From the Editor's Desk (January 2014)

28 January 2014

Tony Addison

The first Angle of 2014 comes amidst the start up of our new research programme which is now kicked off. It has three big themes: transformation, inclusion and sustainability. We’ll be putting up further details of projects and conferences on the website as things evolve. Right now, I’m in Dar es Salaam where we are building up the Tanzania side of our programme–and this looks especially exciting. Tanzania has come far since I first came here to begin my career in development in 1980, so it’s great to see the optimism around. And there is at least a 30oC degree difference in temperature between Dar and Helsinki at the moment–where we were recently down to minus 15oC.

Despite the cold, our spirits were raised by the results of the 2013 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report report. We are in the top ten of international development think tanks for the fourth year running. The ranking goes: Brookings Institution; Centre for International Development (Harvard CID); Overseas Development Institute (ODI); Center for Global Development (CGD); Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars; Chatham House; UNU-WIDER; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Center for Stategic and International Studies (CSIS); and Council for Foreign Relations. Of course this is very mixed group, often with quite a different focus, both in topic and geographical coverage. And budget-wise, every think tank above and below UNU-WIDER in the first ten, has a budget at least three times greater than ours (and a staffing level to go with it). We achieve a great deal of impact through our network–including you our readers, many of whom have come to conferences and events (across the developing world, in Helsinki, and at the UN in New York), written papers for our projects, and visited the UNU-WIDER premises in Helsinki. So thank you, readers, for your continued support and help.

Our other news includes the presentation in December of Vietnam’s Medal of Honour to UNU-WIDER’s director, Finn Tarp, by the Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment (MPI) Bui Quang Vinh. This is the highest level of award that can be awarded to a non-Vietnamese citizen.

Meanwhile, former UNU-WIDER director, Giovanni Andrea Cornia recently launched a new book which he edited,

Falling Inequality in Latin America: Policy Changes and Lessons, published by Oxford University Press within the UNU-WIDER development studies series, at ECLAC's public finance workshop on fiscal policy, in Santiago, Chile. If you want to know what has happened in Latin America since 2000, then this is a must-read. The book documents and explains the fall in income inequality, and the macroeconomic, public finance, labour market, human capital and social assistance factors behind this inequality decline.

This month’s VideoAngle continues with Latin America, in an interview with Armando Barrientos, an authority on social protection based at Manchester University (my old university). Armando discusses Latin American inequality and social policy (he is also the only cricket-loving Chilean that I know). The second interview is also with Armando together with Ed Amann, also of Manchester University, on their DFID-funded project on 'Brazil: A Development Model for Africa?'. Previous interviews, especially those from our 2013 conferences, can be seen here.

Angle has reported regularly on our ReCom - Research and Communication on Foreign Aid programme. In December, we had the last of our ReCom results meetings, this time on ‘Aid for Gender Equality’ in Copenhagen (the others have covered aid in relation to growth and employment, as well as the social sectors, governance and fragility, and environment and climate change). In this issue, we have a report from the gender equality meeting, by Roger Williamson, of IDS Sussex, and an interview with Shirin Sharmin, the speaker of the Jatiyo Sangshad/Parliament of Bangladesh, by Carl-Gustav Linden of UNU-WIDER. And don’t miss the video interview with Amartya Sen on the importance of gender to development, which was screened for the first time at the Copenhagen meeting in December 2013.

ResearchAngle this month features a host of briefs of ReCom working papers, including: trends in environmental aid: global issues, bilateral delivery; the effectiveness of aid to women’s political participation in MENA; assessing the role of gender in DfID and Sida challenge funds; job creation and small- and medium-size enterprises; the development process–the problem of imitating success; the unintended consequences of the MCP on foreign aid for family planning; the microeconomic impact of interventions against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; and a systematic review of the impact of microfinance on poverty.

You can explore more of the ReCom work on all these five themes, including videos of the discussions at the meetings, on the website.

UNU-WIDER published 98 peer-reviewed publications (including in top field journals) during 2013, and we have some very good special issues coming up in 2014, including Review of Income and Wealth, Journal of Development Economics, and World Development (to mention just three). Books included Danielle Resnick’s and Nicolas van de Walle’s new book Democratic Trajectories in Africa: Unravelling the Impact of Foreign Aid, published by Oxford University Press within the UNU-WIDER development studies series. The book came out of the governance and fragility theme of ReCom, and you can read the article about the panel discussion on the book in the last issue of Angle here.

We also ended 2013 with a total of 144 working papers in the bag, many from our ReCom programme, and a further 26 before the end of January. Amongst the latest papers are: Chris Elbers and Jan Willem Gunning on NGOs and development; Malokele Nanivazo on child wellbeing in the DRC (I especially recommend this one); Åsa Torkelsson on gender equality in Kenya; Ahmad Helmy Fuady on aid in oil-rich countries; Marios Obwona, Isaac Shinyekwa, Julius Kiiza on Uganda's industrialization; and Channing Arndt, Felix Asante, and James Thurlow on the economic impact of climate change in Ghana. These and many other papers can be downloaded here.

A new year always brings new thoughts. Some of our resolutions may not come to pass. Mine is to try and write more, meet more of the UNU-WIDER network and, whenever possible, to get some more sunshine. Angle returns in February with further information and views from UNU-WIDER. 

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, UNU-WIDER.

WIDERAngle newsletter
January 2014
ISSN 1238-9544