Weekend reading and listening: WHO’s woes, IMF and Ebola, and happiness

If the thought of a long weekend without development is more than you can bear, here are some links.

ABC’s Rear Vision has an interesting podcast examining the strengths and weaknesses of the World Health Organization (WHO) — strengths and weaknesses that have been highlighted recently by allegations that the WHO performed poorly in response to Ebola (as well as in Joel Negin’s recent post for our blog).

WHO isn’t the only international organisation that has been blamed for contributing to the Ebola crisis. Indeed, another (more surprising, perhaps?) culprit has been identified by some: the IMF. The allegations against the IMF started with a paper in the Lancet (if you can’t access the paper it’s summarised here), which alleged that IMF conditionalities had undermined public health systems in some of the countries most impacted by Ebola. Political scientist Chris Blattman then defended the IMF in the Washington Post, arguing that IMF-imposed austerity was the least of the problems these countries faced in running their health systems. Blattman’s wasn’t the last word on the matter though: two other political scientists, Adia Benton and Kim Yi Dionne, replied in the Post. They cited a series of studies (relating to public health, not Ebola specifically) that they claimed showed how donors undermined local attempts at tackling health issues. Then the authors of the original Lancet article also replied. And Chris Blattman offered a final rejoinder. Who came out best? For my money I think it’s a points win to Blattman, but only just. Let me know if you disagree.

If you enjoyed the article on ISIS I linked to last week, you will find this discussion of ISIS (which includes some critique of that article) an interesting listen.

On the other hand, if you’d like to spend your weekend thinking about something happier, Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova have an interesting article on development and happiness in World Development (unhappily the article is pay-walled, but there’s an earlier version here). Beyond the article itself, which is quite econometrics heavy, Graham’s website has lots of interesting reading aimed at more general readers. And in Aeon magazine, John Quiggin has an elegant essay arguing that development should focus on reducing suffering rather than maximising happiness.


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Terence Wood

Terence Wood is a Research Fellow at the Development Policy Centre. His research focuses on political governance in Western Melanesia, and Australian and New Zealand aid.


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