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From population bomb to development opportunity: New perspectives on demographic change

S. Amer Ahmed's picture

A generation ago, the World Development Report 1984 focused on development challenges posed by demographic change, reflecting the world’s concerns about run-away population growth. Global population growth rates had peaked at more than two percent a year in the late 1960s and the incredibly high average fertility rates of that decade – almost six births per woman – provided the momentum to keep population growth rates elevated for several decades (Fig 1). Indeed, the population and development zeitgeist spawned works such as Ehrlich’s 1968 book “Population Bomb,” which painted apocalyptic images of a world struggling to sustain itself under the sheer weight of its people. The policy discussion of the WDR 1984 reflected these concerns, focusing on how to feed the growing populations in the poorest and highest fertility countries, while also presenting a case for policies that would reduce fertility.

Driving change in challenging contexts: four issues to address

Verena Fritz's picture
During war, markets help people survive. Salad traders in Garoule market, Mali.
© Irina Mosel / ODI

Recently, I participated in an ODI-organized conference on ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe as well as the adoption of the SDGs is bringing efforts to revive and accelerate development in challenging contexts to the forefront of political attention.

​Progress in such contexts is inevitably difficult. But actual practices are also still far from the possibility frontier of what could be done. Four issues stand out:

Women traders in Africa’s Great Lakes

Cecile Fruman's picture

On the northern tip of Lake Kivu, where eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meets Rwanda, the pedestrian border crossing connecting the lush town of Gisenyi, Rwanda and the frenetic city of Goma in the DRC is called ‘’Petite Barrière’’. The name is misleading: the ‘’barrière’’ is in fact large and crowded, and features one of the highest daily flows of traders in Africa; between 20,000 and 30,000 traders cross it every day. For them, as for many others in the region, cross-border trade is a critical source of income.

Working on water across borders: Spillover benefits for the SDGs

Jonathan Kamkwalala's picture
At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

Pandemic response: Time to act is now

Sania Nishtar's picture
Photo by Dominic Chavez @World Bank 2015

The recent, devastating Ebola crisis reminded the world of a hard truth:  Pandemics are not just a threat to human health, they are a threat to societies and economies. That there will be another pandemic is not a question of “if,” but a question of “when.”  A catastrophe on the scale of the 1918 flu epidemic could conceivably wipe out all development gains of the last century.  We recognize this, but, still we are unprepared.

Record number of forcibly displaced people has reached 60 million worldwide, data show

Leila Rafei's picture

As we continue to see headlines and editorials almost every day about migrants and refugees, it's not surprising when UNHCR reports that the number of forcibly displaced people has reached 60 million worldwide for the first time since World War II. This figure includes internally displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers.

While many are on the move as refugees, others migrate willfully at rates that have also reached unprecedented levels. Below, I've explored some trends in regional, country- and economic-level migration and refugee data. But first: What's the difference between a migrant and a refugee?

According to UNHCR, a refugee is any person who has been forced to flee their country of origin because of a fear of persecution. A migrant, on the other hand, is one who leaves their country voluntarily for reasons such as employment, study, or family reunification. A migrant is still protected by their own government while abroad, while a refugee lacks protection from their country of origin.

Pushing water downhill: Considering ICT PPPs

Jeff Delmon's picture
Students using new high-speed Internet in Tonga. Photo: World Bank Group

For private financiers, official government support to information and communications technology (ICT) projects might seem like trying to push water downhill. After all, isn’t ICT incredibly profitable? What’s the point of a public-private partnership (PPP) in this sector, anyway?

Here’s the rest of that familiar argument: Government should stay out of the way and let the private sector carry the communications sector; it is a waste of effort and inefficient to try to push forward something that has its own momentum. Like a rushing river, the naysayers conclude, ICT needs no help advancing down its inevitable course.

It sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice, that approach just doesn’t work. The government needs to guide the river down the best course for the citizens it serves, building a weir or mill to help the river provide maximum benefits to the people who need it. And, just as water is the foundation of life, communication technologies are necessary to prosper in today’s world. Knowledge is power. And specifically, access to markets is improved by mobile phones, as is access to banking services, finance, investment opportunities, and education.

Successful ICT strategies usher in jobs, empowerment and economic growth.

Why we can’t afford to ignore agricultural risk

Stephen P. D’Alessandro's picture
Climate smart farming practices in Senegal.
Climate-smart farming practices in Senegal. Photo: M. Tall/CCAFS

Launching on September 25, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will call for no less than an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This is welcome news--and for the nearly 800 million people worldwide who will go to bed hungry-- long overdue.

To get there, it’s not just about raising yields. It’s also about managing risks to protect the most vulnerable. Along with gains in productivity, we also need more resilient agricultural systems. Failing this, unmanaged risks will upend the road to 2030. Climate change only ups the ante with promise of increasing weather extremes and new and more virulent pest and disease outbreaks. 

Making forest commitments a reality

Ellysar Baroudy's picture
​Farmers in Zambia's Luangwa Valley discuss sustainable agriculture

​New York this week plays host to Climate Week 2015, where business and government leaders are convening to make pledges and commit to actions to demonstrate that development does not have to come at the expense of the environment. 

One year ago this event was a forum for the New York Declaration on Forests, a public-private compact to end natural forest loss by 2030. 
Now one year on, the World Bank Group remains an active partner working with countries and companies to help turn forestry commitments into actions on the ground. 

Can we shift waste to value through 3D printing in Tanzania?

Cecilia Paradi-Guilford's picture
A waste collection site in Dar es Salaam, 
Tanzania. Photo: Cecilia Paradi-Guilford
Plastic waste, in particular PET, which is typically found in soda bottles, is becoming abundant in African cities. In Dar es Salaam, one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa, BORDA found that about 400 tons of plastic waste per day remains uncollected or unrecycled.  Although about 98 percent of the solid waste generated per day can be recycled or composted, 90 percent is disposed in dumpsites.
At the same time, the recycling industry has started to grow because of new initiatives, community organizations and private companies. There are a few organizations that repurpose waste into arts and crafts, tools or apply it as a source of energy – such as WasteDar. However, the majority collect or purchase plastic waste from collectors, primarily with a view to export, rather than recycle or reuse locally.
Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanized world. Waste pickers can earn as little as US$1-2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement. They make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in deep poverty.

Through a new market for sorted waste materials, these communities may access higher income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner. This presents an opportunity to explore turning this waste into value more close to home.