Monday, March 20, 2006

Development assistance that actually helps

My place of undergraduate study, Claremont McKenna College, along with the Kravis Leadership Institute and Mr. Henry Kravis himself, have named Roy L. Prosterman the inaugural winner of the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. The Kravis Prize honors leadership in the non-profit sector and, due to Prosterman's work in founding and leading the Rural Development Institute (RDI), he is well deserving of the honor. (Prosterman has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize-- perhaps a debate with fellow development-related nominee Bono would be fruitful in the decision process?)

In stark contrast to much development "assistance," Prosterman has not focused on funneling funds to the Third World's poor. Instead, RDI has centered its efforts on securing land rights for many of the world's poorest farmers. Hundereds of millions of families have been allocated ownership of land parcels-- nearly ten percent of the world's arable land. Further, in addition to privatizing much of the world's centrally held farmland, RDI improves on institutions in order to encourage markets for land. Efficient outcomes abound on both margins.

Leadership is more than good intentions, and Prosterman not only has the intention but the knowledge to actually affect change. It's refreshing to see market-based ideas to world poverty honored.

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