Thirty years ago, while still in high school, Owen Barder was was living in Ethiopia. His father was a career diplomat and at the time was serving as the British Ambassador. This was in the mid 1980s, at the height of a famine that would kill hundreds of thousands of people. Owen describes how witnessing that famine up close compelled him to a career in economics and global development.
Owen served as an economist in several high ranking posts in the British government, but in the early 1990s he took a job advising the newly inaugurated government of Nelson Mandela to help draft South Africa’s first post-apartheid budget. And we have a fascinating conversation about the behind-the-scenes he witnessed.
Owen is currently with the Center for Global Development and a professor at the London School of Economics. I caught up with Owen just as he returned from the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which is a UN-backed conference to improve the way humanitarian aid is delivered and we kick off with a brief discussion of his big takeaways from that summit, which was a pretty big deal for the UN and broader global affairs community.