WHO IS OWEN BARDER?
Owen Barder is Vice President, Director for Europe and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development – an organization that conducts research and analysis on a wide range of topics related to how policies and actions of the rich and powerful affect poor people in the developing world.
From 1988 to 2010, Owen was a British civil servant. During that time he worked at No.10 Downing Street, as the Private Secretary of Economic Affairs to the Prime Minister; in the UK Treasury, including as Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in the Department for International Development, where he was variously Director of International Finance and Global Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications and Information, and head of the Africa Policy & Economics Department.
As a young Treasury economist, Owen set up the first UK government website, to put details of the 1994 budget online. During 2004-2006 Owen worked at CGD, mainly on the Advance Markets Commitment for vaccines. Owen has also worked in the South African Treasury on budget strategy; at Development Initiatives where he helped to establish the International Aid Transparency Initiative; and was a visiting scholar in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
He has lived in several countries in Africa, most recently in Ethiopia during 2008-2011. Barder has been an Associate at the Institute for Government, a member of the Advisory Group of Twaweza, the Board of Publish What You Fund, and a member of the UK Government International Development Sector Transparency Panel. Owen is also a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics.
You can connect with Owen here:
IN TOR 092 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- On “Think-and-Do Tanks” and the philosophy behind development work at CGD.
- On the “Iron Triangle of Development”: Accountability, Partnerships, and Expertise.
- Barder’s view of the future of Aid as the importance of effective intervention grows.
- Dealing with a personal future with the complications of a career in development.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- UK Government
- UK Treasury
- UCLA, Berkeley
- Institute for Government
- Publish What You Fund
- London School of Economics
- Houses of Parliament
- World Bank
- Development Effectiveness
- Aid Budget Transparency
- Effects of Behavior of the Rich and Powerful in the Developing World
- Evidence based development
- Corporate Responsability
- Cash based aid strategies
- Preemptive contract sanctions and roles of International Justice Courts
- Economic incentives through binding contracts
- Coordination problems in economics
- Political risk of international development policy
- The future of development beyond transfers: Trade, IP, Migration, Security
- Confort zones and personal relationships
- Fund driven development projects and its perils
- South Africa
- Berkeley, CA
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
On what CGD is and does
IA Think (and Do) Thank.
Its focus is Policies and Behavior of Rich and Powerful Countries and Institutions: World Bank, UN, WTO, Our own governments.
Evidence based means not a lot of reports to end up on shelves. Developing ideas to work with policy makers is the priority.
Current Area: How to make better insurance markets in developing countries.
High investing in understanding, rigorous research. Long term projects.
On sources for Long Term Funding
Mix of sources: Government, Commercial partners (through Corporate Responsibility).
It is not easy and explains why CGD decided to stay small.
Building good relationships with donors is key.
Guarantees track records are fundamental.
Accounts of Success: The Advanced Market Committee
The cost of vaccines, may not be covered with what patients can pay.
Binding contracts come into play: If someone can develop the vaccines, partners will buy it.
The contracts generate economic incentives the market might not come up with on its own.
The AMC will end up saving 7 million lives.
Accounts of failure (Barder prefers “not been successful yet’”): Preemptive Contract Sanctions
Where governments have lost legitimacy, contracts should not be enforceable in international courts.
This to increase cost of doing business with a given regime (sell, finance).
And when legitimacy is back, the new government is not laden with debt.
It was relevant in post-apartheid SA: Pay Apartheid debt?
Source of Resistance
Coordination Problem, if UK does not respect commercial contracts, parties will move to USA or other regimes.
Also, the consequences of declaring a regime illegitimate.
It was received as a good idea, but people are not sure whether efforts are worth the cost.
On The Think Tank, Policymaking Market
We don’t see competition, only partners.
The challenge is how to grow the global market, not our market share.
There is attention competition, but the goal is to make the world a better place, not bigger.
On his personal path
It was not a planned trajectory, there were some thoughts on development, poverty.
Barder lived the Ethiopian famine in his youth.
Joined the UK Treasury ‘by accident’ then a South African visiting delegation needed economic support to which he said yes. Back to Downing Street and UK Development, then CGD. Berkeley was the result of a deal with her partner (see more below) then back to Ethiopia.
Next: A broader development agenda, beyond aid. Current critical development issues involved: Trade Policy, IP rights, tech transfer, migrations, homeland security in the developing world. More independent now but partnerships and track records as important as always.
On the deal with his partner
Made explicitly. It was about pursuing opportunities, but doing so together. It is still very challenging.
But if you want to be with somebody, the career cannot have all the say.
A partner can be a source of progress, it pushes you out of the comfort zone unlike anything else.
CGD: How is expertise building directed
CGD is diversity driven. There is no institutional position, although there are shared missions and standards.
Not fund-driven. Research agendas are personally developed, funding comes afterwards.
“There’s always people wanting to fund what you want to do.”
Trends and future issues
Private partnership mechanisms: increase of private investments, what are the right instruments to go through.
Migration (is the one proven mechanism for social mobility).
Improving the humanitarian aid system: Syria.
A great opportunity is cash-based aid, because it helps economic secdtors. Good examples in Somalia and some refugee camps.
Barder’s podcast: why
Serving the long tail.
Issues can be dug deeper.
The few interested will be deeply interested.
Enjoyable, fun, untimed, gratifying. Would not do it if it was another assignment.
Spend time living in a developing country. Easier in the young years.
Remind yourself often why you are doing this.
Balance your passion with your personal life.
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