Ricardo Haussman’s “The problem with evidence-based policies” is an interesting read. The title is misleading because the piece focuses only on randomized control trials (RCTs). The argument goes like this: “evidence-based” is the new motto of development work; RCT is perceived as the evidence-generation gold standard; but RCTs are not adequate to get feedback on social interventions which “have millions of design possibilities and outcomes”; so iterative approaches with quick feedback loops should be preferred. AidThoughts reminds us that this debate between “randomistas” on the one hand, and adepts of “doing things differently” on the other is not new. And I side with AidThoughts in rejecting the black-and-white Haussman perspective. Chris Blattman’s response is also worth reading. He argues that the problem in our field is less about an RCT-invasion than about lack of rigorous evidence and good feedback on our work all together. He also shows how RCTs can pave the way for more iterative approaches with real time feedback loops, using a good illustration from the International Rescue Committee.
Shawn Donnan’s “Global trade: structural shifts” tells us that for a growing number of economists the global trade post-crisis downturn is structural, not cyclical. A key underlying trend is that globalization is driven less and less by trade in goods/services/finance, and more and more by data flows. Businesses don’t ship machines from A to B anymore, they send digital orders from A to 3D-print machines in B. This is an exciting read with great infographics. But I am left thinking: how does that apply to food? I, for one, am not ready to eat 3D-printed food.
My graph of the week is from George Gao’s “UN peacekeeping at new highs after post-Cold War surge and decline”. Last year, the number of uniformed peacekeeping personnel reached the all-time high of 108,000. Over the past 20 years, the peacekeeping contributor landscape also evolved: today 82% of peacekeeping forces come from Africa and Asia (29% in 1995) while only 6% come from Europe (52% in 1995).
My quote this week is from Lindiwe Mazibuko’s “There is no one waiting to save us. We must save ourselves”: “[The rise of financial remittances coming from the young African diaspora] got me thinking about skills remittance, talent remittance, social and political remittance. If these people have the passion to give back to their communities monetarily, imagine how different our politics would be if their skills, influence, leadership, talent were put to work in the service of the public good.” [7’15”]