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What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Natural Capital Accounting: Going beyond the numbers

Stig Johansson's picture
Guatemala. World Bank

Here are some facts that you might not know: Do these numbers just seem like bits of trivia? In fact, these are all important results that came out of natural capital accounting (NCA) – a system for generating data on natural resources, such as forests, energy and water, which are not included in traditional statistics. NCA follows standards approved by the United Nations to ensure trust, consistency and comparison across time and countries.
 
The results above are among the numerous NCA findings that are being generated every year, with support from a World Bank-led global partnership called Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES). In response to the growing appetite for information on NCA, WAVES has set up a new Knowledge Center bringing together resources on this topic.

#EndPoverty images tell a powerful story

Donna Barne's picture
Image of Radha, a rag-picker in Jaipur, India © Tierney Farrell

​In the photo, a beautiful woman named Radha holds her young child in a bleak landscape strewn with refuse. The photo caption reveals she is a rag-picker in Jaipur, India, one of millions making a living from collecting and selling the things other people throw away. We learn that shortly after the photo was taken, her husband died. 

Radha’s image and story, captured by photographer and artist Tierney Farrell (@tierneyfarrell) in June 2014, was one of 10 photographs selected by National Geographic Your Shot as winners of the  #endpoverty hashtag challenge this summer.

In a note to the photographer, National Geographic’s Erika Larsen explained why the photo was chosen: “This is a beautiful image but more importantly you have given us a story. You have followed her life for an amount of time and made us care about her situation.”

How Ho Chi Minh City got a facelift: sustainable development solutions are changing a city

Madhu Raghunath's picture



When I visited Vietnam for the first time three years ago, I imagined a Ho Chi Minh City out of Hollywood movies, with panoramic buildings of French architecture, tree-lined, long boulevards and the melting pot of Indochine cuisine.

After I began working in the city as an urban professional in 2012, I quickly learned to see it as much more: a vibrant, young, hip and energetic city with a vision and determination to become a leading metropolis in East Asia, not just in Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the region.

And it has taken all the right steps just to do that, combining infrastructure development with social services to make sure the city is more livable and growth more sustainable. As the World Cities Day approaches, I thought it would be useful to share the city’s experience with the world. 
 

Vietnam: Breaking gender stereotypes that hinder women’s empowerment

Victoria Kwakwa's picture
Empowering Women with Job Opportunities


In August 2015, I traveled with colleagues to An Giang Province in southern Vietnam to visit beneficiaries of an innovative project that is helping 200 Cham ethnic minority women learn embroidery.  Selling their embroidery, they earn incomes for themselves. We were inspired by the positive change that the small amount of money invested in this project is bringing to the lives of these women and their families.
 
This project, with funding from the 2013 Vietnam Women’s Innovation Day, supported by the Vietnam Women’s Union, the World Bank, and other partners - private and public - has helped improved economic opportunities for Cham women.  All through the old traditional art of embroidery.    
 
“This training and job creation project has helped a group of women get a stable monthly income of more than two million Dong (about $100), without leaving their homes. This means they can still take care of their children and look after their homes,” Kim Chi, a local female entrepreneur and leader of the project, told us. “Women participating in the project not only learn embroidery skills, which preserve Cham traditions, but also provide opportunities to share experiences in raising children and living a healthy life style, and support each other when needed.”
 
While we were all excited about the successes under the project, a bit more reflection reminded me that unless cultural norms which require Cham women to mainly work from home, are addressed, it will be hard for projects like this, no matter how well designed, to have a lasting impact in helping Cham women realize their full economic and social potential. 
 

STEPing ahead with procurement reform

Robert Hunja's picture



As part of the Bank’s ongoing effort to adapt to the changing needs of client countries, the Bank is modernizing its procurement framework. This will help us deliver stronger project results while maintaining the integrity and high standards of our procurement framework.

The two key elements of this transformation in Bank procurement involve the Procurement Policy Reform, to take effect in 2016, and STEP, the Bank’s new electronic procurement planning and tracking platform.
 
On July 21, 2015, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the new Procurement Framework, which will go into full implementation during 2016. This new framework allows the Bank to better and more effectively meet the varying needs of clients by ensuring greater flexibility and choice of methods. Alongside the new framework, an electronic platform, Systematic Tracking of Exchanges in Procurement, branded as STEP, is being rolled out and will be implemented worldwide in the coming months.

This system jointly developed by Operations Risk Management (OPSOR) within Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS), the Global Governance Practice (GGP), and Information Technology Services (ITS) departments, is a cornerstone of the World Bank Group’s procurement reform efforts and goes hand-in-hand with policy and procedural changes.

On rhino horns, banking nature and climate hope

Muthukumara Mani's picture
It is not often that as an economist, you find yourself surrounded by creative artists! I found myself in such a situation recently when I was invited to be a panelist for the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival. It presented me with an opportunity to witness firsthand how the issues of environment and climate change are perceived and interpreted in the community of artists and filmmakers.

The festival criteria read that “by screening a diverse selection of high quality films that deal with pressing issues, and by organizing discussion panels with environmental experts, filmmakers and other stakeholders, the Festival seeks to promote dialogue and inspire Dominican viewers to adopt practices that will ensure the country’s environmental sustainability and health.” For a small Caribbean nation to take these issues seriously and attempt to educate its people using cinema was indeed commendable.
Gambling on Extinction, directed by Jakob Kneser

What I witnessed on landing in Santo Domingo was truly remarkable. There were filmmakers from all over the world, but also organizers of similar festivals from other countries. That is when I realized that environmental film festivals have now become a global movement with the intention of informing, influencing, and galvanizing people on critical environmental issues. While the first “environmental” films were produced back in the 1960s when the global environmental movement was in its infancy, there are now 30 or more international environmental film festivals held all over the world attracting hundreds of films and thousands of people. They cover issues such as clean water, sanitation, forests, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and climate change. Even more remarkable, most of these short films or documentaries are often produced on a shoe-string budget, but with an enormous degree of passion and perseverance to get the message across.  What really impressed me was that although they dealt with critical issues facing us today, in most cases the messages were of hope and optimism!

I want to share with you some of the films that I watched:

Get smarter: A world of development data in your pocket!

Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep's picture
Many dinner conversations and friendly debates proceed in a data vacuum: “The problem is big… very big!” How big exactly? Most likely your friend has no idea. 

It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
 
Open data for sustainable development

Climate action does not require economic sacrifice

Rachel Kyte's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Harvesting rice-fields in a White Thai village in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh province, northern Vietnam.
Harvesting rice-fields in a White Thai village in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh province, northern Vietnam.

More than two decades ago, the world agreed on the need to confront climate change.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emerged in 1992, spawning a variety of negotiating forums with the goal of preventing catastrophic impacts from planetary warming caused mostly by polluting societies.

It's easy to overlook the progress that has occurred since, because we still have so far to go. Droughts, flooding and cyclones that already seem to be the norm are just the latest warnings of what is coming, and preventing much worse requires immediate and aggressive action to drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

East Asia’s challenge: ensuring that growth helps poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Unprecedented economic growth in the last three decades propelled East Asia into an economic powerhouse responsible for a quarter of the world’s economy.

Hundreds of millions of people across the region, including in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and enjoyed greater prosperity, largely because of more labor-intensive and inclusive growth.

The success didn’t come without challenges. As of last year, 100 million people in East Asia still live on $1.25 a day. About 260 million still live on $2 a day or less, and they could fall back into poverty if the global economy takes a turn for the worse or if they face health, food and other shocks at home. Their uncertain future shows the increasing inequality of East Asia’s galloping growth.


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