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June 2017

A new front in the climate fight: innovative finance

Miria Pigato's picture
 Innovate4Climate Finance & Markets Week. Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie

What does public debt have to do with combatting climate change?
A few years ago, this would have seemed a strange question, as debt management and climate policy have traditionally been regarded as unrelated fields. But at a workshop at the annual Debt Management Forum in Vienna on May 22, 2017, debt managers from 50 developing countries discussed the role of emerging debt instruments such as green bonds and blue bonds, in raising capital for climate-friendly projects that range from reforestation to renewable energy.

While green and blue bonds resemble more traditional debt instruments in terms of structure and returns, they represent a novel approach to climate finance. Created just ten years ago, the total value of green bonds has grown at a spectacular pace, reaching US$82.6 billion in 2016. By the end of 2017, the total value of green bonds will likely exceed US$100 billion.

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.

A blogger’s farewell

Sina Odugbemi's picture

May 03, 2010, the founding coalition of the World Bank- USC Summer Institute meets to discuss the program.

Back row from left to right: Michael X. Delli Carpini (Dean, UPenn Annenberg), USC Professor Patricia Riley, Sina Odugbemi, Ed Campos, Carola Weil, Helen Garcia, Saafir Rabb II, and Caby Verzosa.  Front row from left to right: Ernest James Wilson III (former Dean, USC Annenberg), Johanna Martinsson, and Anne-Katrin Arnold.

Because I depart the World Bank at the end of this month (June 2017) and will, thereafter, not be editing this blog or contributing to it, I want to seize the opportunity of this final blog post to do a number of things.

First, I want to thank all those who have contributed to the blog under my editorship since we started it in 2008. Though powerful pipes multiply in this digital age content remains king. Our contributors have provided rich, varied, and sometimes beguiling content over the years. I want to thank you, one and all. I particularly want to thank those whose contributions I had to have reworked because of the peculiar challenges of publishing on the blogging platform of an institution that is an intergovernmental cooperative. Some contributors were put off by the constraints but most understood and stayed. Many thanks.

Second, I want to thank our readers all over the world. When you start a blog in this age of volubility you never know what will happen. It is like a man in a bazaar starting a song that needs a chorus. Will anyone out there join in? Will voices and verses be added to the song? You never know. But I am happy to report that the response to the blog has been stellar. Readership has been wide and keen and argumentative. Contributions to the blog have turned up in several books, journal articles, and global publications in different languages. My attitude has been that so long as the source is acknowledged those who want to can make free use of the content. The blog has been one of the most successful ones on the World Bank blogging platform. Above all, it has been influential. And that is due to our readers. Again, many thanks.

Third, I want to thank the colleagues who have worked on the blog over the years. The initial idea was not mine at all but Johanna Martinson’s. Since then others have worked on the blog with great diligence and dedication. You can figure out their names by the intensity of their contributions. I want to thank them all. As you can imagine, a lot goes on behind the scenes if a blog is going to be successful. You have to try to post regularly. You have to promote it, for example, by tweeting the content regularly. You have to research and post interesting features, including videos. I have been fortunate to have worked with some truly brilliant colleagues who have done their best to create and nurture a People, Spaces, Deliberation community, and one that is truly global.

Finally, a closing reflection. When I joined the World Bank in 2006, it was to head a trust-funded program: The Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (COMMGAP). The blog was one of its initiatives that survived beyond the five-year duration of the Program. Another is the World Bank-Annenberg Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment. The executive course is now in its seventh (7th) year. It is going on as I write, and I have just returned from Los Angeles where I led four sessions in the first week of the course.

As with the entire COMMGAP Program, this blog has been dedicated to the proposition that it is important to explore the interaction among public opinion, governance and the public sphere, and that this interaction has implications for pro-poor social and political change. Through publications, events, operational interventions and argumentation, we have tried to show that an open and inclusive public sphere is an essential element of good and accountable governance. And that it is wise never to trust leaders who close public spaces even if they appear to be promoting economic growth that alleviates poverty in the short term. We have also tried to show that communication approaches and techniques are fundamental if you want to implement reforms and high risk projects successfully. We have argued that, in spite of the incentives and preferences of technocrats, development initiatives that are implemented without skillful and deliberate stakeholder engagement will likely run into all manner of trouble:  costly delays, truculent opposition, and, very often, failure. Intelligent project implementers in the private sector now accept this. They refer to the necessity of stakeholder alignment behind major projects as securing the social license to operate.

As I leave, the one development that I am most heartened by is that there is now a small but growing global community of practice studying and promoting “politically smart” implementation of reforms and complex development initiatives. That community acknowledges the peculiar incentives of bureaucrats in development agencies and seeks to support change agents in their own environments directly. I am, of course, extremely disheartened by the growing number of countries where public spaces are being constrained or closed.  Lesson: in so many contexts, including the most unexpected ones, there is a lot more work to be done.

Farewell then.

In Africa’s drylands, opportunities to cut vulnerability to drought and famine are within reach

Michael Morris's picture
Soil fertility managment and adding trees to farms can boost agricultural productivity and increase the drought tolerance of crops. Photo: Andrea Borgarello

As the global development community marks World Day to Combat Desertification on June 17, large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa will be gripped by extreme drought, leaving millions of people in need of emergency assistance. This is lamentable, because interventions are available that could significantly increase long term resilience to drought. A recent report that we wrote estimates that a set of 5-6 interventions could help reduce the impact of drought by about half in Africa’s drylands, keeping on average 5 million people per year out of danger in some of Africa’s poorest zones.

The report Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience aims to advance measures to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in dryland areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Including women in infrastructure: from Washington to Senegal

Julia Prescot's picture

Photo by Adam Gregor/

The theme of this year’s Global Infrastructure Forum was delivering sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. As a woman who works in the world of infrastructure, I was invited to join a panel at the forum made up solely of women to address gender inclusivity and was asked to provide a specific example of a project beneficial to women. The first thing that came to mind was our solar project in Senegal, which has not only opened up the country to solar for the first time, but has also empowered local women through training in business skills through an organization called Empow’Her that was linked to the project.

A new approach is transforming science and math learning in The Gambia

Ryoko Tomita's picture
An innovative approach tested in Gambia may provide some answers to the future of science and math education in schools across Sub-Saharan Africa.
An innovative approach tested in Gambia may provide some answers to the future of science and math education in schools across Sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo: NJCTL)

Poor math and science scores in Sub-Saharan African schools – particularly in school-leaving exams – has long plagued educationists and policy makers. As my colleague, Waly Wane, pointed out in a recent post, failures to improve learning outcomes in these subjects raise doubts as to whether African education policies can ever deliver the scientists and engineers the continent needs to do better socio-economically.

Taking lessons from rural India to Azerbaijan

Ahmed Ailyev's picture

I have always believed that communities are like musical instruments. You need to tune them properly to hear their divine music. I actually heard this music from rural communities in India. And their song, which still resonates within me, is something I will now take back to my own country.
In May 2017, my colleagues and I from the World Bank’s Azerbaijan Rural Investment Project were on an exposure visit to India to see firsthand how self help groups and cooperatives were impacting the lives of rural people.

Kerala: AzRIP and Bank team at the Trade Fair of all SHG livelihood groups across Kerala organized by Kudumbashree at Kollam.

In my years of work in rural development, I have found that the unique feature we as human beings have is the ability to share  skills, values and experiences. As we travelled across six states, this proved to be true in all the people we met, be it in large commercial companies or in remote rural  communities.
The people told us that transparency and honesty were an essential factor in their success. I also found that the spirit of cooperation was clearly present. Cooperatives belong to all members, they said, and the managers were there to serve the members. The leaders of self help groups, producer organizations, cooperatives, and micro enterprise groups also told us that they must be party to the risk taken by the group, and should lead by example in order to motivate others.

Forgotten No More: Aid to Fragile States Is a Duty Not an Option

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Dasan Bobo / World Bank

In Ethiopia, where poverty was reduced by half in the past 20 years—economists often speak of the Ethiopian miracle— I met women farmers who had managed to turn a dry hill into productive land. I talked to a group of landless youth who had used climate-smart agriculture to restore degraded fields and received land tenure in exchange. I met some women entrepreneurs who received microloans and embarked on a journey from nothing to business ownership. I visited Wukro, a small town in Northern Ethiopia, where labor-intensive cobblestone paving projects had generated jobs for thousands while beautifying the city and lowering the crime rate.

Ethiopia has a long way to go on its road to prosperity—a state of emergency remains in effect due to social unrest in some part of the country, and the threat of food insecurity still looms—but in once-inhospitable places, greenery and opportunities now bloom. Ethiopia is a country that has shown incredible resilience in the face of harsh climate shocks. It is heartening to see that climate smart investments are paying off.

Motorization and its discontents

Roger Gorham's picture
Photo: Sarah Farat/World Bank
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  While visiting the World Bank library the other day, I was struck by how many development publications featured pictures of motor vehicles on their covers, even though most of them covered topics that had little to do with transport.  The setting and tone of the pictures varied – sometimes they showed a lone car on a rural highway, sometimes congested vehicles in urban traffic, and sometimes a car displayed proudly as a status symbol – but the prevalence of motorized vehicles as a visual metaphor for development was unmistakable to me: in the public imagination, consciously or otherwise, many people associate development with more use of motorized vehicles.

Indeed, motorization – the process of adopting and using motor vehicles as a core part of economic and daily life – is closely linked with other dimensions of development such as urbanization and industrialization.

Motorization, however, is a double-edged sword.

For many households, being able to afford their own vehicle is often perceived as the key to accessing more jobs, more services, more opportunities—not to mention a status symbol. Likewise, vehicles can unlock possibilities for firms and individual entrepreneurs such as the young man from Uganda pictured on the right, proudly showing off his brand new boda boda (motorcycle taxi). 

But motorization also comes with a serious downside, in terms of challenges that many governments have difficulty managing.  Motor vehicles can undermine the livability of cities by cluttering up roads and open spaces—the scene of chaos and gridlock in the picture below, from Accra, is a telling example. In addition, vehicles create significant safety hazards for occupants and bystanders alike… in many developing countries, road deaths have effectively reached epidemic proportions. From an environmental standpoint, motorized transport is, of course, a major contributor to urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, motorization contributes to countries' hard currency challenges by exacerbating their long-term demand for petroleum products.

Given these challenges, how are developing countries going to align their motorization trajectories with their development goals?  What should the World Bank advise our clients about how to manage this process?