Owen Barder


Improving the fight against poverty by embracing complexity | 

There’s a lot of argument these days within the aid and development community over what works, what doesn’t and what we could do better in the global war on poverty.  It’s healthy, but also a bit disturbing to us laymen to see members of the highly regarded pundit class say things like “aid doesn’t work” or argue over the meaning of such fundamental terms as “growth” or “development.”

As Albert Einstein reportedly said, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t first define it accurately. So, how do we fix a problem like poverty?

Owen Barder, an economist and development expert who heads up the European office of the D.C.-based think-tank Center for Global Development, is one of the leading proponents of employing ‘complexity theory’ to the fight against poverty and inequity. Now, before you roll your eyes and click away thinking this is going to be way too wonky (which, I admit, was my first reaction), I can promise you it will be fascinating. To begin with, Barder has a very nice British accent. Continue reading

Owen Barder: Should we pay less for vaccines? | 

Owen Barder

Owen Barder, a development expert at the Center for Global Development, asks “Should we pay less for vaccines?

Barder’s post was prompted by the critical response some advocacy groups, like Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders) made after the successful fund-raising effort on June 13 by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a massive project getting vaccines out to poor kids.

As I noted at the time, these organizations and others were glad to see GAVI receive $4.3 billion in new funding but they felt the alliance was a bit too friendly to the drug industry and too willing to accept industry pricing.

This issue, of what constitutes fair vaccine pricing for poor countries, came up repeatedly this week at Seattle’s Pacific Health Summit. I intend to write about that in a separate post later.

For now, I urge you to read Barder’s excellent take on the critics of GAVI and the vaccine manufacturers. Continue reading

What makes people care about global health, development? | 

If you pay much attention to all the political talk going on right now around foreign aid and development (and you should), you might have noticed a trend.

The trend is for political leaders to talk about providing foreign aid, health assistance and poverty mitigation because of its value to us — improving our national security, providing a more vibrant global economy to sell our goods in and the like.

Two of my most favorite writers, and thinkers, on global health and development have recently argued that this is a mistaken conceit. Even if it is a well-intended strategy (supporting efforts to help poor people by dressing them up as selfishness), they say it is probably both too cynical and not effective. So Continue reading

Can we end poverty, on a postcard? | 

Quick question: Can we end poverty or not?

One of the many annoying things journalists do is force people to give simple answers to complex questions.

Owen Barder

One of my favorite blogger-development experts out there who doesn’t shy away from taking on this often-impossible task is Owen Barder, a Brit based in Ethiopia but soon moving to join the good folks at the D.C.-based Center for Global Development.

Owen Barder writes in his blog, Owen Abroad, about a journalist who sent him four questions that, basically, ask him if he thinks it’s realistic to think we can end poverty, if the problem is urgent and what he thinks are the best global solutions. Continue reading