To find innovative solutions to water and sanitation development challenges, the World Bank and the Water and Sanitation Program are reaching out to new, rather unlikely partners. Computer programmers, designers and other information technology specialists were invited by the World Bank and various technology partners to compete for 48 hours in 10 cities around the world this month. Their aim: to create the easily deployable, scalable, and sustainable technological tools that respond to specific water and sanitation challenges in developing countries.
Being a woman in Latin America is no longer a synonym for scarce job and schooling opportunities. On the contrary, Latin American women have made remarkable progress over the recent decades in the labor -where 70 million additional women have got jobs— and in education, where they have outperform men, according to the World Bank’s study Work and Family: Latin America and the Caribbean Women in Search of a New Balance.
To discuss the report I interviewed UNWomen’s and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. She told me that these days “gender equality” is a notion widely accepted in the region.
It is hard, especially on the eve of only the second democratic elections in DR Congo, to find a topic about which a diverse group of distinguished Congolese agree. So, we expected little agreement when we brought together a diverse group of Congolese to contextualize the September 14, 2011 seminal speech of World Bank President Robert Zoellick at George Washington University on the theme “Beyond Aid.”
We were hoping to promote a public debate on policy choices and foster demand for good governance. We also aimed to set the foundation for the implementation of our Africa Strategy in this country. Participants included Congolese intellectuals; renowned politicians; parliamentarians; a respected cleric; renowned journalists; a lady who once ran for president; a key member of the current government; a prominent lawyer; and a women’s rights advocate.
Our guests dealt with the speech as if it had been written about DR Congo. The discussions went further. The talk could have been convened under the title “Beyond, Beyond Aid”.
With the global recovery slow to pick up speed, the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) isn’t exactly an uplifting read. However, for those of us with an eye on the developing world there are some bright spots: the low-income-countries (LICs) in Africa, for example, have returned to their pre-crisis growth rates and their economies are expected to expand by a respectable 6.5 percent in 2012.
Despite this seemingly good news, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. The WEO attributes the quick rebound to the fact that the African LICs were, “largely shielded from the global financial crisis owing to their limited integration into global manufacturing and financial networks.” Although limited international exposure is a boon in the short-term, it also signals trouble down the road.
Not a month goes by without some sort of bad news about foreign aid. Examples of incompetence , abuse of funds by corrupt leaders, and distorted incentives abound. These stories fuel a deep skepticism of foreign aid. In this view, perverse effects dominate – and end up weakening, rather than encouraging, growth and development. If one accepts this view, then it is logical to turn off the poisoned tap of foreign aid. But are such views well founded?
The answer is no.
I am sitting in a conference room in Panama and the room is so cold it just might start snowing. I can barely write, my fingers are so stiff, and this makes me wonder about the psychology of being cold in a hot climate…about the excessive use of energy while oil hovers around US$86 per barrel and the Earth’s temperature creeps higher.
Since it is often beyond a question of comfort, is it a statement about our rights to consume, about our control over our environment, about wealth? Whatever the cause, the citizens of Mexico City and Managua share the habit with those of Manila and Miami.
Health sector inequalities and financial protection – is UC enough?
Since the publication of the 2010 World Health Report “Health Systems Financing: The Path to Universal Coverage”, the “universal coverage” (UC) agenda has accelerated worldwide.
In this post, I ask how far UC is likely to narrow health sector inequalities and improve financial protection. In the next two I pick up a couple of other themes: the need to look beyond the quantity of care to the quality of care; and how far we should try to incorporate the cost of forgone care into a measure of financial protection.
Improving the Impact of Development Assistance Starts With Geography
Where are World Bank projects located and are they making a tangible difference in the lives of developing country communities?
An expanded version of the Mapping for Results (M4R) platform was launched during the 2011 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings to better enable donors, governments and citizens in answering these pressing questions.
Figure 1: World Bank financed activities in Nepal with poverty map.
Overlaying indicators on poverty, education and health with geographic locations of World Bank financed projects, the M4R platform helps policy makers and civil society groups visualize the distribution of projects, identify beneficiaries and monitor results on development outcomes. Building upon the initial foundation laid in October 2010, the new M4R platform expands the number of countries mapped from 79 to 144, including more than 30,000 locations related to active World Bank-financed projects.
In our last blog, we asked whether it is possible for an infrastructure investment in Latin America and the Caribbean to hit the triple win: spur growth, aid societal well-being, and help the environment.
One young woman, on the World Bank Facebook page, posted this plea: "We as citizens have to demand these types of investments from our governments: modern roads, clean energy, investments that create employment without contaminating." ("Nosotros como ciudadanos tenemos que exigir ese tipo de inversiones a nuestros gobiernos: vías modernas, energía limpia que dé trabajo y no contamine.")
I take this as a signal that we should move beyond growth, so...
Can a new set of brains bring a new set of solutions to water problems? Water is at the heart of some of the world's most pressing development challenges. For example:
- human development: diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.
- energy security: hydropower is the only renewable energy source currently deployed at scale
- food security: agriculture will face increasingly powerful demands to allocate water to urban, industrial and environmental services.
- urban development: droughts and floods will grow more intense and frequent in cities.
Last week, President Zoellick gave a speech at George Washington University in which he outlined his vision of how the aid agenda should adapt to what he described as “shifting tectonic plates,” which has seen the world change dramatically since 1944 when the Bretton Woods system was established. This shift has created a world in which developing countries are now the drivers of the world economy while the developed world is facing severe economic headwinds.
In Zoellick’s vision of a “world beyond aid,” international assistance would be “integrated with—and connected to—global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by investment and entrepreneurship. The goal would not be charity, but mutual interest in building more poles of growth.”
Before I started working on the World Developmnet Report 2012 (WDR), I often thought of gender equality being at the periphery of my work on development. Like many other World Bank colleagues, I would have told you: “Yes, gender equality matters and it is a good thing.” But in my mind gender equality was something that happened pretty much automatically with economic development. If asked about policy priorities, I would say: focus on growth, on creating jobs, on reducing poverty and improving equity in opportunities, and gender equality will come right along. But I was wrong. Gender equality is not just something that ‘happens’ with development. Gender equality is both fundamental to and a means for development. And countries need to work hard at achieving it, because it does not come about on its own with economic growth.
Women in development is becoming a front-burner issue and it's exciting to see the many formats that new research, engagement and campaigning is taking as economists, policymakers, advocacy CSOs, grassroots groups, international organizations and socially responsible corporations are getting on the band wagon.
Oxfam's 'From Poverty to Power' blog has a new 'choose this video' post by Duncan Green that asks readers to vote on three short clips that make the case for empowering girls. One is by Nike and the other by the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund. There's also a parody video.
Every profession has its fantasy Triple-Win. For a gambler at the horse races, it’s the Trifecta. For musicians, it is a song that breaks hearts, moves feet and sells records. Yet even we geeks have our dreams. In the field of infrastructure, in Latin America and elsewhere, the ultimate triple-win is an investment that
1. spurs economic growth
2. contributes to social well-being, and
3. helps the environment.
“Impossible!” you say. “The laws of nature could not possibly allow for growth that contributes to society’s well-being without taxing our natural endowment.” Is there no way we can unstick ourselves from the Kuznets Curve and uncover investments that spur Green and Inclusive Growth?
Working for the two Congos – DR Congo, Kinshasa and Congo Republic, Brazzaville (the closest two capital cities in the world) – over the last three-and-a-half years has been like running a fast-track marathon. Everything was urgent and important. Time was never our friend.
Yet, when I settled in Kinshasa as the first World Bank Country Director to serve the two Congos in-country, I was convinced that I would find a few weeks now and then to catch my breath. As I am leaving, I know better. The two Congos demand all the time and energy we have… and more, to make a dent in the many development challenges of the countries.
As I leave Kinshasa for my next post as World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, I will surely miss the dynamic and hard working people of the Congos. Happily, I will take indelible memories with me. I will forever remember my first field trip to the Province Orientale in the northern part of DR Congo. It came on the heels of my assuming service in Kinshasa at the end of January 2008. I remember the big smile of farmers in several villages along the 750km road we were helping to rebuild in order to reestablish the Eastern Corridor with Uganda and Kenya. “We are happy,” the farmer told me about the road, beaming from cheek to cheek. He explained that, only a few days before, he had seen for the first time in seven years, a car coming from Bunia (a town in the same province). Another farmer noted: “Before the road was built, a trip to Kisangani would cost us $10. We are now paying $2. Now we can travel faster and sell our products more easily.”