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East Asia and Pacific

Ending the invisible violence against Thai female sex workers

Michele R. Decker's picture
Photo: vinylmeister,  https://flic.kr/p/niguan

I’m finally in Thailand celebrating our Development Marketplace for Innovation award from the World Bank Group and the nonprofit Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) to prevent gender-based violence. Just one month ago, our team members, consisting of Sex Workers IN Group’s (SWING) leaders, Surang Janyam and Chamrong Phaengnongyang, and Mahidol University researcher, Dusita Phuengsamran, were at the awards ceremony in Washington DC, humbled by the words and encouragement of World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. Today, half a world away, at SWING’s colorful conference space, the passion for violence prevention that infused the awards ceremony is still with us.
 

Firing up Myanmar’s economy through private sector growth

Sjamsu Rahardja's picture
Workers at a garment factory
Myanmar’s reintegration into the global economy presents it with a unique opportunity to leverage private sector growth to reduce poverty, share prosperity and sustain the nationwide peace process.
 
For much of its post-independence period, Myanmar’s once vibrant entrepreneurialism and private sector was stifled by economic isolation, state control, and a system which promoted crony capitalism in the form of preferential access to markets and goods, especially in the exploitation of natural resources. Reflecting this legacy, private sector firms are still burdened with onerous regulations and high costs, dragging down their competitiveness and reducing growth prospects.
 

From the “Laguna” to the Delta: Can lessons from Venice help us manage flood risk in Vietnam?

Linh X. Le's picture
A satellite view of Venice and the surrounding lagoon. Upon completion of the MOSE project in 2018, a series of flood gates between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea will protect the city from high tide and storm surges.
Upon completion of the MOSE project in 2018, a series of flood gates between Venice's Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea will protect the city from high tide and storm surges. Credit: NASA
Venice may seem like an unlikely location for an international development conference. But even though the Italian city is best known for its touristic appeal, it also turned out to be the perfect setting for the Understanding Risk Forum 2016, where representatives from 125 countries exchanged knowledge on disaster risk management and explored ways of adapting global lessons to their own local context.
 
At merely 1 meter above sea level, Venice has had its fair share of natural disasters, especially floods. In 1966, the record-high 194-cm flood had severe consequences on the Old Venice, causing an estimated $6 million worth of damage (1966 US dollars). Given the city’s touristic and historical significance to Italy and the world, protection from flood is a top priority.
 
That's why the Government of Italy has invested over €5.5 billion on the MOSE Project, which involves constructing 4 mobile barriers at the mouth of the water basin to the sea in order to better control high tide and prevent it from flooding the Old Venice. Each barrier consists of several energy-efficient flap gates that can be deployed quickly when high tide occurs, maintaining the ideal water level in the basin while safeguarding the natural ecosystem in the laguna area. Once the project is completed in 2018, it should fully protect the city, and allow future generations to admire the beauty of its glory days.

Unleashing Myanmar’s agricultural potential

Sergiy Zorya's picture


Myanmar’s unusually fertile soils and abundant water source are legendary in Southeast Asia. It is even said that Myanmar has the most favorable agricultural conditions in all of Asia. Almost anything can be grown in the country, from fruits to vegetables, from rice to pulses. The agriculture sector dominates the economy, contributing 38% of GDP, and employing more than 60% of the workforce. The importance of agriculture in the economy and as an employer will diminish in coming years as a result of structural transformation. However, the sector will continue to play a remarkable role in reducing poverty in Myanmar for many years to come.  

Hear our voice: Young people in the Philippines want more from their leaders

Mark Raygan Garcia's picture
Scroll through social media in the Philippines, and you’ll get the feel of how young people have transformed digital spaces into a microcosm of what the Philippines should or should not be. If only their ideas and fervor in cyberspace could be translated to engaged participation on the ground, the light at the end of the tunnel would be brighter.
 
“So what now after the May 2016 elections?”
 
We asked this question at an event for the Knowledge for Development Community (KDC) network a few months before the May 9 national and local elections. The KDC was formed by the World Bank office in Manila in 2002 to promote knowledge sharing of development issues. It’s a network composed of 19 universities, non-government organizations and think tanks across the country. We turned to the largest segment in our network – students – and asked: “What do you want from your next leaders?”
 
Spearheaded by Silliman University based in the Visayas in Central Philippines, the KDC organized youth discussions in three cities in each of the major island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. St. Paul University Philippines handled the discussions in Tuguegarao in Luzon, Silliman University for Dumaguete, and the Western Mindanao State University for Zamboanga based in Mindanao. The project involved 30 youth representatives in each city: 15 in-school and 15 out-of-school. Its composition was not just sensitive to, but also affirmed, the equal value of the out-of-school youth in development processes.

Gender-based violence, power and norms

Annamaria Milazzo's picture

Many laws prohibiting a range of gender violence have been ineffective in reducing the prevalence of harmful practices.  This is mainly due to the influential role that deeply rooted social norms—one of multiple and sometimes competing normative orders people adhere to—play in determining behavior and outcomes.

Gender-based violence (GBV) reflects power inequalities between women and men. Women and girls are more commonly the victims of GBV—a manifestation of power imbalance tilted in favor of men that characterizes many, mostly patriarchal, cultures around the world.  Collectively shared norms about women’s subordinate role in society and violence against them can also perpetuate the power imbalance. In the upcoming World Development Report 2017 we discuss how norms can reinforce existing power inequalities in society and how change can happen.

Change in (flight) plan: Just three months to fix Vanuatu’s runway

Christopher J. De Serio's picture
Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo credit: Phillip Capper


Overjoyed at the emergency rehabilitation of Bauerfield International Airport, Vanuatu’s gateway for travelers, Linda Kalpoi, the general manager of the Vauatu Tourism Office, was in buoyant spirits as she attended the May 6 ceremony announcing the repair’s completion.
 
Vanuatu yearned for good news. Still recovering from Cyclone Pam’s devastation in March 2015, it was hit by political turmoil after the unprecedented conviction of 14 members of Parliament in October 2015. Then, on January 22, 2016 – the same day Ni-Vanuatu citizens were casting ballots for a snap election – Air New Zealand suspended flights due to safety concerns over the runway condition. Qantas and Virgin Australia followed suit a week later. With only a few airlines still operating, the country lost a sizeable chunk of international tourists. 
 
Airport planning in Vanuatu has long been fraught with differing opinions and priorities. Multiple governments with conflicting visions for developing international air transport, as well frequent changes to the staff and leadership of Airports Vanuatu Ltd (AVL), had left the runway in critical need of repair.

Speak up and be heard, Indonesia! Championing social accountability in healthcare services

Ali Winoto Subandoro's picture



To get a full picture of how social accountability can improve the quality of health services in Indonesia, one only has to travel to the border areas in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province.  

On a scorching afternoon in August 2015 in Bijaepasu sub-district, a six hour drive from the provincial capital Kupang, a queue was forming in front of the village health center or puskesmas. The crowd seemed undeterred by the temperature that hovered around 40 degrees Celcius.

Leaning against its deteriorating walls were mothers and babies, elderly women and men. The queue was long and slow moving. The health center workers appeared overwhelmed. There were barely any medical equipment or supplies.

A view from Myanmar: exploring system-scale hydropower planning

Jeff Opperman's picture
Aerial view of the Ayeyawardi river in Myanmar
Aerial view of the Ayeyawardi river in Myanmar
by Michael Foley/Flickr
under a Creative Commons license
Myanmar’s rivers provide a reliable source of water for navigation and irrigation, and support food production and livelihoods. In fact, Myanmar’s freshwater fisheries produce more than 1.3 million tons of fish per year and employ approximately 1.5 million people. While the Ayeyawardy and other rivers are critical to maintaining the way of life in Myanmar, harnessing those rivers for hydropower is also a big part of the country’s plans for development and reducing poverty.
 
This scenario is not unique. For many countries like Myanmar, where only one-third of the population has access to electricity, hydropower presents a compelling opportunity to increase energy supply at low costs and make important contributions to development objectives and water resources management.
Myanmar has ambitious future hydropower development plans that mirror the trends seen globally. Projections show that the world is poised to nearly double hydropower capacity by 2040, building as many hydropower dams in the next 25 years as were built in the previous century.
 
In a report funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), The Nature Conservancy worked with WWF and the University of Manchester to demonstrate a framework that could be applied in Myanmar and replicated worldwide to change the trajectory of water resource development towards a more sustainable path. By adopting system-scale planning and engaging diverse stakeholders, Myanmar has the opportunity to be a leader and global example.

Can transit-oriented development change travel behavior in cities?

Wanli Fang's picture
Photo: Marius Godoi/Shutterstock
It is pretty easy to understand how and why land use patterns around public transit stations can influence the way we move around the city.

As more and more people live and work in a neighborhood with a limited land area, it becomes increasingly challenging to drive around without encountering congestion or to find a parking space easily. In this situation, public transit and non-motorized transport (NMT) become attractive alternatives for people who otherwise are reluctant to give up the comfort and flexibility of driving.

Conversely, as street blocks get bigger, people may find it takes too long to access public transit stations, which discourages the use of public transport facilities.

As straightforward as the logic may sound, the nature and magnitude of such influence are yet to be evaluated with solid empirical evidence. To take a closer look at the linkages between land use and travel behavior, I decided to study the case of Boston in the United States. I chose Boston because it boasts an effective public transit system, and was one of the first American cities to embrace transit-oriented development (TOD), an urban planning approach that promotes compact and mixed use development around public transit facilities.

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