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There was lots of cloud and not much silver lining at the climate change meetings which we attended in Warsaw. It was microcosm of many of the problems with our mechanisms for working together to solve shared problems.
First, some background. The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 set up three international treaties, known as the Rio Conventions, one of which is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (The other two are the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.) The UNFCCC aims to limit climate change and to deal with its consequences. Since 1995 there has been a roughly annual meeting, called the Conference of the Parties, or “COP”, to try to make progress towards a comprehensive agreement. The most famous of these was the third COP, in Kyoto in 1997, at which a group of countries agreed to binding targets to reduce emissions. There are now 195 Parties to the UNFCCC (194 states plus the European Union), of which all but three – Andorra, the US and Canada – are also parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The nineteenth COP took place over the last two weeks in Warsaw, trying to find a path towards an international agreement which everyone hopes will be finalised in Paris in December 2015.
There was a foul mood from the start in Warsaw, caused by Japan’s cancellation of its Kyoto commitment to cut emissions by 25% compared to 1990 levels. Instead Japan will increase emissions by a little more than 3%. This decision by the world’s third largest economy contributes to the growing gap between where we are headed and what we need to do to limit warming to 2° (itself a potentially dangerous level of warming). On current policies global temperatures are now expected to increase by 3.7° by the end of the century. Yet we are further than ever from an agreement on how to bring emissions under control.
After the disappointment of the equivalent meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, the world has fallen back to a “pledge and review” approach, in which each country offers to do what it can. This approach has three important (some might say fatal) weaknesses: it does not ensure either that the reductions in emissions are sufficient to limit global warming; nor does it ensure that the burden is shared equitably; nor is there any reason for optimism that these promises, once made, will be kept.
Weak as “pledge and review” already is, the Warsaw meeting managed to water it down even further. Countries refused to agree that they would make “commitments” to reduce emissions and provide finance; instead they insisted they could offer only “nationally determined contributions”. They also pushed back the deadline for pledges until the first quarter of 2015 – and even then, only “for those ready to do so”.
One of the most controversial issues in Warsaw was the insistence of many developing countries that there should be a mechanism by which the countries which cause climate change will compensate the countries which are most harmed by it, an idea known as “Loss and Damage”. Activists from NGOs at the Warsaw meetings wore t-shirts calling for “Climate Reparations Now!”. Many litres of midnight oil were burned reaching a compromise agreement to what amounts to a technical assistance programme, falling well short of a proper mechanism to assess loss and enforce compensation.
There was some good news. Our colleague Jonah Busch has written here about the progress that was made on financing for tropical forests, an issue on which we at CGD have been particularly involved.
The UK announced that it would end support for public financing of coal fired power plants in developing countries; scandalously denying poor people in developing countries access to cheap electricity at the same time as Japan has announced that this is the approach it plans to take for its own, much wealthier citizens.
We remain optimistic that solutions to climate change will be found “bottom-up” – through the innovation and dynamism of businesses and research, and through cities and states rather than national governments and UN processes. But these bottom-up processes will not get sufficient financing and priority to achieve the scale of change we need unless and until we put an economic bounty on solutions by raising the price of carbon. If we want “bottom up” solutions to climate change we have to create the right incentives for the investment they need: that is the role of public policy.
Early next year, we will be advancing a proposal that we are currently developing with Alex Evans, for how countries can determine their contributions to reducing climate change. Our mechanism is based on the principle that every citizen in the world has an equal claim on the world’s environmental resources. We believe that our mechanism is simultaneously environmentally sound, economically efficient and socially just, and that it can be taken forward by a group of countries, developed and developing, who are willing to move ahead without having to wait for agreement from everyone. Our conversations in Warsaw convinced us that there will be support for a mechanism which allocates emission rights on an equitable basis, and that innovations of this kind are desperately needed if we are to break out of the paralysis of the current dialogue.
During 2015 the world aims to reach agreement three interlocking questions: climate change, financing for development, and the post-2015 development framework. The hard work of finding an international consensus on these issues will happen in 2014 if it happens at all. Judging by our dismal performance in Warsaw, the world is some way from getting our act together.
This joint post with Petra Krylová first appeared on the Center for Global Development blog, Views from the Center. It announces the publication of the 2013 Commitment to Development Index, which is CGD’s annual exercise to score affluent countries according to whether they have development-friendly policies. The calculations for the 2013 CDI were all done by David Roodman, now at the Gates Foundation, and by Julia Clark, now at UC San Diego.
For the second year in row, the winner of the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) is Denmark. (Tillykke!) Denmark does not have the highest score in any individual component, but it has the most consistently development-friendly policies across the board. Its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden and Norway, are second and third respectively. The G-7 country with the most pro-development policies is the UK, in seventh place.
Now in its eleventh year, the CDI is made up of hundreds of indicators drawn from publicly available data. We distil these into seven components: aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, security, and technology transfer and score 27 high-income countries on each. The averages of those scores indicate the countries’ overall Commitment to Development. Explore the results yourself on the interactive CDI.
What is our overall conclusion from the 2013 index? That depends if you want the bad news or the good news.
The bad news is that over the 11 years for which we have calculated the Index, there has been very little improvement overall in the development-friendliness of the countries that have been in the Index from the start. Consistently measured over time, the scores for aid, migration, trade, and technology transfer are about the same as they were when the Index was first calculated in 2003, and rich-country policies to support global security are distinctly worse. Our performance on finance policies is getting a little better. Only environmental policies have got significantly better since 2003. We will look at these trends in more detail in a subsequent blog post.
The good news is that the CDI shows that it is feasible for rich countries to improve their policies. For example, if the UK were to adopt the same approach to research and development and to intellectual property as South Korea (which has the best score for technology transfer), then Britain’s overall position in the CDI would jump from seventh to third place. Overnight, the Brits would become positively Scandinavian, equal with Norway and not far behind Denmark and Sweden. (We would also need to improve our bike lanes and our plumbing to become really Scandinavian.) South Korea has done pretty well at promoting innovation and nurturing successful businesses, so it is hard to argue that adopting South Korea’s policies on technology transfer would be harmful to the UK’s economic performance.
The purpose of the CDI is to draw attention to, and provoke thinking and discussion about, whether wealthy countries are pursuing development-friendly policies, and to identify how those policies could be improved. Every country is below average in at least one component of the index—even Denmark!—so every country has something to learn from the best countries. If every nation pursued trade policies as development-friendly as New Zealand, or made the same proportionate contribution to global security as Norway, we would collectively be doing much more to create the conditions for growth and poverty reduction in the poorest nations. This too will be examined in more detail in a later blog post.
The CDI was developed in 2003 by David Roodman when CGD was a few months old, and he continued to improve it ever since. It continues to evolve, as more data become available and as we understand more about how wealthy countries and institutions affect the prospects for poor countries and poor people. For the first time, this year’s CDI takes into account the extent to which wealthy countries facilitate illicit financial flows by creating or allowing havens of financial secrecy in the finance component (which, in previous years, was called investment); there are also some important changes to the way that the trade and the migration components are calculated. As always, we have calculated the results on a consistent basis, so that changes over time reflect changes in policy rather than changes in the way the index is defined.
Now that the CDI is in our tender care, we will continue to make modest improvements to the way it is calculated. We aspire to bring the same attention to detail, intellectual rigor and honesty that David brought to this work while he was in charge of it. The CDI has a big community of fans, as well as constructive critics, and we hope to learn from you all as we continue to refine the approach. Any improvements will be aimed at ensuring that the CDI continues to serve its primary role: focusing attention on the way in which the global community can be more of a help and less of a hindrance, so that developing countries can achieve their ambitions to fight poverty, and to help make the world safer, more prosperous, and more equal.
There is an article in the Washington Post about humanitarian relief in the Philippines by Vij Ramachandran and me. (For those who quaintly enjoy their news etched on to dead trees, this will appear in the paper on Sunday, apparently.) We argue that the aid effort could be significantly improved by the use of technology and transparency. The full text of the article is below.
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Owen Barder is a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Global Development in Europe. This essay is adapted from a post they wrote on the center’s blog.
The immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, such as the typhoon that devastated part of the Philippines on Nov. 8, can bring out the best in the global community. Already we are seeing the world’s governments and citizens responding generously to appeals for aid, reaffirming our shared humanity.
The challenge is to ensure that this generosity reaches the people who desperately need it. Relief and reconstruction efforts in the Philippines have much to learn from previous mega-disasters, including, most recently, the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010. We should help the Philippines — just not like we helped Haiti. We can, and must, help better.
Lack of generosity is typically not the problem. Since Haiti’s quake, almost $6 billion in official aid has been disbursed in a country with a population of just under 10 million. Large nongovernmental organizations and private contractors, mostly in the United States or Europe, have been the initial recipients of most of these funds. But there are few publicly available records of what they have done with the money, and almost four years after the quake there is little to show on the ground: Even the Haitian capital still lacks decent roads, running water and reliable electricity, and an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Haitians still live in tents.
Pierre Erold Etienne, director general of the Haitian Finance Ministry, put it clearly: “We are required to be transparent. We publish the financial information relevant to the execution of our budget. All we ask is for the same transparency from our donor friends, which should help both us and them.”Problems arising from a lack of donor transparency are not unique to Haiti. About five years earlier, after a tsunami devastated coastal communities from Indonesia to India, well-meaning but disjointed aid efforts led to bottlenecks, gaps and duplication. The Red Cross reported that there were too many doctors but not enough midwives in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh province. Children became ill with the symptoms of measles after being vaccinated three times by three organizations, because the NGOs did not share records of which immunizations children had received. In India’s Tamil Nadu state, victims complained that they had all the cooking pots they could ever want, but needed shelter.The international community can and must do better in the Philippines, and there is reason to be hopeful. The first crowdsourced map of the path of Typhoon Haiyan, compiled by volunteers around the world using publicly available data, was online less than 72 hours after the storm. In the days ahead, this open-source map can be used to track where people need help and what kind of help they need. But unless things change, some key data will be missing: official information from governments and private charities about their planned and actual responses.
Coordinating response plans can be very time-consuming, so it is understandable that it often takes second place to the urgency of getting help to people who need it. Transparency, on the other hand, does not require centralized coordination and would enable everyone to make smarter decisions, informed by the knowledge of what others are doing. Yet organizations that find the time to issue news releases and organize photo-ops do not seem to be able to spare the resources to post information about what exactly they are doing and where.
This could change fast, using platforms already in place. The Financial Tracking Service (FTS) of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is specifically designed for this role. The European Union has a compatible system, the European Disaster Response Information System, through which donors can exchange information with the FTS and one another. Both systems will soon be able to share data with the global standard for aid transparency — the International Aid Transparency Initiative. For humanitarian aid, the U.N. and E.U. systems are fully operational; the challenge is persuading leaders of relief and aid agencies to commit to using them.The response to Typhoon Haiyan can and should be the first major relief effort in which all humanitarian organizations and aid agencies publish the details of their planned and actual spending and activities online, in real time, using a common format. This simple step would enable donors and the Philippine government to identify where activities overlap and where gaps remain, and would allow everyone who contributes to see where the money is going.
The United States, which has announced $20 million in typhoon relief, with more likely to follow, should be a leader in this effort. The U.S. Agency for International Development is already required to report publicly on the activities of its primary contractors. But the actual work is usually done by subcontractors, and USAID does not collect or publish information about what they do.
This is not hard to fix: USAID Administrator Raj Shah should announce that, starting with the Philippine relief and reconstruction effort, the agency will require all primary contractors to publicly disclose project-level data on their subcontractors’ activities in a timely fashion. This would not only help avoid overlaps and gaps in aid in the short term but would also make it possible to learn lessons about what worked — so we can do better in future disasters. American taxpayers should settle for nothing less.Of course, national and global aid agencies are not the only purveyors of assistance; the far-flung Philippine diaspora will undoubtedly help the victims of Haiyan. Research by Dean Yang at the University of Michigan has shown that in previous disasters in the Philippines, increased remittances from Filipinos working abroad helped to make up for as much as 60 percent of economic losses. This is very good insurance; other developing countries thinking about disaster preparedness may want to consider following the Philippines’ example and actively support citizens’ efforts to temporarily work abroad.One area where the Philippines has done less well is in the provision of secure identification, such as biometric IDs that are viable even if physical identification cards and supporting paperwork have been destroyed. Biometric ID, which uses new low-cost technology for iris scans, fingerprints and other unique traits, makes it possible to provide large numbers of poor people with proof of their identity. Research by our colleague Alan Gelb has shown that effective identification empowers the poor. It is crucial for the fair distribution of relief assistance, for government cash transfers and for the secure delivery of remittances.
A good example of ID success comes from an unexpected place: Pakistan. In July 2010, floods covered a fifth of the country and millions of families lost their homes, with housing damage alone estimated at $1.5 billion. Many people sought refuge in temporary camps and urgently needed assistance to rebuild their homes and farms. Pakistan was able to take advantage of a national biometric-identification database to identify displaced people and provide them with cards that could be used at banks and other points of service to receive cash payments to help them rebuild.The first phase provided about $250 to each head of a flood-affected household, and a second phase brought the total to $1,250. The later phase is still being evaluated, but assessments of the first phase show that the payment mechanism succeeded; money reached the intended beneficiaries rather than being diverted. Recipients were easily able to withdraw their benefits, and most incurred only small travel costs to reach a location where they could get their cash.
Despite some difficulties with the process — for example, not all people had kept their information up to date in the national database — most wished to receive further transfers through the cards, and some also wanted to turn their relief card accounts into permanent bank accounts. About 85 percent of the initial grant was used for food, medicine, health care, clothing, shoes, reconstruction, tools and other investment goods. Beyond the flood response, Pakistan’s ID is now being used more widely to underpin the provision of social grants, such as programs for poor women.
The survivors of Haiyan have a lot to worry about in the days and months ahead, and the world is ready and willing to help. To make that aid effective, and to ensure that it reaches the people who need it, donors, starting with the United States, should commit to full and rapid transparency. Donors should also offer to support the Philippines in rolling out biometric ID, should the country want it. While it’s much better to put identification systems in place ahead of a disaster, India, which has implemented a massive program that has already identified half a billion people, has shown how quickly the technology can be rolled out.We must think ahead. Haiyan will not be the last typhoon to strike; nor is the Philippines the only vulnerable country. The international community must embrace the technology available to strengthen disaster preparedness, resilience and aid.Original article in the Washington Post.
I went on Newsnight to explain why humanitarian aid is important but can be improved. Terrifying.
A letter in today’s Financial Times by Caroline Fiennes, David Hall Matthews, Fran Perrin, Vij Ramachandran and me argues that relief efforts could be more effective if humanitarian aid agencies published details of what they are doing.
November 11, 2013 9:48 pmCo-ordinate aid using existing systems From Mr Owen Barder and others.
Sir, International relief is urgently needed in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and we hope that it will be provided generously and quickly. We also hope that it will be provided effectively: sadly, experience of previous humanitarian disasters is that aid is often badly targeted, such that some efforts are duplicated while other priorities are neglected. For example, after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, at least one child reportedly suffered the symptoms of measles because she had been vaccinated three times by three different organisations.
Co-ordination among government aid agencies and non-governmental organisations is possible but doesn’t happen by magic nor by committee. If all agencies publish details of their planned and actual activities in real time, in an open, machine-readable format, these collisions can be avoided, and transparency gives donors confidence that their money is used where it is most needed. There are existing frameworks for sharing this information, including the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ financial tracking system and the European disaster response information system. We ask and hope that all humanitarian relief organisations use them.
Owen Barder, Center for Global Development; Co-creator, IATI
This blog post first appeared on Views from the Center.
At the heart of our work on Development Impact Bonds is the idea that to solve complex social problems it is necessary to test interventions, measure the effects, and then learn and adapt.
This is why, unlike Duncan Green, I think that the growing recognition that we are dealing with complex adaptive systems means that we need to collect more data, not less. The mantra for dealing with complexity is probe – sense – respond. Effective use of data – learning by measuring - is at the heart of how we should manage complexity.
But what does “learning by measuring” mean in practice?
My interest in how data can improve complex service delivery did not originate in some conceptual, think-tanky discussion or academic paper. I learned this from the real world experience of the organisations who are working together on the Social Impact Bond to reduce re-offending by former inmates of Peterborough Prison.
The Social Impact Bond has significantly changed their understanding of which interventions are working, and how they need to combine to achieve results. Here is Evan Jones at St Giles Trust quoted in the Guardian:
We had a bit of a finger-in-the-air approach to understanding how clients engaged with us after our initial intensive work with them on release. A lot were drifting off but we didn’t understand why. Through the Peterborough bond, we’ve been able to see really clear trends for the first time. We can see which areas of crime young people are returning to, why people stop engaging with us, how we can stay in contact in a way that’s right for them, and be there for them to turn to if they are heading towards re-offending, as well what work and training are having the most positive effect. We’ve been getting results with some of the most prolific locals who are known for repeat offences.
Development Impact Bonds are not primarily a financing model: they are a business model. They enable a group of organisations to come together around a well-defined social problem, and work together to find solutions through a process of testing interventions, measuring the effects, adapting and learning. This is possible in the case of a SIB or a DIB, but not in a conventionally structured project, because private investors provide flexible funding for the interventions and public sector agencies only have to pay if they work. These investors have the incentives to put in place high-quality data management systems (in the case of the Peterborough Prison SIB, managed by Social Finance) to ensure that interventions are adapting to information about what is working as it is gathered. Evan Jones adds:
Normally, by the time we’ve realised what is working or isn’t working on a contract, the funding has run out. This time we have space to say, ‘Let’s do more of this and less of this.’
We think that NGOs and other service delivery organisations working in development face these challenges in much the same way as their counterparts working in domestic service delivery. By design, DIBs put the rigorous collection and use of data at the heart of the partnership, informing and improving decision-making in real time. A striking lesson from the Social Impact Bonds in that using this data in this way is hugely powerful for improving performance, and that the service delivery organisations – contrary to feeling “over-managed” – find it empowering and valuable.
It is not very hard (but it is much harder than it should be) to set yourself up to be able to receive encrypted emails. I am using Mailvelope which adds encryption to Gmail. The idea is that you publish a key (mine is here) which other people can use to encrypt a message to you; because you are the only person with the other half of the key, only you can decode the message.
I think it would be a good idea for most people to use encryption most of the time. This makes it less likely that information is accidentally released (such as your bank account details) and also makes it harder for the state (or other people’s states) to intercept our communications. And even though a lot of what we send by email could safely be transmitted en clair, if we encrypt everything then that makes it harder for other people to find the stuff we don’t want them to see among all the ephemera. (It would be nice to say at this point that King Christian X of Denmark thwarted the Nazi order that all Jews should wear armbands with yellow stars by wearing one himself, but sadly that story isn’t true.)
But I know very few other people who are set up to receive encrypted emails, and hardly anybody ever sends me anything encrypted.
Why is that? It isn’t that difficult to set up GPG. One reason is that there is apparently no way to go through all your contacts automatically and check if they have published a public key that you can use to send them messages. So if my friends to have public keys, I would have to find that out manually. Ideally, Mailvelope would automatically identify which people have a public key and encrypt messages to them, without me needing to intervene.
Even better, though, would be to build encryption into the email infrastructure of the internet. This would have three big advantages: it would mean all email is encrypted by default, so massively increasing the size of the encrypted haystack within which people would have to search for valuable information; it would make encryption frictionless for users; and it would mean that the email metadata (who the message is from, who it is to, the subject line) would be encrypted as well, making it impossible for authorities to collect all our email metadata as they do now.
The way it would work is this. Each domain would publish a public key for its email server, as part of its MX record (that’s the information each domain already publishes so that we know where to deliver the mail). The message transfer agent on the sending domain (eg SENDMAIL) would encrypt the entire message, including the metadata, using the public key of the recipient domain. The recipient email server would decrypt the message on arrival (using its private key), so finding out which of their users the message is for and where it came from, conduct the usual spam checks, and then deliver it to the relevant user. If we did this, then all the email traffic on the internet would be encrypted, with only the destination domain visible to anyone watching the traffic go by. Individuals who were not confident about the security of their email services could of course add their own layer of encryption on top as well, if they wish.
Until recently this level of encryption would have been computationally too expensive for senders and receivers; I don’t think it is now (perhaps someone can work out if this is right? This approach might also have the side benefit of adding a computation tax to computers sending large quantities of spam.
This seems a pretty straightforward way for the geeks to subvert the surveillance state. Can anyone tell me the flaw in this idea, please?