Podcast: Can a TV show change gender discrimination in India?

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India-PFI, in conversation with Gaelle Ferrant, Economist for the OECD Development Centre’s Gender Team

Poonam Muttreja is the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India-PFI. She has over 35 years of experience in promoting women’s health – reproductive and sexual rights, rural livelihoods, public advocacy, and behaviour change communication. Under her direction, the successful Indian television show, “I, a woman, can achieve anything”, is promoting behaviour change to improve the lives of women and men in the country.

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The Sahel: responding to emergencies with efficiency

By Abdoul Salam Bello, Senior Fellow, Africa Center, Atlantic Council

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Image by Anton Wagner/Pixabay

The situation in the Sahel is concerning as community conflicts add to existing security, humanitarian and development challenges. What is now at hand is an emergency requiring the Sahel countries to respond with a sense of urgency. And not only is a greater and effective State presence necessary, but also improved synergies and coordination amongst stakeholders, including beneficiary communities and the private sector whose role is often overshadowed and underleveraged.

Here’s what we know: security challenges in the Sahel region put additional pressure on governments’ budget. This consequently generates significant macroeconomic and fiscal costs. Mali, for example, almost quadrupled its military spending from USD 132 million to USD 495 million from 2013 to 2018 according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Over the same period, Niger increased its military spending by 2.5-fold, from USD 91.6 million to USD 230 million, while Burkina Faso doubled its expenditures from USD 142 million to USD 312 million. Mauritania spent 4.1% of its GDP on security spending in 2016, while Chad spent the equivalent of 5.6% in 2013. Such security expenditures often crowd out social investments. In 2018, for instance, Niger spent 17% of its total budget on security compared to 11% on health. If this trend persists, it would hinder the States’ ability to implement critical social programmes needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Continue reading

Defending Civic Space: Four unresolved questions

By Thomas Carothers, Director, and Saskia Brechenmacher, Associate Fellow, Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


This blog marks Civil Society Days (4-7 June 2019), including the International Conference on Civil Society Space on 6 June 2019 hosted by the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate and the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment


1The trend of closing civic space crystallised at the beginning of this decade. In response, concerned international actors — including various bilateral aid agencies, foreign ministries, private foundations and international nongovernmental organisations — are working to address this problem. They have carried out many diagnostic efforts and gained greater knowledge of the issue. They have initiated a wide range of measures to limit or counteract it, from setting up emergency funds for endangered activists and supporting national campaigns against new civil society restrictions to pushing international bodies, like the Financial Action Task Force, to take better account of the issue.

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Tackling Employer-Supported Childcare: A journey from why to how

By Rudaba Zehra Nasir, Global Lead for Tackling Childcare and Women’s Employment, IFC Gender Secretariat [@RudabaNasir]


The OECD Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment aims to generate evidence and guidance for policy makers and development partners on how to unlock women’s economic potential. The latest publication, “Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment: New approaches to unpaid care work in developing countries”, presents evidence-based analysis and policy guidance on what works to recognise, reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work and achieve SDG 5.4 as an entry point for promoting women’s economic empowerment in developing countries. Accessible quality childcare is one solution where both governments and the private sector can contribute, as explored further in this blog.

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My son calls me ‘Aunty’

Shazia, a mother to a toddler, migrated to Dhaka to work at a garment factory. “When I visit my village, my son calls me ‘Aunty,’” she says, with tears in her eyes. Separated from his mother for long periods of time, the son barely knows her.

I met Shazia last year at the factory where she works. She feels conflicted about leaving her son in her mother-in-law’s care. “Sometimes I think about quitting my job and going back to raise him myself.”

Shazia is not alone. The more parents we talk to in focus groups, interviews and surveys from Bangladesh to Fiji, the more it becomes clear that they share similar stories. Parents report feeling stressed and guilty, taking time off from work or being present but not productive, quitting due to lack of family-friendly workplace support, and low levels of awareness and trust in available childcare options.

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Should firms in developing countries pursue independent R&D or adopt technology to innovate?

By Dai Jianjun and Yang Jianlong, Policy Research and Advice, OECD Development Centre (on secondment from the Development Research Center of the State Council of China)

Research-and-developmentInnovation promotes the global economy’s sustained growth, and innovation in developing countries can be achieved through two main means: independent research and development (R&D) or technology adoption. It is generally believed that developing countries can achieve development at a lower cost and faster by adopting technology. Even though enterprises are subject to certain restrictions in their technology adoption, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) that may be rejected due to national security factors, is it still relevant to depend on the adoption of technology for innovation to achieve continuous development?

To help answer this question, two companies in China, Huawei and Lenovo, offer perspectives in analysing different innovation models and their achievements. Both companies are engaged in the information technology industry and were established basically around the same time in the 1980s, experiencing first-hand the process of China’s implementation of the reform and opening-up policy to achieve economic catch-up. Currently, both are Fortune 500 companies, leading in their segmentation and having adopted different innovative approaches. Given the good comparability between the two companies, they offer relevant inspiration and analysis on innovation strategies and performance. How?

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Constructing Schools to Curb Conflict?

By Dominic Rohner, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne and Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and Alessandro Saia, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne

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A classroom in Kudus, Indonesia

Armed conflict is a major obstacle to human happiness and prosperity. The most visible consequence of warfare is, of course, the human death toll, leaving millions of families shattered. But below this surface, the grim consequences of fighting go further. The economic cost is very considerable, with the average war leading to a total loss of about 15% of GDP, human capital accumulation is slowed down, inter-group trust is threatened, and psychological suffering and trauma become widespread.1

While academic research on conflict has boomed in recent years, the lion’s share of contributions has focused on factors that are well-suited for statistical analysis but that are difficult to modify by policymakers. In particular, while we know that ethnic diversity, adverse weather shocks and natural resource discoveries play a role in the occurrence of conflict, there are not many obvious policies that can modulate these parameters.

In contrast, key policy choices of governments related to the biggest areas of public activity have received only very limited attention. This is hardly surprising. Any quantitative appraisal of major government policies, such as, education, health or welfare state policies, faces important statistical challenges. In particular, given that these policies are endogenously chosen, one can think of many confounders that jointly determine, say, education spending and peace-building. For example, a benevolent and capable government may boost both education perspective and the scope for peace. Hence, if Singapore and Finland benefit from peace and good education outcomes, while, say, Libya and Somalia have a more dismal schooling performance and greater levels of political unrest, this may not reflect any causal impact of education on peace but could be entirely driven by the general quality of governance. Put differently, any positive correlation on the country-level between good education outcomes and peace may be spurious and not reflect any causal impact of education on peace. Continue reading

Bringing Impact Investing into Focus

By Neil Gregory, Chief Thought Leadership Officer, IFC

planting-moneyLooking to invest for impact? Better put on a good pair of glasses, because at first glance so much of it looks rather fuzzy. Is it a USD 500 billion market or a USD 1.3 trillion market, as reports by the GIIN and UNPRI state? Is it only a private equity and debt play or do green bonds and public equity funds count? Many investment products say “impact” on the label, but what is really inside the wrapper?

This fuzziness reflects the rapid growth in interest from retail investors and asset owners to put their money to work in ways that generate impact alongside financial returns. The impact investing industry has scrambled to keep up with this growth in interest, rapidly outscaling the size of the small specialist impact funds that once dominated the market. As mainstream asset managers and investment banks move in, it is understandable that investors find it hard to get a clear view on which investments will truly deliver impact and which ones are just exercises in branding. Continue reading