I am spending the weekend in Ottawa, where I am presenting my paper with Tara Steinmetz on female genital cutting at the 2013 Research in Economic Development (RECODE) conference.
For me, this means that two mutually exclusive worlds will collide. I spent the 1998 and 1999 summers in Ottawa working for a Cabinet minister, and development economics is what I have been doing since I began my Masters in the fall of 1999 and found something I liked even more than Canadian politics.
The conference program is here, and I am especially looking forward to Michael Clemens‘ keynote during the Friday night reception at the Museum of Civilization.
Last Tuesday, my Cornell colleague, coauthor, and former advisor Chris Barrett was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart discussing food aid. The video segment in which he appeared managed to make a very serious point — the effectiveness of the Food for Peace program is greatly undermined by the shipping lobby — while remaining highly satirical, and you can watch it here:
According to an interview Chris gave to the Cornell Daily Sun, the taping of his part of the segment took about four hours.
For those of you who are not familiar with his work, Chris has worked on just about every aspect of food security, and I’d be hard pressed to pinpoint what he is most famous for. The above video, however, is about his work on food aid, the culmination of which has been his 2005 book with Dan Maxwell, Food Aid After Fifty Years.
I can’t even have a road built without including a nutrition component as part of the project. A nutrition component–as part of a road construction project!
That’s how a former student who works for one of the biggest development organizations in the world expressed his frustrations with development and aid work these days when I had dinner with him in Washington, DC last summer. In my student’s view, “development” had become too many things.
I was initially skeptical of his claim. After all, one of the first things I teach the students in my development seminar is that there are no silver bullets; the causes of underdevelopment are many, and tackling just one problem is unlikely to lift an entire country out of poverty.
But the more I think about it, the more I remember often having had a “That is development?” reaction when reading articles about development in academic journals, specialized magazines, and newspapers. For example, here is a list of things that are considered by many to be part of the process of development: Continue reading →