The basic principles of ethical research as laid out in the Belmont Report include “respect for persons”, which stipulates that all individuals should be treated as autonomous agents. Typically this principle is translated into practice with a statement read to all study subjects concerning the voluntary nature of study participation and the freedom to withhold consent. These ethical guidelines largely derive from medical trials where individual targeting of an intervention such as an experimental drug is typical.
At the recent launch of the book, Yes Africa Can: Success Stories from a Dynamic Continent, someone asked whether there are any lessons for Africa’s newest country, South Sudan. I can think of at least three.
1.It can be done. Yes Africa Can documents a number of countries, such as Mozambique and Uganda, which emerged from civil conflict and sustained above-7-percent GDP growth for over a decade. It also describes the well-known case of a mineral exporter, Botswana, that had the world’s fastest per-capita growth rate (7 percent) from 1966-99. These case studies show that South Sudan, which is both a post-conflict country and an oil exporter, can also succeed.
Kiribati isn’t your usual country. It’s unusually beautiful, for a start, especially from the air, on a bright clear day, with the dazzling blues and greens of tropical sea and jungle. Its geography is also unusual, consisting of 32 atolls, and one coral island, spread over an almost-inconceivable 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean.
Life before the web was neatly compartmentalized. Research was produced by researchers who wrote articles for academic journals; news was written up by professional journalists who wrote for newspapers and talked on news broadcasts on the TV and the radio; policy was made by politicians and policymakers behind closed doors in smoke-filled ministries in capital cities; and entertainment was crafted by professionals and delivered in theaters, cinemas and on the TV.
Poor sanitation has devastating—often overwhelming—consequences. As sanitation advocate Rose George writes in “Why there’s a Sanitation Crisis and What We Can Do About It,” the health, social, and economic toll is hard to overestimate. Research from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program’s (WSP’s) ongoing Economic Impacts of Sanitation Initiative shows that inadequate sanitation costs developing economies from 1% to 7% equivalent of their GDP and that investments in increasing access to improved sanitation and hygiene are needed. These findings are based on research conducted in Southeast Asia and India (similar studies are in progress for Bangladesh, Pakistan, and countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Carribean).
A key to improving sanitation is learning how to work at scale and how to strengthen the sustainability of improved sanitation. WSP has been implementing large-scale learning projects to investigate both questions. One place to look for insight is in Bangladesh, where access to basic sanitation in rural areas has grown significantly since 2003, when the Government of Bangladesh formulated a national sanitation policy and strategy that has been implemented by local governments.
The Arab Spring has aroused great expectations, with the slogans for “freedom now” and some factions’ liberal dreams of Western-style democracy. But beneath this enthusiasm is an uneasy sense that getting from here to there is not so straightforward. The new limited access order (LAO) framework can help us understand better the implications of the Arab Spring and the realistic options going forward.
co-authored with Alaka Holla
Everyone always says that great things happen when you give money to women. Children start going to school, everyone gets better health care, and husbands stop drinking as much. And we know from impact evaluations of conditional cash transfers programs that a lot of these things are true (see for example this review of the evidence by colleagues at the World Bank). But, aside from just giving them cash with conditions, how do we get money in the hands of women? Do the programs we use to increase earnings work the same for men and women? And do the same dimensions of well-being respond to these programs for men and women?
The answer is we don’t know much. And we really should know more. If we don’t know what works to address gender inequalities in the economic realm, we can’t do the right intervention (at least on purpose). This makes it impossible to economically empower women in a sustainable, meaningful way. We also don’t know what this earned income means for household welfare. While the evidence from CCTs for example might suggest that women might spend transfers differently, we don’t know whether more farm or firm profits for a woman versus a man means more clothes for the kids and regular doctor visits. We also don’t know much about the spillover effects in non-economic realms generated by interventions in the productive sectors and whether these also differ across men and women. Quasi-experimental evidence from the US for example suggests that decreases in the gender wage-gap reduce violence against women (see this paper by Anna Aizer), but some experimental evidence by Fernald and coauthors from South Africa suggests that extending credit to poor borrowers decreases depressive symptoms for men but not for women.
Yesterday CommGAP started on a new endeavor: Yesterday we kicked off our Executive Course in Communication and Governance Reform. Over ten days we're working with our partners to build capacity in communication for governance in Africa and the Middle East. The goal is to enable senior communication experts to support governance reform in their home countries.
Together with our partners from the World Bank Institute, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania we have worked for more than a year to put together a cutting-edge program. In the first three days, we link communication and governance and talk about coalition building and political economy analysis. In seven days dedicated to communication our faculty will discuss strategic communication and how to utilize it for governance reform, media metrics and media research, social media, and organizational change.
In the complex world of education policy, some experts comment that school-based deworming may be the closest we have come to finding a "magic bullet." In regions of the world with high worm burdens, such as Africa and South Asia, deworming children for mere pennies a year results in an incredible range of educational and social benefits, from higher school attendance rates to healthier children who are better able to learn in the classroom.
Globally, more than 1 in 4 people are infected by intestinal worms. In Sub-Saharan Africa high infection rates prevail, particularly among school children. Worms can cause anemia, stunting, lethargy and other problems that derail children's development. The positive impact of deworming on both health and educational outcomes is routinely cited as an example of aid effectiveness, including by Nicholas Kristof in the recent column “Getting Smart on Aid,” in the New York Times. Schools are also the best delivery mechanism for reaching children with safe, mass treatments.
While deworming has proven to be one of the most cost-effective interventions to get children into school, promising new research suggests that deworming children can also result in many long-term benefits, including higher wages, healthier individuals and stronger communities. The World Bank hosted a special panel on Rethinking Deworming this month, featuring guest speaker Michael Kremer, co-Founder of Deworm the World and Gates Professor of Economics at Harvard, who presented the new research findings of a study in Kenya.
Basrah, Iraq: June 2011
I learn on Friday that our small World Bank energy team has received permission and security clearance to visit a production site within Iraq’s giant Rumaila Oil field southwest of the city the next afternoon. I am very excited about the visit. Rumaila is considered to be the fourth largest oil field in the world and produces over 1 million barrels of oil daily from several production batteries.
That night in the UK compound on the Basrah COB (Contingency Operating Base), our planning for Saturday’s field trips is cut short by a siren announcing an incoming rocket attack. I scurry to my bomb-proof pod and have bolted the heavily reinforced door just as I hear the thud-thud of ordnance landing. The attack was not directed at our space and was very short-lived. Nonetheless, it motivates me to properly use the body armor that has been assigned to me for the next day.
As planned, on Saturday I attend a short mission security briefing which details our route and my responsibilities should an incident occur. That afternoon, our convoy of four specially equipped vehicles begins an hour–long trek to the production zone along what I believe to be Highway 6. This is the road to Kuwait made famous by operation Desert Storm in 1990. Skeletons of burned-out military vehicles still appear periodically along the edges of what otherwise is a flat and desolate 30 kilometers of divided highway.