‘Context is King’ in bridging research and policy

Research Shaping Policy Session

Research Shaping Policy Session

The new buzzword around the world is ‘evidence-based policymaking’. But how effectively does research reach and inform policies in the real world, and what is the role of think tanks in bridging this divide? The Directors of three Think Tanks in Colombia, Chile and Equador shared tactical approaches in a session entitled Research Shaping Policy: Latin America’s Experience, and lived up to their reputation for ‘fierce debate’.

The GDNet-convened session highlighted how crucial  the political context is in shaping the effectiveness of think tank interventions in a country. For Orazio Belletini, Executive Director of FARO in Equador, rapid turnover of politicians is a constant problem: Ministers of Finance last an average of only six months in his country. Information is scarce, dispersed, highly technical and difficult for policymakers to use.  “The political landscape is characterised by ideological fragmentation and volatile coalitions”, he said. “By the time a researcher has finished his policy paper, the Minister interested in the results is no longer in office”.

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GDN Conference opens with Colombian optimism

 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos address at the GDN 12th Annual Conference

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Juan Manuel Santos, the President of Colombia, welcomed GDN’s 12th Annual Conference back to the Latin American continent for the first time in nine years. He spoke of the importance of the conference in bringing together critical thinkers to inform good policy decisions. “We never make decisions with 100% certainty that it will be right, but institutions like GDN, which the entire world acknowledges is of the highest intellectual level, can give us important guidance and signals….to make our world a better world.”

The President, looking relaxed but walking with a stick as a result of an injury sustained during a friendly with Colombia’s talented Sub20 football team, talked about the failure of economists to predict the 2008 global financial crisis. He said that he hoped the Colombian team, who have gone to Peru to play a preliminary for the World Cup, would do better than the economists.

The President looked forward to a healthy economic future for his country. He spoke about the progress made in recent years to stem the violence in Colombia, and outlined the five ‘vehicles for growth’ which would establish the country’s economic place in the world. He put a figure on his ambitions for growth for the first time, to the delight of the media (link to Santiago’s story), as more than 5% per year.

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Financing development in a post-conflict world: The new agenda

Panel plenary session 1 - Financing development in a post-crisis world: The new agenda

Panel plenary session 1 - Financing development in a post-crisis world: The new agenda

The panelists in the first Plenary Session of GDN’s 12th Annual Conference agreed that financing has become widely available for developing countries in the past few years, and that the main issue has become how to allocate it.

Francois Bourguignon, Director of the Paris School of Economics, claimed that financing has increased significantly in the last years and the main issue has become finding the most suitable finance scheme to maximize social return and avoid a poverty trap. Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Chief Economist of the Financial and Private Sector Network in the World Bank, pointed out that there are some undesirable effects of having such a wide availability of financing, including the irresponsible expansion of access to credit. But at the same time, she acknowledged that financial systems, and financing in general, are still crucial to developing economies because they underpin economic development. She suggested that in order to attain sustainability, the State must play a clear and defined role and that regulations have to be well formulated and enforced.

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