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How to capture public life in public spaces?

Fen Wei's picture
Photo credit: Lois Goh/ World Bank
Urbanization and economic growth go hand in hand.  Cities are turning into centers of attraction in developing countries and their population is rising constantly. In such cities, we often see in a city a mix of old and new, slow and fast: Street vendors hawking their wares by luxury shopping malls; highways segmentizing parks and walkways; high-rise crowding out traditional neighborhoods, etc. However, we do not often see a well-balanced mix that serves all urban dwellers with a wide array of needs, economically and socially.
What are the ingredients of a good urban life, or rather, what does it take for a city to make the public happy? The answer to this is multifaceted. Cities need to be accessible, vibrant, and create safe public spaces to meet public needs.
As UN-Habitat’s Charter of Public Space states, public spaces are a key element of individual and social well-being, the places of a community’s collective life, particularly in situations of poverty and limited public resources, such as those in the developing countries. The Charter also highlights that participation of citizens and in particular of communities of residents is of crucial importance for the maintenance and management of public spaces. While there might be no objection to this statement, it is also true that it has been easily overlooked, especially in developing countries, for the sake of “economic efficiency.”

How to effectively manage metropolitan areas?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
​Today, a quarter of the world’s population lives in urban “agglomerations”—supersized metropolitan areas that cut across jurisdictional boundaries and bring together one or more cities along with their surrounding areas.

These metropolitan areas face a common challenge: effectively coordinating planning, infrastructure development, and service delivery across multiple jurisdictions. This is particularly difficult in developing countries, which often lack the necessary legal, institutional, and governance apparatus to undertake such coordination. The New Urban Agenda issued by the Habitat III conference in 2016 identified metropolitan planning and management as one of the most critical needs to ensure sustainable urbanization.

Fortunately, there is growing evidence and good practice from various countries on how to effectively manage and govern metropolitan areas. To help spread existing good practice and co-create new solutions, the World Bank has been supporting a community of practice (CoP) on metropolitan governance, or MetroLab, which brings together officials from metropolitan areas in both developing and developed countries for peer-peer knowledge and experience sharing.  Since its launch in 2013, MetroLab has held eight meetings in various cities, including Bangkok, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Seoul.

​The most recent meeting took place in Tokyo from January 30 through February 2. Organized by the World Bank’s Tokyo Development Learning Center, the Tokyo MetroLab brought together mayors, city planners, and finance officials from nine developing cities. They were joined by experts from the World Bank, New York’s Regional Plan Association, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and Advancity—Paris’ Smart Metropolis Hub.

In this video, Lydia Sackey-Addy, one of the participating officials from Accra, Ghana, as well as the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Lead Urban Economist Maria Angelica Sotomayor (@masotomayor) tell us how they are working together to make the Accra metropolitan area more resilient and sustainable for its residents.


The biology of budgeting: to strengthen accountability, think ecosystems

Paolo de Renzio's picture

There are few better ways to reveal whether a government’s rhetoric matches reality than examining how it raises and spends public money. Are funds being spent on the things it said they would be? Are these investments achieving the outcomes that were intended? In short, are government budgets accountable?   

The traditional model for how accountability functions is rather simple. "Horizontal accountability" describes the oversight exerted over the executive arm of government by independent state bodies such as parliaments and supreme audit institutions. "Vertical accountability" describes the influence citizens hold through the ballot box. 

Between elections and outside of formal institutions, however, opportunities for influencing how governments manage public resources are limited. As a consequence, this simple vertical/horizontal model has proved increasingly inadequate for capturing how budget accountability works (or doesn’t) in the real world; this is especially true in developing countries, where democratic processes and formal oversight institutions can be somewhat fragile and ineffective. 

Want dramatic road safety results? Look to South Korea.

Nak Moon Sung's picture
When looking to improve road safety for children around the world, it is clear that the experience of South Korea has valuable lessons to offer.

To start, the numbers speak for themselves. In 1992, 1,566 kids (14 years old and under) were killed in road crashes in South Korea. By 2014, children deaths dramatically decreased to only 53, the equivalent of an almost 97 percent reduction over that period of time. No other country that we know of has experienced such a remarkable reduction in only 22 years.
Decreasing road fatalities in South Korea, 1990-2015

What made this achievement possible?

Although there isn't a single answer, the evidence shows that comprehensive policies played a crucial role in reducing children deaths due to road and traffic injuries.

We must be bold to improve learning in classrooms

Jim Yong Kim's picture
A young student in Côte d'Ivoire shows off his schoolwork. © Ami Vitale/Word Bank

Education is one of the surest means to end extreme poverty in our time. Yet, 121 million children today remain out of school. These young people are the hardest to reach—due to poverty, gender barriers, remoteness, and disability. We must make a new concerted push to bring all children into the classroom.

In addition to this challenge of improving attendance and access, we face an even tougher problem ahead: ensuring that children are learning while they’re in school. The sad truth is that most education systems are not serving the poorest children well. An estimated 250 million children cannot read or write, despite having attended school for years. This is a tragic failure of our educational aspirations for the world’s youth.

Prospects Weekly: Data releases suggests that capital good orders appear to be holding firm

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
Recent data releases suggests  that capital good orders from developing countries  appear to be holding firm, despite heightened  uncertainty in the global economy. Sovereign bond spreads for emerging markets have narrowed recently, amid bolder attempts to address the eurozone debt crisis. While the decline in spreads is welcome, their sensitivity to events in Europe is worrisome.