The report of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing “Too important to fail – addressing the humanitarian financial gap” is out. It will feed into the SG’s report on the future humanitarian agenda that will feed into the World Humanitarian Summit. The Panel offers recommendations to decrease humanitarian needs, broaden the resource base, and increase delivery efficiency. My main reaction: a well written round-up but not many new ideas. We did a stock-taking paper on a similar topic a year ago and most proposals where already out there. It will be interesting to see who implements what in the coming weeks/months (and on this front, good to see ICRC launching a humanitarian impact bond to finance disability centers in fragile contexts today in Davos). A few things jumped at me in the report. Here are two. One, the case is made to “follow the people in need, not the countries”, a good principle valid beyond humanitarian contexts. To do this, the Panel proposes to tweak IDA (the World Bank’s arm providing grants to poorest countries) eligibility criteria so that refugee-hosting MICs can also access these funds. Should tapping into pots of money reserved for the poorest countries be a solution? What about starting instead from MICs-specific funding streams and creating a concessional window there for those hosting refugees? Two, the Panel recommends to “harness the power of business” and lists of number of ways companies can support what humanitarian organizations do. But what about getting the private sector to do what it does best: create jobs? The report is silent on this. Yet, we know that this is a priority for displaced people, that the local labor market impacts of giving jobs to refugees are limited and temporary (see here for latest IMF doc), and that some governments and entrepreneurs are ready to scale up (see this Davos Panel where Queen Rania makes the case and Ulukaya shows how his company’s workforce is already 1/3 refugees).
Former DFID Chief Scientific Advisor Christopher Whitty’s “What makes an academic paper useful for health policy” is worth reading. Policy decisions are not evidence-based enough because: (i) the evidence is not available, (ii) the issue at stake is a demand-side problem, or (iii) academics do not write what policymakers need. Whitty unpacks the latter problem. Policymakers are often (advised by) economists: they want to see the opportunity cost of new ideas which scientific publications often omit. Policy processes move fast while research takes months. Decision-making is a multidisciplinary business while scientific studies are mostly not. For Whitty, the most useful type of policy paper is a “rigorous and unbiased synthesis of current knowledge”. Agreed.
My graph of the week is from the Oxfam pre-Davos inequality report, “An economy for the 1%”, because of the methodology controversy it triggered, just like last year’s version did, just like the previous year’s version did. The 2016 headline: the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as half of the world population. Like last year, and like the previous year, it was picked up by all major papers, created a big social media buzz, and was discussed by several top economists. A three-year-in-a-row genius PR move turned Oxfam inequality report into the unofficial Davos curtain raiser. Impressive.
My quote this week is from Tim Harford’s “Why predictions are a lot like Pringles”: “A forecast about what will happen in Syria, China or Japan is a simple way to convey a fleeting sense of understanding. The forecast will probably be wrong. But at the instant it is consumed, it gratifies. As I say, a lot like Pringles.”