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Europe and Central Asia

Improving access to agricultural land for the internally displaced

Ifeta Smajic's picture
Credit: International Crisis Group

An estimated 38 million people worldwide are forcefully displaced within the boundaries of their own country. In the majority of cases, internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in protracted displacement. For IDPs fleeing rural areas, loss of land, productive assets and sudden shift towards a non-agricultural lifestyle can be stagnating.

Georgia has some 270,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For them, sustainable livelihoods remain a challenge - 80% of the IDPs in Georgia are unemployed compared to a 15% unemployment rate nationwide (2013 figures).

Many Georgian IDPs would like to engage in agricultural production, but suffer from lack of access to sufficient land for pursuing agricultural livelihoods.

Retreat from mandatory pension funds in Eastern and Central Europe

Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak's picture
Over the next few decades, the consequences of an ageing population will be particularly visible in Central and Eastern Europe. These developments were behind the multi-pillar pension systems reforms at the end of 1990s and at the beginning of the century. After the financial and fiscal crisis of 2008, these reforms were slowed down and partially or fully reversed. In our recent study of this retreat from mandatory pension funds in Central and Eastern European countries, we look at the causes and consequences of these changes.
 

Securing Serbia’s farming future

Bekzod Shamsiev's picture
A farmer in pepper greenhouse, Central Serbia.
Photo: Jutta Benzenberg/World Bank
As Serbia moves to join the European Union, smallholder farmers like Goran Matic are concerned about the challenges of integrating with a highly competitive market of half-a-billion consumers. He is not alone. Many farmers throughout southeastern Europe are asking whether family farms can compete with commercial farms and agribusiness conglomerates and whether “farming heritage" as we know it can survive.
 
There are no simple answers.
 
The opportunities and challenges of EU accession
When economies integrate with foreign markets, trading opportunities, consumer choices and knowledge and technology exchanges increase. However, openness also exerts pressures on industries – including farming – to improve productivity in order to remain in business. Serbia finds itself at this very juncture. The decision to join the European Union (EU) and integrate with the EU’s highly competitive single market of 500 million consumers has raised the stakes for its economy overall, but especially agriculture.

From forgotten Yugos to new engines of growth: Reviving the car industry in South East Europe

John Mackedon's picture
The former Yugoslavia was mainly known for its not-so-successful and cheap cars, primarily the Yugo. In its review of the 50 worst cars of all time, Time magazine referred to the Yugo GV as the “Mona Lisa of bad cars.”

Nevertheless, the car industry played an important role in the economic development of the socialist Yugoslavia, representing a big employer across all former Yugoslav republics. The onset of war in the early 1990s dealt a significant blow to the car industry there, with most the production facilities closing down by the end of that decade.

And then, in the early 2000s, car companies began opening new facilities in the immediate neighborhood (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and the region began producing world renowned brands such as Audi, Mercedes Benz, Renault, and Suzuki. This represented a new opportunity for manufacturers from the region to enter new supply chains - relying on skilled and experienced labor. On top of this, FIAT also opened a new factory in Serbia, further spurring demand for locally produced automotive parts.
 

Remnants of the Soviet past: Restrictions on women's employment in the Commonwealth of Independent States

Alena Sakhonchik's picture


My father is a long-distance trucker based in Belarus. As a young girl, I spent long hours on the road with him. I loved traveling to neighboring and faraway cities and—even though I could barely reach the pedals at the time—dreamed of becoming a truck driver myself one day. Life ended up taking me on another path, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned that the option of being a truck driver was never open to me to begin with.

Why?

Because my native country prohibits women from being truck drivers, one of the 182 professions out of bounds for women.

As Georgia innovates, hidden talents are revealed

Tako Kobakhidze's picture
Tech Park Georgia

​On top of Mount Mtatsminda, overlooking Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi, the country’s future innovation is being prepared as today meets tomorrow.

Let me tell you about Tech Park of Georgia!

I recently visited there with some World Bank colleagues. We were hosted by Mariam Lashkhi, a former colleague who now leads the Department of International Relations at Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) overseeing the Tech Park. Mariam, who was involved in the development of Georgia’s Competitiveness and Innovation Project while at the Bank, gave us a brief history of GITA, created in 2013.

It all began with an idea to support Georgia’s government and the private sector in advancing innovation-led growth of key sectors of economy. Ultimately, the goal was to drive competitiveness and ensure longer-term sustainable growth, with a focus on job creation.

What does it take to modernize government administration? Lessons from Romania

Irina Schuman's picture


Romania has transformed tremendously in the past decades.  Like its neighbors, the former transition economy has decisively committed to European Union (EU) integration. This has opened up great opportunities for both its citizens and its economy.  

This transformation has had a positive impact on agriculture and rural areas. The European Common Agricultural Policy provided a sound policy framework, emphasizing investment in agriculture and rewarding environmentally friendly farming. It also drove institutional change by introducing modern IT systems and practices for the management of EU funds, as well as by committing €24 billion for the Romanian farmers and rural dwellers through 2020.

Yet, the transformation has proven unequal in the agriculture and rural sector, as well as in the sector administration.

Why was this the case?

Good governance and improved institutions can drive Europe’s growth

Elisabetta Capannelli's picture


I was in London last week for a conference hosted by the European Commission and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Its purpose was to take stock of what has worked in regional development in the European Union (EU), look at existing institutional ingredients, and explore the policy mix that could help bring Europe’s lagging regions closer to the center of economic development.

What are lagging regions?

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

Bassam Sebti's picture

He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
 

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A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
 

Panama Papers underscore need for fair tax systems

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

High-rises and hotel buildings in Panama City, Panama. © Gerardo Pesantez/World Bank

The so-called “Panama Papers” scandal reminds us that concealing wealth and avoiding tax payments is neither uncommon nor — in many cases — illegal. But the embarrassing leak exposes something else: The public trust is breached when companies, the rich and the powerful can hide their money without breaking the law. If this breach is left unaddressed, those who aren’t rich enough to hide money will be less willing to pay and contribute to the social contract in which taxes are exchanged for quality services.

As finance minister in my home country of Indonesia, I saw firsthand how a weak tax system eroded public trust and enabled crony capitalism. Shadow markets arose for highly subsidized fuel, family connections secured jobs, and bribes helped public servants beef up their salaries. Tax avoidance among the elites was common and the country couldn’t mobilize the resources we needed to build infrastructure, create jobs, and fight poverty.


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