4 billion, or about 30 percent.

What drove these record-breaking sums in the…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Disaster relief | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Getting humanitarian relief right

The extent of the devastation in Port-au-Prince, the incapacity of the already weak Haitian government, and the degraded state of infrastructure throughout the country resist comparison to any disaster before this one. But post-recovery evaluations from the Asian tsunami, the Bam earthquake and other disasters suggest which practices allow relief efforts to work effectively and which result in waste and delays.

My piece on puts the response to Haiti’s earthquake in the context of…

Posted in Disaster relief | 6 Comments

If Martin Luther King had been an aid official — the Powerpoint version of I Have a Dream

If only Martin Luther King Jr. had been an aid agency official, he would have been able to use Powerpoint and aid terminology to get his main points across more effectively.

Using advanced econometric methods, we were able to project the Powerpoint (via PDF) slides that would have resulted (open or save here).

Posted in History, Metrics and evaluation | 16 Comments