As the pages of the 2023 Annual Report document, this was a banner year for our work at DCID. Our researchers continued to publish cutting-edge research, placing their work in top academic outlets, but also communicating their findings to the broader community through policy briefs, public events, and executive training. We also welcomed one of the largest and most diverse classes of MIDP fellows, who have energized the campus with their expertise and passion for learning. However, as we celebrate these accomplishments, we are paying keen attention to several wicked challenges on the horizon and are preparing DCID to be a leading voice in confronting them.
For the countries we follow closely at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), 2023 has borne mixed fortunes. India, for instance, rebounded from the COVID-19 downturn, posting record growth and investment levels. At the same time, neighboring Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis in its history, spurred on by fuel shortages and supply chain hold-ups.
As DCID experts try to understand the wide variance in economic performance, we are also keeping a close eye on four global trends that could destabilize well-performing economies and compound the dilemmas of struggling countries in 2024. First, meteorologists predict that the warm waters of El Niño are likely to exacerbate the ongoing impact of climate change, bringing chaotic weather patterns to many parts of the developing world. Many countries are ill-equipped to handle the extreme droughts and flooding that are likely to emerge. Second, the ongoing war in Ukraine is causing spikes in global food prices, fueling inflationary spirals and endangering the world’s poorest. Third, China’s recent economic wobbles will threaten its trading partners and aid beneficiaries as well as further disrupt global value chains. Finally, although the evidence for an aggregate democratic backsliding trend is disputed, there is no question that many developing countries have retreated from democratic and liberal principles in recent years, leading to worrisome declines in governance and public service delivery for their citizens.
To investigate, understand, and propose policy solutions to these challenges, we have moved to concentrate our research efforts around four corresponding themes. Scholars in our “Climate and Sustainability” are pursuing strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change while growing sustainably, including important analysis of how to address future surges in climate-driven migration, as large populations move out of impacted regions. Researchers in our “Human Development” theme are responding to human welfare threats with cutting-edge research on policy solutions for maintaining healthy, well-educated, and resilient populations. “Global Value Chains” researchers are helping developing countries plug into global production networks and remain resilient to changes in those networks caused by global crises and international politics. Finally, “Economic Governance” scholars are studying ways to combat backsliding and improve welfare by using technological solutions to enhance political participation, transparency, and bureaucratic responsiveness.
Policy-makers and practitioners cannot adequately respond to these global challenges if the findings from this important research remain trapped in the Ivory Tower, so DCID is also taking steps to communicate knowledge to a broader audience. The first and most important step in this regard was the full revamp of our website and the organization of the research portfolio. Summaries of our pathbreaking research our now easily available and searchable for outside audiences with links available to those who want to dive deeper into the findings and methodology. Second, we held large-scale public events to share insights from our work on climate migration and anti-corruption, hosted the Society of Policy Scientists Annual Institute, and convened closed-door sessions with investors from the Emerging Markets Investors Alliance on climate resilience and food security. This fall we will host two more exciting events on the future of foreign aid and the miraculous impact of cash transfers on poverty alleviation. Finally, our multiple executive training programs are putting research insights directly into the hands of policy-makers and practitioners who can use them immediately. A highlight of our 2023 efforts was our work with the USAID’s Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) to present our research and enhance the capacity of over 900 development organizations around the world.
By far the most important audience for our work is our 59 amazing MIDP Fellows, who joined us from over 36 different countries, taking time away from stellar careers in government, international organizations, non-government organizations, and business. Through our courses and external programming, we do our best to meet their insatiable demand for learning cutting-edge development solutions and methodological tools. As part of this mission, we brought in two excellent new Professors of the Practice to join us this year. Sebastian James joins us from the World Bank, where he was a Senior Economist, advising countries around the world on tax policy and administration, as a way of helping them achieve their growth and public expenditure goals. In the spring semester, Jonathan Stromseth, currently the Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asian Politics, will bring the lessons of his inspirational career working in international development with The Asia Foundation and as part of the State Department policy planning staff.
While I remain delighted by the work done at DCID and our future prospects, I know that these exciting developments would not have been possible without the foundation built by the intrepid and tireless G.P. Shukla, Roy Kelly, Fernando Fernholz, and Rosemary Fernholz, who all announced their retirement this year. The four of them, along with Graham Glenday, joined DCID twenty years ago and rapidly built up our Public Finance Group, which enlivened the MIDP program, advised governments, and trained practitioners all over the globe. Thankfully, all of them have agreed to remain active teachers as emeritus faculty, but I will miss the energy they brought to our offices and the insights they brought to our work.
I am grateful for their service and take inspiration from their dedication and passion in meeting the goals of the center. We will need it as we work to meet the challenges ahead.
Director, Duke Center for International Development
Professor of Political Science
Malesky is a specialist on Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. Currently, Malesky's research agenda is very much at the intersection of Comparative and International Political Economy, falling into three major categories: 1) Authoritarian political institutions and their consequences; 2) The political influence of foreign direct investment and multinational corporations; and 3) Political institutions, private business development, and formalization.