Part of the latest issue of In Focus, called Concern for the Bottom Billion, which explores the strengths and weaknesses of the policies advocated in Paul Collier’s controversial and influential book The Bottom Billion.
The 13 four-page policy briefs discuss a wide range of research on issues Collier raises, including aid, trade, military intervention and international conventions.
In The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier promotes laws and charters as a cheap and powerful tool to institutionalise development priorities and help the poorest countries, a task framed as a global public good. While the logic is appealing, it has flaws. Laws and charters are commonly either cheap or powerful, yet rarely both at the same time. They can improve governance, but their effectiveness is highly dependent on the politics of implementation. Short of creating purely symbolic ‘parchment barriers’, these requirements have to be better understood before global prescriptions can bear fruit.