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Twelve reasons why the Arab world needs to pay more attention to early childhood development

Will Stebbins's picture
 Arne Hoel

Inequality begins early in life. In the Middle East and North Africa region it begins before birth, as prenatal care is not universal, and continues right through early childhood with different levels of access to vital nutrition, health services and early education. Missing out on any one of these key development factors can leave a child at a permanent disadvantage in school and adult life. There is also the risk that inequality entrenched early in life is passed on to the next generation, creating a cycle of poverty. A new World Bank report has calculated the different chances that a child from the region’s poorest 20% of households (least advantaged child) and  a child from the region’s richest 20% of households (most advantaged child) have for healthy development. 

Does the Middle East tech sector need younger political leadership?

Joulan Abdul Khalek's picture
 Arne Hoel

One thousand years ago, the famous Arab scientist and mathematician Al-Hazen moved from Basra to Cairo to take up a new job in a neighborhood near Al-Azhar University. At the time, the Middle East was a flourishing technology giant, with scientists, inventors, artists and philosophers moving freely from the heart of the Spanish peninsula to the deep enclaves of Central Asia. Al-Hazen was invited to Egypt by its young Caliph who, among many other rulers in the region, was a champion of knowledge and innovation. Al-Hazen and other inventors from the Middle East had both strong political support and access to resources, which led to some of the greatest scientific discoveries of their times. Why are things so different today? 

Rousseau isn’t the first, nor last, to negotiate a ‘social contract’

Mehrunisa Qayyum's picture
Webcast Replay



“50% of Arab world citizens are dissatisfied with public services in their area,” according to a World Bank survey — which prompted not one, but two sessions at the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. So it was no coincidence that the meme #BreaktheCycle emerged in another Middle East and North Africa (MENA) panel, “Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World,” which also revisited the theme of the social contract in both oil-importing and exporting countries.

It’s Heating Up: Industry Needs Climate-Friendly Policies to Keep Cool and Competitive

Etienne Kechichian's picture


Emiko Kashiwagi / Flickr

Industries account for nearly one-third of direct and indirect global greenhouse-gas emissions, and they will be playing an increasingly important role in achieving the global targets expected to be set at the international climate summit in Paris in December. For example, the cement (5 percent), chemicals (7 percent) and iron and steel (7 percent) sectors account for nearly one-fifth of all global greenhouse-gas emissions, and those sectors have significant potential to reduce those emissions.
 
Tackling climate change by focusing on industries has long been a contentious issue. Some industries claim that regulation will impede economic growth by imposing additional burdens on competitive sectors. In some cases, they have an argument; but, if it is designed well and adapted to the context, a smart and timely intervention can influence a socially and economically positive systemic change.
 
Many businesses themselves, by pursuing cost-effective, long-term, environmentally sustainable production, long ago realized that “going green” can be highly advantageous, and they have been taking a pro-active approach toward addressing the issue precisely because it makes business sense. One group of global business leaders – including Unilever, Holcim, Virgin Group and others – have taken their commitment further by encouraging governments to lend their support for net-zero emissions strategies by 2050.
 
Even in developing countries, companies like Intel are investing millions of dollars in energy efficiency to save on current and future energy costs. The company has already saved $111 million since 2008 as a result of $59 million worth of sustainability investments in 1,500 projects worldwide.
 
  

Source: New Climate Economy 2014; World Bank World Development Indicators 

The sentiment that climate action by both the private sector and the public sector is urgent was also an important theme highlighted by World Bank Group President Jim Kim during January's World Economic Forum conference in Davos. Mitigation measures, such as energy-efficiency policies, have long been seen as a way to improve profits and manage risks. The logic for energy efficiency, a key set of abatement actions by the manufacturing sector, is there.
 
The recent New Climate Economy initiative, produced by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, estimates that at least 50 percent – and, with broad and ambitious implementation, potentially up to 90 percent – of the actions needed to get onto a pathway that keeps warming from exceeding 2°C could be compatible with the goal of ensuring the competitiveness of industries.

Europe’s Asylum Seekers and the Global Refugee Challenge

Omer Karasapan's picture
Migrants arriving on the island of lampedusa

The human tragedy of thousands of asylum seekers floundering—and dying--in the Mediterranean highlights an unprecedented global challenge for the 21st century. “In terms of migrants and refugees, nothing has been seen like this since World War Two“, says Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migrants (IMO). Globally there were estimated to be 16.7 million refugees and 34 million Internally Displaced People (IDPS) at the end of 2013. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen alone have created  o some 15 million refugees and IDPs.  The numbers are growing almost on a daily basis. Just in the past few weeks, the fighting in Yemen has displaced another 150,000 while fighting in Iraq’s Ramadi has added another 114,000 to Iraq’s total displaced of around 3 million refugees and IDPs.

#EarthDay: Floods, droughts and extreme heat threaten the Arab World

Maria Sarraf's picture
Postcard

If the earth gets much hotter this century, life will get harder for most people across the world. But how much harder will it be for people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region already known for its heat and aridity? For many, climate change evokes thoughts of bitterly cold winters, burning hot summers, long droughts, and spectacular floods. But for MENA, climate change will also mean the loss of traditional incomes, forced migration and a constant struggle to make ends meet. Earth Day is a moment to examine the link between the impact of climate change on nature and humankind.

Fossil fuel subsidy reform: An idea whose time has come

Marianne Fay's picture
spring meetings 2015


Fossil fuel subsidies are bad economic policy, bad social policy and bad for the environment. Yet, many countries have some type of fossil fuel subsidy. In 2013, those subsidies added up to nearly $550 billion.

Why are so many countries spending so much on what is simply bad policy? And how can they reform these subsidies? This is what a panel of government ministers who have implemented reforms debated during the IMF/World Bank Group Spring Meetings in an event organized by ESMAP and co-hosted by the World Bank Group, the United States, and Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.

The panelists – representing countries as different as Angola, Egypt, Honduras, and Ukraine – described the countries’ varied experiences, but out of these varied experiences, four common messages emerged:

Ten facts you didn’t know about women in the Arab world

Maha Abdelilah El-Swais's picture


Women currently make up 49.7% of around 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. But despite the many advances made in terms of closing the gender gap in health, political representation, and labor force participation, many other barriers remain. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, here’s a list of facts about women of the Arab world. 

Tracking hidden wealth alters view of inequality in the Middle East and North Africa

Catherine Bond's picture


Until now, the gap between rich and poor in the Middle East and North Africa has seemed—statistically at least—narrower than in many other regions of the world. Digging up data on wealth that has been squirreled abroad and hidden from the public eye, though, changes that. 

Can teachers unions help improve the quality of education in the Arab world?

Kamel Braham's picture


In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in fact around the world, teachers—who play a pivotal role in any effort to improve education quality—have not been officially represented in the design of key government programs aimed at education reform.

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