Is the UN Relevant in Development? David Malone responds.

Consider the state of development thinking as considered in a new book by David Malone, UNU’s chief rector and the former head of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. He explores whether new development goals–for any millennium–will matter:

When the Millennium Development Goals were adopted shortly after the turn of the millennium, they were fairly succinct, and they were mostly about quantities of things—for example, universal primary education available to all kids around the world. That was a goal because many kids didn’t have access to primary education around the world.

This time round, the goal is much more qualitative. Experts, societies themselves are quite worried about the quality of what kids get in school, and quite rightly so. Just having bums on seats in schools doesn’t achieve a great deal in terms of rapidly changing economies and societies. You need to be learning useful skills and knowledge that is valuable to kids. That insight on quality more than quantity is increasingly reflected across a wide range of fields of human endeavor in the developing world, and it shows how much progress there has actually been in development, that you have moved from worrying about the number of kids in primary school to thinking about things like quality education, and perhaps even—although it is very aspirational for many—lifelong education, which is a great idea.

These are fundamental shifts in thinking about what is achievable in the developing world and what the developing world wants to achieve for itself.

And concerns about “one-size-fits-all”:

By the way, if you need any convincing on how different very successful development tracks can be from each other, think of India and China over the last 30 years. These are the two large countries that have produced consistently the two highest rates of growth over the last 30 years. They had completely different development models. China first, after Deng Xiaoping came to power, focused on feeding the population, so much of which had starved during earlier waves of economic policy in China, then moving to export-oriented industries, for which they needed strong infrastructure, which they somehow or other managed, such that, within 30 years, probably the greatest growth in history, and also the largest adventure in pulling people out of absolute poverty unfolded in China over the last 30 years. It’s worth reflecting on, as we are often quite critical of China, what they have achieved in the last 30 years.

via The UN’s Efforts in International Development: Relevant or Not?.

Laura Sicola Explains “Strategic Tonality”

Watch this TED Talk for two insights on public speaking that you possibly didn’t know about: how to use “strategic tonality” to say your name effectively, and how to avoid “up-speaking”–a kiss-of-death for career success, highlighted in numerous publications but most effectively ridiculed by BYU’s Studio C comedy troupe.

▶ Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right | Laura Sicola | TEDxPenn – YouTube.

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California Conservation via Diplomacy

So imagine that you are Jerry Brown. (I know, kind of weird, huh?) How do you get Californians to conserve water? Much is being made about using sticks (instead of carrots) and even shaming via social media.  Perhaps the way to change behavior is to take a page out of the playbook used by diplomats and astute policymakers: urge cooperation and playing to our social side.

What does consistently work may be surprising: interventions based not on money, but on leveraging social concerns.

There are two ways to do this, both building on people’s desire for others to think highly of them. One is to make people’s cooperative (or selfish) choices more observable to others, like neighbors or co-workers. The second works in the opposite direction, providing people with information about how others around them are behaving (this is called a “descriptive social norm”).

via How to Get People to Pitch In –

And perhaps “conservation diplomacy” can become a thing?

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A Plan to Fix the World? Why the QDDR Matters 

Talk about global governance reform and listen to them doze off. And yet the need to fix international institutions like the Security Council (scores of papers have been written on this) or the IMF (Congress nixed this idea, leading China to create its on regional development bank) is real and increasingly urgent. 

Kudos to @zackbeauchamp who explains how the new QDDR lays out US diplomacy’s strategic vision, focusing on the biggest problems for would-be global strategists , namely fixing the organizations designed to address global crises. 

But the QDDR goes beyond Obama’s speech. It identifies four areas — preventing violent conflict and extremism, spreading democracy, promoting global economic growth, and climate change — in which the State Department needs to focus its efforts. “Each of these priorities is based on the need for better governance across the world,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at a presser. “They’re all linked.”

The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind | This American Life

Persuasion relies on the assumption that people can change their mind with regard to how their interests are ordered. In another great episode from This American Life, Ira explores the art behind influencing others’ thinking, exploring several instances:

  • entrenched beliefs and our response when facing strong new evidence that disproves our existing beliefs
  • the ground experience of political canvassers whose interview skills belie their unique ability to shape new conclusions in their subjects
  • a hard power concern where people are given soft power incentives and are paid to not commit crime.

We tend to give credit to those who stand by their beliefs. But sometimes it requires even more courage to change them. This week, stories of people reconsidering how they really feel about their enemies, their homes, and themselves.

via The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind | This American Life.

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New Film Explores Richard Holbrooke’s Undiplomatic Views of Obama

I am very excited about this film. That is all.

“That really is the way the White House thinks,” Mr. Holbrooke said in an Aug. 12, 2010, entry in the diary, the existence of which has not been previously reported. “They don’t have a deep understanding of the issues themselves, but increasingly, they’re deluding themselves into thinking they do.”

Mr. Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every president since the 1960s, was widely known to be in conflict with the Obama administration. But the audio notes that he dictated on a near daily basis from August 2010 until his death at age 69 from a torn aorta in December of that year provide an usually candid, if one-sided, record of the internecine battles that troubled the administration over the direction of the war in Afghanistan.

via Richard C. Holbrooke’s Diary of Disagreement With Obama Administration –

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Thomas Cromwell Can Twist a Knife

Holbein's portrait of the dark arts master.

It pays to be the person who can GTD (get things done), especially in Tudor England. In the case of Thomas Cromwell, currently undergoing a reframing from the Man for All Seasons approach–thanks to Hillary Mantel’s multi-format blitz (best selling book series, called “novelistically intelligent“, Broadway, and now PBS), his reputation appears to be on the mend–at least a little.

No one is likely to push for Cromwell’s canonization. Even if he had remained faithful to Rome, there are few realistic prospects for a patron saint of realpolitik. Yet this is high season for him and his ilk. Dirty things done dirty, clean things done dirty — people who get stuff done, somehow or other, now rise in glory on stage and film. Perhaps the long stall of Washington politics has made us yearn for those grease-stained mechanics whose unseen guile, we imagine, would protect the engines of power from seizing up. Says Henry: “I keep you, Master Cromwell, because you are as cunning as a bag of serpents.”

A few kindred figures might go in that same bag: Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Caro’s biographies; Doug Stamper, the aide to Frank Underwood in “House of Cards” (not to mention Underwood himself); the William Seward of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” a cabinet secretary who hired lobbyists skilled in the hook and crook, in bribes and whiskey, to round up votes for emancipation.

via Thomas Cromwell, a Man for All Centuries –

The trick in Tudor times was to keep your head attached.


The horrors of execution.


Another Bretton Woods for a New Kind of Economic Thinking?

Reporting from INET, a conference held at Bretton Woods, NH on the future of the global economy and rethinking some of our foundational assumptions about the dismal science:

Here too, was former Council of Economic Advisers and super-mathematical economist Ken Rogoff agreeing (a bit reluctantly it must be said) that there are things in economics that can’t be modeled. Even more telling were Rogoff’s references to the importance of the thinking of political economist and historian Charles Kindleberger whose books, once required reading, have vanished from the modern, mathematically oriented economics curriculum. In a significant aside, Rogoff noted that his students don’t consider Rogoff’s recent book on the history of recovery from economic crises to be a legitimate research effort because it is history rather than mathematics.

via The view from Bretton Woods | Foreign Policy.

Lest you think that this is the new Davos, take a look at John Cassidy’s New Yorker  piece that channels Keynes and wins the headline-writing award for “George Soros’s ‘Monstrous Monkey House'” including reference to a  talk by Paul Volcker on international monetary reform. It sounds like a more productive discussion than the famed economist suspected.

Strategy and the Legacy of Brent Scowcroft

What will be the historical summary of Brent Scowcroft, a Utah native son? One approach is to think of him as the adult in the room.

This pragmatic realist and “honest broker” may seem out-of-step in the fading glow of George W. Bush’s neorealism even as voices of isolationism  dot the party today (Think Paul and Cruz). But Scowcroft’s steadfast approach to “preserving order” and the overall strategy did have an impact:

In the final years of the Cold War, Scowcroft’s conservative focus on order may have been sufficient: Progress was on his side. But today, at a time when the international system is changing, for better or worse, the imperatives have ­become more complicated, less clear-cut. Scowcroft ­acknowledged later that once the Cold War ended, “we were confused, ­befuddled. We didn’t know what was ­going on, and we didn’t think it mattered much.” Or as Sparrow puts it, he does not try to “alter the nature of the game; . . . he plays the game set before him.” It was Scowcroft who helped momentarily push and then retract the widely derided concept of “the new world order.”

via ‘The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security’ –

Scow croft possessed to notable qualities, according to the author Bartholomew Sparrow, as noted in the WSJ: “his mastery of the day-to-day process of formulating strategy” and the “ability to balance the need to use power assertively, on the one hand, and to temper that assertiveness with prudence, on the other .”

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Top U.S. General in Europe: Arming Ukraine ‘Isn’t a Strategy’ | Foreign Policy

Why shouldn’t the U.S. arm its friends in Ukraine? It all comes down to the strategy and the fact that diplomacy may be the best tool in the policy arsenal:

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges conceded to reporters Tuesday that arming Ukraine could help its fragile pro-Western government on the battlefield, at least in the short term. But he said that wouldn’t be enough to fundamentally ensure that Ukraine doesn’t lose more territory to Russia in the wake of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year.

Instead, the general said Washington and its allies should use diplomatic means to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and ensure that the NATO alliance doesn’t splinter, while at the same time leaving Russia a path to eventually rejoining the international community.

“Providing weapons is not a strategy,” Hodges said. “There are great arguments for giving weapons to them to help raise the cost for the Russians. I think that is a valid argument. But saying that’s a valid argument is different from saying that this ought to be the policy.”

via Top U.S. General in Europe: Arming Ukraine ‘Isn’t a Strategy’ | Foreign Policy.


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