New York Universitys Development Research Institute (DRI) has been recognized by Spains BBVA Foundation for its innovative scholarship on the impact of foreign aid. In selecting DRI for its 2009 Frontiers of Knowledge Award, which carries a cash prize of 400,000 (approximately $560,000), the foundation also noted the institutes challenge to the conventional wisdom in development assistance.
DRI, whose research focuses on the economic development and growth of poor countries, is led by NYUs William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko, both professors of economics.
DRI has brought a fresh approach to aid and development research, helping ensure that the economic aid rich countries provide to the developing world is better utilized, the BBVA Foundation said in its announcement. Its results question certain mainstream assumptions in development cooperation, like the idea that more generosity on the part of rich donor countries will have an automatic pay-off in poor country development.
At a time when richer countries are being called on to increase aid expenditure, DRI has made it its mission to ensure that these resources are not wasted and that policy advice is effective, concluded the award jury.
The jury, made up of some of the worlds leading academic economists, singled out DRIs determination to hold development assistance organizations and national aid agencies accountable to scientific scrutiny. As part of this effort, the DRI released its own aid agency ranking in 2008, which included efficiency indicators. The ranking may be downloaded here.
Unlike other organizations in the development research field, DRI not only quantifies the effectiveness of large-scale humanitarian campaigns, but also puts forward solutions to improve the way donations are managed, the foundation added. One of the first conclusions of its research is that decisions about the allocation of relief funds cannot be left to foreign governments or multilateral organizations. Instead, they need to take close account of the social, cultural, and economic peculiarities of the receiving communities in determining how and where the monies can best be spent.
Nyarko, one of the top African academic economists in the world, focuses on models where the economic actors engage in active learning about their environments and human capital models of economic growth and development. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Social Science Research Council, among other organizations.
Easterly (@bill_easterly), who also has an appointment with NYUs Africa House, is the author of The White Mans Burden: Why the Wests Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006). His other published works include The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (2001). Easterly also served as a research economist at the World Bank for 16 years. He runs the economics blog, Aid Watch.
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards aim to recognize and encourage research and artistic creation, prizing contributions of lasting impact for their originality, theoretical significance, and ability to push back the frontiers of the known world. These international awards span eight categories: basic sciences (physics, chemistry, mathematics); biomedicine; ecology and conservation biology; information and communication technologies; economics, finance, and management; contemporary music; climate change; and, development cooperation. The BBVA Foundation, part of Spains BBVA, a global financial corporation, specializes in promoting scientific research in the area of social science, biomedicine, and the environment.
The Development Research Institute (DRI) is devoted to rigorous, scholarly research on the economic development and growth of poor countries. An independent and non-partisan organization, DRI builds upon a foundation of academic research comparing aid agency practices and surveying the thinking behind aid projects. For more, go to http://dri.as.nyu.edu/page/home.