The Economist’s “A growing share of aid is spent by private firms, not charities” is worth reading as it crunches US and UK aid data to put numbers behind this trend: 25% of USAID and 22% of DFID spending went to private firms in 2016, both on the rise. The drivers behind this growth are: a shift from project-delivery to system-shaping requiring technical advice that firms are best equipped to provide; a “doing more with less” aid culture leading to more outsourcing; and private contractors’ ability to quickly match time-bound freelancer teams with complex development problems. Private contracts are also getting bigger leading to the market concentration of contractors and a growing number of consortium where small fish are used as “bid candy” by lead contractors. The Economist documents some of problems associated with these trends including higher delivery costs and risks of frauds, calling for aid agencies to take a close look at their bidding and contract practices.
WFP’s “At the root of exodus” puts numbers on the food/conflict/migration nexus. It models data from 88 countries with negative net migration and 178 countries with outflow of refugees during 1990-2015. It shows that the number of people migrating increases by 1.9% for each percent increase in the number of food-insecure people, and by 0.4% for each additional year of conflict. It also shows that migration can increase food insecurity both for those leaving and those staying behind, and that food insecurity is a significant determinant of the incidence and intensity of armed conflict. The study complements these findings with qualitative data collected through focus group discussions with 231 migrants from 10 countries in Greece, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and validated via 570 household phone surveys in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Once on the move, food and economic security are key determinants of whether people keep going or settle. Half of Syrians interviewed in Jordan and Lebanon want to move elsewhere while only a quarter of those in Turkey plan to.
My visual this week is from the Developing Human Connectome Project which just released its first open access data. The EU-funded project aims at creating 3D brain maps of fetuses and newborns to understand how the human brain develops and what triggers certain afflictions like autism. Adult brain maps already exists. So these guys are focusing on the 20-44 weeks post-conception window, and doing MRIs on hundreds of babies in the womb.
My quote this week is from Eurasia Ian Bremmer’s “The wave to come”: “Nationalism is alive and well, partly because the problems that provoked it are still with us. […] Now here’s the really bad news: an even larger crisis is coming. The popular fury convulsing Europe and the U.S. may well spill over into the rest of the world. Just as the financial crisis, which began in the West, produced rumbling aftershocks around the globe, so the nationalist explosion will rattle the politics of countries on every continent.”
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