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Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His new book is Best Things First.

As we set resolutions to achieve personal goals and give back, the new year is a time to envision the positive changes we can bring to the world in the upcoming 12 months. Shining a light on the power of doing good, it is a time to consider how we can extend our impact to do the most that we possibly can.

Globally, all countries have promised to fix the world’s big issues by 2030 through the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The world’s governments came together in 2015 to promise to end hunger, poverty and disease, to fix corruption, climate change and war, to ensure jobs, growth and education, along with a bewildering array of major and minor promises (like developing more urban gardens). Unfortunately, in 2023 even the UN admitted that we are failing badly. Promising everything means nothing is a priority.

We need to insist that our politicians get real in 2024 and focus first on the most efficient policies. And in our own charitable donations, we should similarly look to achieve the most good we can for every dollar spent.

Together with my think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus, I have worked in recent years with more than 100 of the world’s top economists and several Nobel laureates to discover where each of us can help the most.

Our free, peer-reviewed findings offer a roadmap for the 12 smartest initiatives for politicians around the world. They highlight proven solutions to persistent problems that deliver immense benefits at a low cost. These policies include delivering more mosquito nets to tackle malaria, providing more nutritional supplements to pregnant women to boost babies’ opportunities even before they are born, and better legal protections to ensure the rights of poor farmers over their lands, which will increase productivity.

In total, politicians could set aside just US$35-billion a year – a rounding error in most global negotiations – to deliver immense benefits: implementing these 12 policies would save 4.2 million lives annually and make the poorer half of the world more than US$1-trillion better off every year. On average, a dollar invested would deliver an astounding US$52 of social benefits.

But just as these overarching goals should inspire and guide politicians, they can also guide us as we make donations.

For example, we need to focus more on the tuberculosis epidemic. TB has been treatable for more than 50 years, yet it still kills more than 1.4 million people annually. The solution is quite straightforward: Make sure more people get diagnosed and make it easier for patients to stay on their medication, which is needed for a grueling six months. Many organizations push for these simple solutions, and you can help them. We find that governments should similarly increase their funding: just US$6.2-billion annually could save a million lives a year over the coming decades. Each dollar delivers an amazing US$46 of social benefits.

We also need cheap and efficient ways to improve children’s education. Tablets with educational software used just one hour a day over a year cost just US$31 per student and result in learning that normally would take three years. Semi-structured teaching plans can make teachers more efficient, doubling learning outcomes each year for just US$9 per student. As individuals, we can donate to organizations doing amazing work in these areas around the world. And governments could collectively and dramatically improve education for almost half a billion primary school students in the world’s poorer half for less than US$10-billion annually, generating long-term productivity increases worth US$65 for each dollar spent.

And we can do much more for maternal and child health. A simple package of policies that improve basic care and family planning access are incredibly powerful – and many organizations are working hard to deliver results in these areas today. If we could convince politicians to commit less than US$5-billion annually, we could actually save the lives of 166,000 mothers and 1.2 million newborns each year.

Across all of the 12 areas of focus we have identified, there are inspiring organizations doing incredible work. To have the greatest impact, we implore individuals and governments to take a look at our research when allocating funds.

As the year begins anew, we are presented with an occasion to break free from the never-ending cycle of negativity. The holiday season encourages us to pause and take stock of the positive aspects of our lives and the world at large. For 2024, let us resolve not only to help more, but to help better. In the 12 months ahead, let’s focus on making the most effective and impactful contributions we can, to create a brighter world.

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