The Arab transition countries, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, are grappling with complex issues relating to personal values, the extent of freedom of speech, individual rights, family matters, that all orbit around deep issues of identity and the respective roles of the individual, the state and society. These social conversations are constructive in that they reflect a rich pluralism of views in societies where conformity was the rule under dictatorship. But unfortunately, these dialogues are polarizing society, leading to violence and threatening chaos and a possible return to authoritarianism. In fact, the current social polarization to a large extent reflects attempts by political entrepreneurs to use existing social fault lines, and even exacerbate them, in ways that mobilize passions among possible supporters, driven to over-reach by the political vacuum created by the departure of the historical autocrats. The dynamics in Morocco, Jordan, Algeria, and Lebanon are slightly different, but here too, the intense and exclusive focus on identity is crowding out more important and immediate social and economic challenges.
This week in Doha, the marble corridors of the Qatar National Convention Center resonate with voices from around the world. Over half way through the UN Climate Change Conference, as ministers arrive and the political stakes pick up, a sense of greater urgency in the formal negotiations is almost palpable. But in the corridors, negotiations are already leading to deals and dreams and action on the ground.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussions by saying we need optimism, because without optimism there are no results. He reminded us all that Superstorm Sandy was a tragic awakening. He reiterated the call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement and 100 billion in climate finance by 2020.
Meanwhile our focus was firmly on the region ...
- Yemen, Republic of
- Western Sahara
- United Arab Emirates
- Syrian Arab Republic
- South Sudan
- Saudi Arabia
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Urban Development
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- food security
- Climate Change
- Ban Ki-moon
The most striking thing about mobile money in Kenya is how visible it is: the proliferation of store signage with M-PESA (and, increasingly, other mobile money and banking logos) leaves no one with any doubt that something big is happening in the Kenyan payment space.
It is estimated that four out of five adult Kenyans have access to a mobile money account. This means that most people that any business touches –whether they are consumers, employees, business partners or retail staff— are connected to a real-time electronic payment network. That’s unprecedented in the developing world.
And yet few formal businesses have a dedicated mobile money account to conduct their financial transactions electronically, and among those who have one most do not appear to promote its use by their customers and suppliers particularly aggressively. Cheques remain the preferred payment mode for suppliers, or cash for smaller payments. M-PESA payments might be taken from customers if they insist and M-PESA might be used to pay field staff in exceptional or emergency situations, but then staff’s personal mobile phones are most likely to be used. Few enterprises have any vision about how they can use mobile money to re-engineer how they do operate, taking cash out of their business. The tidal wave of M-PESA is but a mere ripple for most businesses.
The ambiguities surrounding the interpretation of the word gender and what it means to ‘mainstream gender’ in relation to transport could prove to be a significant obstacle to those who plan and provide transport infrastructure and services, especially in developing economies.
The necessity to ensure gender equality as a primary goal in all area(s) of social and economic development was highlighted at the United Nations Fourth World Conference held in Beijing, China in 1995 and the concept of gender mainstreaming was defined by the 1997 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as 'a strategy for making women's as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of […] the policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated'.
The transport sector at the World Bank has been a leader in gender mainstreaming. The transport sector, as is the case in many other aspects of cross-sectoral interventions, has been leading the way in its response to the mainstreaming effort. Significant research has been undertaken along with the delivery of successful operations to address the specific needs and constraints of men and women in transportation.
The question of identity lies at the core of the complexity relating to migration. Let's start a conversation on the question, "Who am I?"
Who am I? Nationality-wise, there is some room for confusion: I was born in Italy, but I am not Italian. I grew up in London, but I am not English. I am French because my mother, who grew up in Morocco, is French, though that mainly happened because her mother is from Algeria. My father is French because he married my mother, but he is from Libya originally. We are Jewish. None of us has ever lived in France. Do I identify with my nationality? Well, my brother and I attended French Lycees in London and in Maryland, and French is my mother tongue. My grandmother and aunt live in France now, and I visit them regularly. That might be the extent of my French-ness. Though I do make an effort to follow political developments in France, I don't participate in local elections, for instance.
The issues of journalism and a free press come to mind these days. With a significant number of journalists attacked in, among other countries, Russia, just in the past few months, we clearly see the dependence of the media system on the political environment in a country. Journalism training is the major form of media development - how to use new technologies, how to write a good feature, how to sniff out a corruption scandal - but is anyone thinking about what happens to reporters in countries where the rule of law is weak? This year alone, 16 journalists have been killed in the line of duty, as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports. Last year: 71. Since 1992, more than 800 journalists have been murdered as a direct consequence of their reporting. Iraq, the Philippines, Algeria, and Russia are the four deadliest countries for journalists.