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Making life easier for good leaders

Written by Claire Melamed

Tony Blair put in a great performance at the ODI/AGI event on Wednesday in the run-up to the Busan forum on aid effectiveness.  The big message I took away was clearly informed by his own experience of government: ‘without a strong centre, nothing gets done’.  AGI is all about building up that ‘strong centre’, and his ideas about how aid can be part of that process sparked off a lot of good questions from the floor and much discussion afterwards. 

Among other things, the event got me wondering how the case for good leadership might fit in with the development agenda more broadly.  ODI has been doing a lot of thinking recently on what happens after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015.  If one of the goals of international action is to make life easier for good leaders who are providing the sort of effective government that is needed, then what sort of international agreement after 2015 would remove barriers at a global level to allow good leaders to emerge, and make it easier for them when they do?

Three possible angles came to mind – though I am sure there are others:
  • How can an international system help leaders deliver? This isn’t just aid effectiveness.  Most service delivery is and should be financed from domestic revenues, and there’s also a big agenda around domestic revenue raising, and creating a global system that curbs tax avoidance and evasion.  NGOs like ActionAid have been working on this agenda for a long time, and there are specific proposals on the table. 
  • How can an international system help governments who want to make investment work for development?  To quote the man himself, ‘how resource deals are done can be the most important determinant of the future of a country’.  Global deals on investment have a bad name, from the ill-fated Multilateral Agreement on Investment to the attempt to negotiate investment rules at the WTO, but it might be time to give this another go, from a very different perspective. 
  • How can an international system provide disincentives for ineffectual leaders?  At the extremes, we already have the International Criminal Court, rules on money laundering and the like.  And there are global scorecards like the Human Development Index that can act as incentives for governments worried about how they compare with others.  But are there other ways that a global agreement could give leaders the ‘nudge’ towards more effective leadership?

Another strong message from Tony Blair was that leadership is about setting priorities.  My follow-up question is what should be the priorities for action at a global level to help support and promote effective governments in Africa (and elsewhere)? If Tony Blair wants to give us his answer in the comments, I’d be delighted!