Innovation, Development, and the Economic Crisis

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The future depends on it

Innovation, Development, and the Economic Crisis

Over the last few years, I’ve worked to spread the word about the successes of foreign aid.  Too often people think it’s ineffective, or wasted money, when the data suggests just the opposite.  It works, and has improved the well being of the world’s poor in many concrete ways.

I am currently working on a report about how to secure funding for development, which I’ll be presenting to the G20 when it meets in France in November.  When I received the invitation to prepare this report, I knew it would be a complicated assignment.  The world is struggling with big challenges right now. The global economic situation is more precarious than it’s been at any time since World War II. As a result, the leaders of the G20 have a heavy responsibility. They are rightly focused on the immediate challenges they face in their own countries.

But I believe they can and must also continue to focus on the long-term development of the global economy. My report will address the positive trends the G20 can build on and makes suggestions about new resources that can accelerate them.

In the past 50 years, the world has made amazing progress on a host of quality of life indicators. Fewer children are dying. More are getting educated. The number of poor people is shrinking. The number of people with access to proper nutrition is growing. In short, the investments the world has been making in development are having a big impact, and there is potential for more - as long as we continue our investments.

The key to fulfilling that potential for greater impact is innovation. We can be innovative about how we finance development, so that we generate new money from sources we haven’t tapped before. We can also be innovative about creating new interventions that will multiply our impact. By inventing new higher yielding seeds and vaccines for more diseases—or new ways of reaching the poorest we can stretch each dollar spent on development so that it makes a bigger difference in people’s lives. I am especially enthusiastic about the role that countries like Brazil, China, and India can play, because they are innovating rapidly in their own countries and can apply that expertise to the challenges poorer countries face.

I look forward to talking more about this report as I continue to develop my ideas, and eventually present it in November. The G20 brings together a dynamic group of countries with a powerful mix of capabilities. I am optimistic about how it can provide new leadership for the world economy while speeding up the 50-year record of progress on development.

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