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Could this be related to the rising level of inequality in happiness levels in Asia? (See the graph on page 44 of the WHR2024). It can be assumed that the benefits of GDP growth are not evenly distributed, and increasing inequalities trigger frustration and a decrease in well-being in the majority of the population (since to a certain extent, the sense of welfare is relative).

This is how Our World in Data explains a similar phenomenon in the US: "Income inequality in the US is exceptionally high and has been on the rise in the last four decades, with incomes for the median household growing much more slowly than incomes for the top 10%. As a result, trends in aggregate life satisfaction should not be seen as paradoxical: the income and standard of living of the typical US citizen have not grown much in the last couple of decades."

Wow, what a useful post! Helped me sort out a lot of things I've been struggling with for a long time. I particularly appreciate the 'bad institutions' section.

Btw, do you have any tips on how to teach language to small kids?

I don't have the answer, but I'm eager to join the discussion, especially on whether it's possible to implement the principle of real impartiality in national politics. Our left-wing parties (speaking about Poland), no matter how progressive, never go so far as to include in their main programmatic demands regarding people with no connection to Poland (unless they at least fall into the category of EU migrants). Perhaps it is logically impossible for it to be otherwise. However, if it's any weaker kind of impossibility, it would be good to explore the area.

This newsletter is so cool. I made the GWWC pledge this month, and I must say that I haven't felt as happy and proud since the birth of my children. It's probably legit, when I think about it longer, as both experiences were essentially life-giving (the pledge seems even more impactful in this regard). I highly recommend the feeling!

Hey, thanks for this post. It raises a lot of issues I've been wondering about myself, though in the context of other charities and I think your intuitions are right.

On the other hand, as far as UNICEF itsefl is concerned, it's not just a charity, it's primarily a UN agency and shares its overall goals. So in addition to its child-focused mandate, it works on UN agenda, incl. political stability and peacebuilding more broadly. These are activities whose cost-effectiveness is difficult to assess.

But indeed, UNICEF itself for too many of its programmes (especially the most complex ones) does not have much data on effectiveness and sometimes even on the costs themselves. I can see several reasons for that:

1. UNICEF more often than other organisations supports national governments and channels its funds into specific ministries. This has the advantage of stabilising those governments and strengthening existing institutions rather than creating parallel systems. The downside is the loss of some (and often almost all) control over how the money is spent. Another consequence is the reluctance to share with the public information about the funds that go to non-democratic regimes etc. All this is not conducive to financial transparency. 

2) UNICEF works largely in the area of humanitarian aid (and not development aid), unlike most of GiveWell's charities. This has two basic consequences: 
- the areas in which it operates are unstable, making it difficult to conduct counterfactual cost-effectiveness analyses. If I invest in capacity-building in a government, and then there is a coup d'état there, and then there is a currency devaluation and public officials leave, it is difficult to see benefits of my actions. If I prepare an educational programme in refugee camps, but then its inhabitants are further displaced, then a fire breaks out destroying the infrastructure, and then all the aid staff is forced to leave the country, the cost-effectiveness of my endeavours is necessarily limited.
- initiatives that are geared towards ad hoc and makeshift solutions are necessarily less cost-effective than investing in sustainable infrastructure and long-term reforms. 

3. In line with the principle of inertia in an overgrown bureaucracy, all the novelties are adopted with a time lag, and these include, in many regional offices, the monitoring and economic analysis of operations. Indeed, the lack of attachment to numbers is downright shocking in some places. Which is to some extent a consequence of the approach of the donors themselves.

Does this mean that it is not worth directing funds (or rather investing aid) to volatile areas? As a rule, financial markets avoid such regions. Should aid do the same? These are questions to which there is no single answer. Nevertheless, it would be wonderful to see UNICEF one day on the path of full financial transparency and clear communication regarding (sometimes necessary) tradeoffs of their key decisions. And it would be great to have more discussion around the humanitarian sector in EA, in comparison to development (but I'm quite newvto the movement and maybe that discussion has already taken place).