I’m currently attending this large conference in lovely Toronto and trying to pack-in as many sessions as possible. A handful of papers have stood out to me – two evaluations of on-going pay-for-performance schemes in health and two methodological papers related to the economics of obesity.
This weekend marked the beginning of an important new chapter of nation-building, with the celebration and formal launch of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a host of dignitaries were on hand. The civil war with the north ended in 2005, and the World Bank has had an office there since just after that.
I spent several days there two weeks ago, pre-independence, but very much in a moment of great excitement about what the nation the size of the Iberian peninsula with a population of 8 to 9 million could accomplish.
South Sudan will begin life as both a tremendously poor and under-served nation in terms of the services for its people, and a fantastically rich one in terms of resources and potential. The country has less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of paved road. At present, conflict with the north’s Khartoum-based government continues over the key oil, gas, and mining provinces of the border region, where much of the international press is focused, as well as great deal of investment interest.
My focus was in the other direction, south of the sprawling capital of Juba, along the dramatic White Nile. With fantastic logistical support from the World Bank Juba office, from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s South Sudan conservation team, and from the director of the Nimule National Park.
The link between governance and media systems is now widely acknowledged in the donor community. However, many governance advisors are unfamiliar with why, when, and how to provide support to an independent media sector, and as a result, this crucial piece of the governance reform agenda is sometimes neglected. CommGAP is working toward bridging this gap with our newest publication: Developing Independent Media as an Institution of Accountable Governance: A How-To Guide. (You can read the full text here and order the book here). Author Shanthi Kalathil provides hands-on advice for donors, foundations, and others who are interested in media development, but don't quite know how to go about it.
|Transparent notification of fees on the main door of a rural church-run hospital in Western Province, Papua New Guinea.|
From participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil (pdf) to health clinic scorecards in Uganda social accountability mechanisms are a familiar feature of the development landscape across most regions of the world…so why not in the South-West Pacific?
One reason service delivery is poor in many Pacific states is that the same challenges that make it difficult to deliver services also make it difficult for officials to go out and account for them - dispersed populations; high transport costs; and a limited number of trained officials to supervise. This lack of oversight by government officials contributes to shoddy or non-existent services.
Can social accountability make up for some of the shortcomings in government accountability? Social accountability is the fostering of direct linkages between citizens and service providers. It can be thought of as working both prior to the delivery of a service (for example, residents meet with local government officials to set budgets so that spending aligns with community needs) as well as after a service has - or has not - been delivered (such as a complaints mechanism for residents to report police who fail to respond to calls for help).
Kenya is in the midst of a quiet revolution—but many people, even in Kenya, seem to be unaware of it, or the enormous governance improvements that it is likely to bring.
We saw a new Kenya emerging last Friday when President Kibaki presided over an historic event that was hard to imagine in the old Kenya: the launch of a government website, www.opendata.go.ke , that makes enormous volumes of government data available to the public in user-friendly formats.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, core government data on population, the budget, education, health care and other public services are available to policy-makers, researchers, ICT developers, and citizens in an easily-accessible format. This portal is one of the first and largest government portals with reusable data in sub-Saharan Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data (see Time magazine's "Silicon Savanna").
But many observers of Kenya are unimpressed. Why is that?
I'm happy to share that the ICT Sector Development Project for Afghanistan, a US$50 million IDA emergency grant, was approved by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank on April 26, 2011. The Project is now effective and promises to be an exciting continuation of our partnership with the Government of Afghanistan in developing the ICT sector.
Read more about the Project here.
Under-5 mortality is often used—perhaps implicitly—as a measure of “population health”. But what is happening to adult mortality in Africa?
In a recent working paperi , we combine data from 84 Demographic and Health Surveys from 46 countries, and calculate mortality based on the sibling mortality reports collected from female respondents aged 15-49. The working paper is available here and the database we used for the analysis can be found here.
We find that adult mortality is quite different from child mortality (under-5 mortality)1. This is perhaps obvious to most readers, but is clearly illustrated in figure 1. While in general both under-5 and adult mortality decline with per-capita income, and over time, the latter effect is much smaller for adult mortality, which has barely shifted in countries outside Africa between 1975-79 and 2000-04.
But in sub-Saharan Africa, contrary to under-5 mortality everywhere and to adult mortality outside of Africa, adult mortality increased between 1975-79 and 2000-04 and the relationship between adult mortality and income became positive in Africa as indicated by the upward sloping line in 2000-04.
This diverging and dramatic trend for sub-Saharan Africa is mainly driven by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those who find us boring.”
-- François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665
Much of the debate about the effects of immigration on native workers focuses on possible negative consequences for wages or employment. However, a series of recent papers highlights a big positive effect – having immigrants as cleaners, nannies, and home-care assistants allows high-skilled women to work more.