Thursday, May 23, 2013
A very simple bargain has characterized the last twenty years of international environmental politics: industrialized countries have agreed to provide significant environmental assistance in exchange for developing country participation in global environmental agreements that address ozone depletion, biodiversity conservation, and climate change. However, while environmental assistance projects have grown in number, type, and financial size, there is little systematic evidence that these projects have substantially improved environmental outcomes in the developing world.
When do environmentally focused assistance projects achieve their objectives? In an article recently published in Global Environmental Politics, we used outcome ratings from 157 independent evaluations of environmentally focused World Bank projects implemented since 1994. We found that recipient countries with strong public sector institutions receive higher project evaluation ratings. Projects with global environmental objectives receive lower ratings. Proactive supervision by World Bank staff during project implementation also results in higher ratings.
To show the substantive impact of government effectiveness, a focus on global outcomes (preventing climate change or protecting biodiversity), and the quality of project supervision on the probability of a project achieving different outcome ratings, we plotted our model’s predicted probabilities over the range of data for each variable. Government effectiveness and global outcomes approximately double or halve the probability of achieving a successful outcome rating. Good supervision makes successful project outcomes 30 times more likely than poor supervision.
What do these results tell us about environmental project outcomes? Our study confirms the success of assistance projects is strongly influenced by the strength of public sector institutions, suggesting that building the governance capacity of recipient countries is crucial for improving environmental management. Our study also confirms that the environmental projects that seek to advance global outcomes tend to receive lower ratings than projects focused on local objectives. To increase the likelihood that projects with global environmental objectives will succeed, donors may need to focus on climate and biodiversity projects with strong local benefits and grassroots support. Given the importance of project supervision to outcome ratings, donor organizations must also invest in monitoring and supervision.
Although our study does not offer the final word on the predictors of success in environmental assistance projects, it does underline the need for the researchers and policymakers to better understand the last two decades of experience with environmental projects, particularly as calls for expanded environmental assistance intensify with the creation of the Green Climate Fund.
This post was written by Elsa Voytas (AidData Senior Research Assistant at the College of William and Mary), Brad Parks (Co-Executive Director of AidData at the College of William & Mary), and Mark Buntaine (Assistant Professor of Government and AidData Faculty Associate at the College of William and Mary). For more information, find the full publication here.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Over the last several weeks, there has been a fair amount of media coverage related to AidData's publication of a new database of Chinese development finance to Africa (available at china.aiddata.org) and a new working paper from AidData and CGD staff and faculty affiliates. Some media outlets have characterized our findings more accurately than others. Agence France-Presse (AFP) ran an article entitled “China Ranks Second to US in Money to Africa” and did a reasonably good job of ensuring that readers understood the distinction between "official finance" and "official development assistance". However, other media outlets were not quite so careful and conflated our estimates of official finance with "aid". Other news agencies slurred the crucial distinction between official commitments and the actual provision of resources.
Lest there be any confusion, our CGD working paper indicates that we were only able to classify roughly $13 billion in development finance activities that seemed to fall in line with the OECD's definition of "official development assistance" (ODA) commitments. On an average annual basis, that is roughly $1.1 billion per year, which is significantly less ODA than the US commits to Africa each year. However, we also track (a) flows from the Chinese government to Africa that fall closely in line with the OECD's "other official flows" (OOF) definition, and (b) official flows from China to Africa for which we have insufficient information to make an ODA or OOF designation "Vague Official". If you sum all ODA-like, OOF-like, and Vague Official commitments from the Chinese government to Africa over the twelve year study period, you arrive at an estimate of $75.4 billion in reported official finance commitments.
To its credit, China Daily made an admirable attempt to explain these categorical distinctions to their readers. They were also correct to note that the publication of our database does not represent an attempt to reveal government secrets. AidData has a strong track record of working with governments and inter-governmental organizations to help make their development finance data more accessible and actionable. Our objective is simply to generate more granular and comprehensive Chinese development finance data using systematic, transparent, and replicable methods. We are motivated by the conviction that open data will improve our collective understanding of the distribution and impact of Chinese development finance.
Austin Strange is a Research Associate at AidData
Monday, May 20, 2013
The Little Black Dress of Open Data
As the ability to collect “big data” gets easier and easier, Marc Bellemare’s point that big data is good for forecasting, but not good for finding causal relationship, is an important one to keep in mind. What you want to be able to do with the data should define how it is collected.
A recent interview with the “Jedi master of data visualization” Hans Rosling highlighted how much attention data can get once someone dresses it up and gives it some oomph; which actually merges nicely into an idea brought up on the eGov AU blog. The thought was that a poorly designed open government website is not as open as a well-designed one.
You could say a well-designed opengov website is the little black dress that flatters, bringing attention and curiosity, while the poorly designed one is the frumpy sweater that allows the “wearer” to hide what they don’t want noticed in the heavy folds. If the data is hard to look at and therefore hard to find, it’s not really as open is it?
It seems like Russia might be more of the frumpy sweater type as they recently withdrew from the Open Government Partnership. Meanwhile, Steven Shakespeare, CEO of YouGov suggests that getting data open is a process. Sometimes you have start with just walking out of the house, even if it’s in an ugly sweater, and eventually you progress to the point where the LBD comes out. While this may be true, let’s hope that they don’t get too comfortable in that sweater!
Speaking of data LBDs, the recently released 2013 Resource Governance Index from Revenue Watch is looking pretty good! Or maybe I should say bad considering that less than 20 percent of the countries measured have satisfactory standards of transparency and accountability.
The UN received the first results from the ‘My World’ survey that included half a million citizens from 194 countries on the issues they want to see address in preparation for post-2015. The top three issues so far are “a good education”, “better healthcare” and “an honest and responsive government.” You’ll notice the last one is a new issue that wasn’t addressed in the MDGs, and covers the topics of transparency, accountability and coordination with citizen needs.
If you want to know if citizen engagement can really make a difference in combatting corruption, take a look at the videos on this panel put on by ODI that discusses just this. Fredrik Galtung, of Integrity Action and one of the panelists, talks about the newly released working paper on the “Fix Rate” that measures the impact of their “Community Integrity Building” approach.
Weekly updates are written by Taryn Davis of Development Gateway; email her your tips for next week's update to get a shout-out in the post.
Posted by Taryn Davis at 7:30 AM