Disease Outbreaks: A Constant Threat
The World Health Organization called for “heightened vigilance and strengthened surveillance efforts” last week to prevent and detect human transmission of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza or ‘bird flu’. And while no human cases have been reported and WHO itself called the risk “relatively low,” we know the potential devastating impacts of diseases spread from animals to humans.
Muchas veces, en los círculos diplomáticos o científicos, el pensamiento convencional es que el público en general no sabe qué le conviene en lo que respecta a la política exterior o al abordaje de las amenazas mundiales. Es demasiado complicado, dicen los expertos; el público no lo entendería. Sin embargo, una nueva encuesta sugiere que muchos integrantes del público entienden muy bien cómo los brotes de enfermedades infecciosas a nivel mundial representan una grave amenaza para sus vidas y para la seguridad económica, y saben qué se debe hacer al respecto.
“Sport is a very important subject at school, that's why I gave Quidditch such an important place at Hogwarts. I was very bad in sports, so I gave Harry a talent I would really loved to have. Who wouldn't want to fly?” - J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels
Even Greek mythology embraces the human desire to fly, as many of us might recall in the escape story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus, from Crete. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of a bird's wings. Daedalus advised his son to fly at a medium altitude and follow his path of flight. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax, and if he flew too low, the sea could dampen the feathers. Unfortunately, Icarus became euphoric, and against the wisdom of his father, he glided higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy dropped into the sea and drowned.
This myth has its own interpretation in sport psychology; moreover, it serves perfectly as a foreword for this reflection on the prevalence of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) in contemporary sports in which athletes are tempted to fly above human body limits or cruise too low under the radar of clean sport. At both altitudes, they gamble with their well-being.
In 1997, Bamberger and Yaeger surveyed 198 mostly US Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. They asked if the athletes would take PEDs under the hypothetical premise of not being caught and knowing they would be guaranteed a victory; 195 of 198 responded “yes”. Additionally, if the caveat was added that they would die from the side effects within 5 years, 61% of the athletes still said they would use PEDs.
“Open innovation” is the latest buzz word circulating in forums on how to address the increased volume and complexity of challenges for cities and governments in general.
But, what is open innovation?
Traditionally, public services were designed and implemented by a group of public officials. Open innovation allows us to design these services with multiple actors, including those who stand to benefit from the services, resulting in more targeted and better tailored services, often implemented through partnership with these stakeholders. Open innovation allows cities to be more productive in providing services while addressing increased demand and higher complexity of services to be delivered.
New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam and many other cities have been experimenting with this concept, introducing challenges for entrepreneurs to address common problems or inviting stakeholders to co-create new services. Open innovation has gone from being a “buzzword” to another tool in the city officials’ toolbox.
Since natural disasters can strike anywhere and anytime, making far-sighted preparations is much more effective than scrambling to respond to a crisis. I recognized this after Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras and my grandmother had to be evacuated because the local river swelled to the second floor of her home.
As climate change intensifies extreme weather events across much of the planet, countries are seeking the World Bank Group’s support to improve both their physical and financial resilience to disasters.
We are increasingly working with governments to devise sound financial planning and risk management before a disaster strikes, not just to assemble financing to help countries recover in its wake.
Market-based instruments – such as insurance -- can act as shock absorbers in case of natural disaster, helping countries avoid the worst of a crisis’ financial impact.
"Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are."
-J.K. Rowling, a British novelist, screenwriter, and film producer best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, becoming the best-selling book series in history and the basis for a series of films. Rowling has led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.
In this video, Anna Wellenstein, Director of Strategy and Operations in the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, and Kamran Akbar, Senior Disaster Risk Specialist in the World Bank’s Nepal office, discuss the resilient reconstruction program undertaken by the Nepalese.
Under this program,
The program includes innovative approaches that help ensure the country is building back better, building a cadre of tradesmen skilled in resilient construction, and increasing financial access for beneficiary families.
These good practices not only apply to World Bank-funded reconstruction, but to the overall program supported by the Nepalese government and donors, creating country-wide and lasting impacts for a safer and more resilient Nepal.
The SAFE Trust Fund application (Word document) is now open until 27 February 2015.
What is SAFE?
SAFE means Strengthening Accountability and the Fiduciary Environment. It is a Trust Fund group administered by the World Bank and established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Commission with the aim of improving public financial management in the Europe and Central Asia region. This Trust Fund group provides support for activities to assess public financial management (PFM) performance, identify and implement actions to achieve improvements and share knowledge and good practices across countries in the region.
Most of the discussion about the future of work focuses on how many jobs robots will take from humans. But this is just a (small) part of the change to come. As we explained in our previous blog, The changes that digital technology is introducing in the price of capital versus labor, the costs of transacting, the economies of scale, and the speed of innovation bring significant effects in three dimensions: the quantity, the quality, and the distribution of jobs. Let’s see them in detail.
Defeatist demagoguery marred the 2016 election season, and it continues to resonate with many beleaguered voters in advanced Western economies, who dread the gloom-and-doom scenarios sketched by narrow-minded nationalists. For reassurance about positive strategies for economic renewal, try a dose of optimism about urban “hotspot hustle and cutting-edge cool” – thanks to a book that champions smart public policies, delivered through an activist approach to Competitiveness Strategy.Gazing into the rear-view mirror is a mighty reckless way to try to drive an economy forward. Yet backward-looking nostalgia for a supposedly safer economic past – with voters' anxiety being stoked by snide sloganeering about “taking back our sovereignty” and “making the country great again” – infected the policy debate throughout the dispiriting 2016 election year, and its defeatist aftermath, in many of the world’s advanced economies.
Scapegoating globalization and inflaming fears of job losses and wage stagnation, populists have harangued all too many voters into a state of paralysis or passivity. Lamenting the loss of a long-ago era (if ever it actually existed) of economic simplicity, nativists and nationalists have been conjuring up illusions about an era when inward-looking economies were (allegedly) somehow insulated from global competition.
Optimism has been in short supply lately, but an energetic new book – co-authored by a prominent World Bank Group alumnus – offers a hopeful perspective on how imaginative economies can become pacesetters in the fast-forward Knowledge Economy. Advanced industries are thriving and productivity is strengthening, argue Antoine Van Agtmael and Fred Bakker, now that many once-declining manufacturing regions have reinvented their industries and reawakened their entrepreneurial energies.
“Welcome to the brainbelt,” declares “The Smartest Places On Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation” (published by Public Affairs books). Now that brainpower has replaced muscle-power as the basis of prosperity in an ever-more-competitive global economy, the key factor for success is "the sharing of knowledge." Longlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, “Smartest Places” is receiving well-deserved attention among corporate leaders and financial strategists – and it ought to be required reading for every would-be policymaker.
The era of “making things smart” has replaced the era of “making things cheap” – meaning that industries no longer face a “race to the bottom” of competing on costs but a “race to the top” of competing on creativity. Knowledge-intensive industries, and the innovation ecosystems that generate them, create the “Smartest Places” that combine hotspot hustle and cutting-edge cool.
Those optimistic themes may sound unusual to election-year audiences in struggling regions, which are easy prey for demagogues manipulating populist fears. Yet those ideas are certainly familiar to readers at the World Bank Group, where teams working on innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness have long helped their clients shape innovation ecosystems through well-targeted policy interventions that strengthen growth and job creation.
“Smartest Places,” it strikes me, reads like an evidence-filled validation of the Bank Group’s recent research on “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth.” That report, published last year, offers policymakers (especially at the city and metropolitan levels) an array of practical and proven steps that can help jump-start job creation by spurring productivity growth.