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East Asia and Pacific

These winning photos capture the future of sustainable cities

Xueman Wang's picture
The premise behind the Sustainable Cities photo competition was simple. We wanted to learn what people around the world “see” when they hear the words “sustainable cities.”
 
The submissions – and we at the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities received more than 90 entries from over 40 countries around the world – are very revealing.

What the photographers tried to communicate was a need: both the urgent need for infrastructure that leads to more resilient, sustainable cities, or a need to aspire to greener ideals of building sustainable communities for all.

There is no better day than today, World Cities Day, for us to share with you the 10 finalists – including 3 winners and an honorable mention for climate action – of the photo competition.

In the winning photo by Yanick Folly, one can practically feel the chaos of a city in Benin, the smell of exhaust fumes as cars crawl up alongside motorcycles and pedestrians down narrow alleyways.

Yanick Folly (Benin) – Winner
Growing day by day, our world is always moving. Just see the big vibrant Benin market. #SustainableCities

The photo is also a reminder that cities are made of people. Any set of solutions for “sustainable cities” will have to make sense to a city’s inhabitants, who tread its streets daily.
 
In other photos, the aspiration is palpable. 

Many of the photographers are nationals of developing countries from all over the world. Yet quite a few of them shared photos of cities we regard as environmentally friendly: Singapore, Amsterdam, London, and Paris... We saw many photos of parks in developed countries, and heard the same message: These green spaces and pedestrian walkways are what we want in a city.
 
Adedapo Adesemowo (UK / Nigeria)

From a waste dumping ground for oil, tar, arsenic, and lead to an Olympic park. #SustainableCities
Many photos also reflect the vast difference between the aspirational city, and what most people actually live with.
 
We received photos of what many of us may categorize as rural areas, but we should reconsider these preconceptions: some “cities” in developing countries are little more than makeshift towns.
 
So, it is all the more reason why we are excited about this winning photo by Oyewolo Eyitayo from Nigeria. You might think this is an uneventful photograph of a typical urban suburb. Except that the half dirt roads are lined with solar panels.
 
Oyelowo Eyitayo (Nigeria) – Winner
Going solar is a simple & impactful #climateaction that can help combat climate change. #SustainableCities

Professionalizing public procurement in Vietnam

Kien Trung Tran's picture
World Bank-financed school in Vietnam's Can Tho province. Photo: World Bank

Vietnam spends an estimated US$25 billion in goods and services each year. Recognizing that an efficient public procurement system is essential to delivering quality public services in a timely manner, the Government has set a mandate to professionalize the public procurement function.

Five lessons on affordable housing provision from Indonesia

Dao Harrison's picture
When first-time homeowner Dewi moved into her new house in the Yogyakarta area a year ago, thanks to a government subsidy program, she thought: everything is perfect.
 
Well, not quite. Located an hour away from the city center, Dewi’s house is far from employment opportunities, shopping, and schooling for her two children. Two years after completion, more than half the housing development remains unoccupied. Because the house is not connected to the local water system, Dewi buys water twice a week. When seasonal floods are underway, the heavy rains impede access to her house.



Providing affordable and adequate housing has become a top policy priority for the government of Indonesia with the launch of Satu Juta Rumah (One Million Homes) program. Previous efforts to address the demand for affordable housing – a function of both new annual demand creation and an unmet housing deficit – had not effectively improved housing outcomes at the scale necessary.
Source:  Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Indonesia

But should homeownership volume be the sole indicator of a successful housing subsidy program? Is it possible to have a program that meets the government’s needs to be fiscally and economically cost effective, while also responding to the private market as well as the needs of residents?
 
Options are being explored. The recently approved National Affordable Housing Program Project (NAHP), for example, aims to innovate the affordable housing market by addressing bottlenecks and actively engaging the private sector in delivering for unserved segments. So far, Indonesia’s efforts provide valuable lessons. The lessons are:

“Better Planning, Better Cities” – Cities to share smart solutions to urban sustainability

Xueman Wang's picture
Lois Goh / World Bank

There is strength in numbers, the old idiom goes. Indeed, history shows that collaboration fosters ideas and results. Next week, the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities, or GPSC, will convene in New Delhi, India, to again share ideas and build on their collective vision: to work towards shaping cities that are sustainable, thriving, and inclusive through the decades ahead.
 
The gathering starting on October 30 is only the GPSC’s second annual meeting, as we launched the platform just last year in Singapore. Yet the 27 participating cities across 11 countries—and more members are very welcome—are moving ahead with confidence, embarking on innovative programs to realize their vision and galvanizing their national governments to establish platforms of their own. China, Malaysia, and India in Asia, Paraguay and Brazil in Latin America, and other participating cities are actively pursuing sustainable urbanization.
 
This strength in numbers is made possible by staunch supporters. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is integral to the progress of the GPSC, and numerous partners such as UN agencies, development banks, and civil society organizations contribute to its success—amongst them the World Resources Institute, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group (C40).
 
What are the aims of the GPSC? Forging a shared vision for urban sustainability is its overarching goal, and this achievement would not be possible without connecting cities. 
 

In more concrete terms, the GPSC aims to be a global knowledge repository on integrated urban planning – both best practices and lessons learned. The newly launched GPSC website, www.thegpsc.org, hosts a collection of datasets, indicators, and analyses on trends in urbanization. This library of information assists cities in identifying the gaps in urban infrastructure and the provision of basic services. The data collected will improve the cities’ capacity to monitor and report the status of their “sustainability,” and to better formulate and implement strategies.
 
The GPSC’s 2nd annual meeting is organized around the theme of “Better Planning, Better Cities - Smart Solutions to Urban Sustainability,” and this second meeting will focus on using a data-driven approach for planning action. The many scheduled events will follow this approach, including the Mayor’s Roundtable, high-level panel discussions, and in-depth learning events. 

Transit-Oriented Development with Chinese Characteristics: localization as the rule rather than the exception

Jasmine Susanna Tillu's picture
China: More Mobility with Fewer Cars through a GEF Grant

Since our days in school, we have often been told to first define our terms before doing anything else. China is a country that does not shy away from acronyms, and “TOD,” or transit-oriented development—a concept that merges land use and transport planning—is one such acronym that has become wildly popular within the field of urban development.
 
So, recently, when government officials from seven Chinese cities and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development gathered to launch the China Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project on the topic of TOD, it was clear that they all had the same definition of this three-letter acronym.
 
Or did they?
 

International Debt Statistics 2018 shows BRICs doubled bilateral lending commitments to low-income countries in 2016 to $84 billion

World Bank Data Team's picture
The 2018 edition of International Debt Statistics (IDS) has just been published.

IDS 2018 presents statistics and analysis on the external debt and financial flows (debt and equity) of the world’s economies for 2016. It provides more than 200 time series indicators from 1970 to 2016 for most reporting countries. To access the report and related products you can:

This year’s edition is released less than 10 months after the 2016 reference period, making comprehensive debt statistics available faster than ever before. In addition to the data published in multiple formats online, IDS includes a concise analysis of the global debt landscape, which will be expanded on in a series of bulletins over the coming year.

Why monitor and analyze debt?

The core purpose of IDS is to measure the stocks and flows of debts in low- and middle-income countries that were borrowed from creditors outside the country. Broadly speaking, stocks of debt are the current liabilities that require payment of principal and/or interest to creditors outside the country. Flows of debt are new payments from, or repayments to, lenders.

These data are produced as part of the World Bank’s own work to monitor the creditworthiness of its clients and are widely used by others for analytical and operational purposes. Recurrent debt crises, including the global financial crisis of 2008, highlight the importance of measuring and monitoring external debt stocks and flows, and managing them sustainably. Here are three highlights from the analysis presented in IDS 2018:

Net financial inflows to low-and middle income countries grew, but IDA countries were left behind

In 2016, net financial flows into low- and middle-income countries grew to $773 billion - a more than three-fold increase over 2015 levels, but still lower than levels seen between 2012 and 2014.

However, this trend didn’t extend to the world’s poorest countries. Among the group of IDA-only countries, these flows fell 34% to $17.6 billion - their lowest level since 2011. This fall was driven by drops in inflows from bilateral and private creditors.

Book Review: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, by Yuen Yuen Ang

Duncan Green's picture

Following on from yesterday’s book review on an account of Bangladesh’s success, here’s a great book on another developmental superstar – China.

The macro-story on China is well known, but always bears repetition. Emerging from the carnage of the Mao era, China in 1980 had a GDP of $193 per capita, lower than Bangladesh, Chad or Malawi. It’s now the world’s second largest economy, with a thirty fold increase in GDP per capita, based on a textbook-defying combination of one party Communist state and capitalism – in the words of one tongue in cheek official ‘no capitalist state can match our devotion to the capitalist sector.’

Success on this scale inevitably finds many intellectual fathers claiming paternity – China is variously portrayed as a victory for a strong state; free markets; experimentation and for central planning. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap blows the conventional explanations away, drilling down into what actually happened, reconstructing the history of different cities and provinces through years of diligent research.

This book is a triumph, opening a window onto the political economy of China’s astonishing rise that takes as its starting point systems and complexity. Its lessons apply far beyond China’s borders. The author, Yuen Yuen Ang (originally from Singapore) is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan.

Ang starts with a classic developmental chicken and egg problem – which comes first, good institutions or economic prosperity? Different camps within academia and the aid business urge developing countries either to ‘first, get the institutions right’ or ‘first, get growth going’ – and then the rest will follow.

The Global Infrastructure Facility: What is it really and what have we been doing?

Towfiqua Hoque's picture

Photo: Ashim D'silva | Unsplash 

From “Billions to Trillions”, to the Hamburg Principles and Ambitions, to Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), mobilizing private capital to deliver on the sustainable development agenda is in the spotlight. Realizing that constrained public and multilateral development bank (MDB) funding cannot fully address the critical challenges that developing nations face, the World Bank Group is pursuing private sector solutions whenever they can help achieve development goals, in order to reserve scarce public finance for when it’s needed most. This is especially true in the delivery of infrastructure.
 

Understanding transit-oriented development through bike-sharing big data

Wanli Fang's picture
As one of over 20 million people who work and live in Beijing, China, I used to find commuting to work in rush-hour traffic rather painful. However, things have changed dramatically since last year. Now I can bypass the traffic by riding a shared bike to the closest metro station and make better use of public transit. Similar change is happening to my family and friends.

The unprecedented booming of dockless shared bikes in China presents a promising solution to the “last-mile problem” that has perplexed city planners for years: providing easier access to the mass transit system while ensuring good ridership. Thanks to the GPS tracking device installed on thousands of dockless shared bikes, city planners in China are now equipped with new and better information to analyze the demand for—and the performance of—public transit systems. For the first time, city managers can clearly map out the attractiveness and accessibility of metro stations by analyzing individual-level biking trips.

This innovation is good news to efforts to build more livable, sustainable cities through transit-oriented development (TOD). For example, to support the recently launched GEF Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project, we have been working with Mobike, a major bike-sharing company, to conduct an analysis utilizing the data of biking trips around metro stations in our project cities. Below are a few interesting observations:
  • Revisiting the scope of TOD. A commonly accepted textbook definition of the core area of TOD is an 800-meter radius around the metro station or other types of public transit hubs. This definition is based on the distance that can be reached by a 10-minute walk. However, the actual catchment of a metro station can reach a 2-3 km radius when biking prevails, as in Demark and Netherland. Our analysis illustrates that a big chunk of biking trips around metro stations even go beyond the 3km radius (see bright blue traces in Figure 1 below). This indicates that the spatial scope of planning and design around the metro stations should be contextualized. Accordingly, the price premium associated with adjacency to public transit service is more likely to be shared by a broader range of nearby real estate properties than expected.
Figure 1: Biking traces around major metro station in Beijing (left) and Shenzhen (right).

[Read: TOD with Chinese characteristics: localization as the rule rather than the exception] –  which also discusses defining the scope of TOD. 

From Istanbul to Manila—different fault lines, similar challenges

Elif Ayhan's picture
 “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” This was the response given by Sir Edmond Hillary when asked how he and his companion Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mt Everest, when so many before had failed. He believed we could all overcome our biggest challenge simply by deciding to act.

Is it possible for the same sentiment to be applied by government leaders – leaders who have the privilege and responsibility to preside over some of the world’s largest and most dynamic cities, especially those that share a common challenge in terms of seismic risk? Metro Manila, the megacity of the Philippines, the seat of government, and the engine of the national economy, has been destroyed numerous times over the last 500 hundred years by earthquakes, and currently sits upon a fault that is overdue to move. Istanbul, with world-class cultural heritage sites treasured by all, also sits near major fault lines expected to move any day. Tokyo and Wellington, the heart of government, culture, and history, also share exposed locations close to major fault lines.

In Wellington, decades of work – including the current Get Ready week! – have aimed to prepare the city for the next “big one”; but compared to the burgeoning megacities of Manila, Tokyo, or Istanbul, it is a small hill to conquer. How do you prepare these megacities with population of up to 15 million people? How do you climb the mountain of needs to build resilience? According to Sir Hillary, the answer is simple, you need to take the decision to accomplish something extraordinary.

In September 2017, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) through the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries supported a knowledge exchange between Turkey and the Philippines focused on the challenge of building seismic resilience in megacities with high urbanization. For the World Bank, it was clear from the start that seismic risk is a priority on the Urban Resilience Agenda, when Johannes Zutt was able to explain to the visiting delegation the technical details of how base isolation is used to protect critical hospitals in Istanbul. The delegation saw impressive progress made by Turkey and Istanbul, from revised institutional frameworks, strengthened preparedness and response capabilities, and retrofitted schools and hospitals to adapted municipal e-services that ensure that the construction of resilient new buildings are approved fast and with the right safety checks. While massive seismic risk still exists within Istanbul, visible and concrete actions are also underway to improve the safety of its citizens.
 
 

 

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