Whether you'll be attending the upcoming World Water Week in person or following online, there's a lot to look forward to this year. This year's theme focuses on Energy and Water and along with Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The World Bank Group is excited to join as a collaborating partner.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Role reversal as African technology expands in Europe
Africans have long used technology developed abroad, but now a Kenyan cash transfer network which bypasses banks is being adopted in Europe. The M-Pesa mobile money transfer system which allows clients to send cash with their telephones has transformed how business is done in east Africa, and is now spreading to Romania. "From east Africa to eastern Europe, that's quite phenomenal when you think about it," Michael Joseph, who heads Vodafone's Mobile Money business, told AFP in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. "I think that this is something the rest of the world can look at, to say that there are ideas that can emanate out of the developing world, and take it to the developed world."
New Report for Latin America and the Caribbean Freedom of expression and media development: Where are we heading?
Over the past six years, Latin America and the Caribbean continued to comply with the basic conditions that guarantee freedom of expression and media freedom, although the situation has not been homogeneous throughout the 33 countries in the region. Even where strong legislation has existed, implementation has remained a challenge. Several Latin American countries have approved new media laws that have been perceived by some as an opportunity to make the media landscape more pluralistic and less concentrated, and by others as an opportunity for the governments to act against media outlets that have been critical of their administrations. The same debate has applied to steps to revise out-of-date media laws, including those left over from military dictatorships.
These questions might not be the typical things you would contemplate when eating a salad, but rapid urbanization and changes in climate, agricultural, and food production patterns are raising a host of alarming questions for many. How is the world going to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050, when farm lands are being converted into industrial and commercial use, and extreme weather events are jeopardizing our future resources?
This is a more daunting problem for China, where under-investment in the food industry and environmental pollution have aggravated the situation. A recent official Chinese government report issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Land and Resources shows that more than 16% of China’s soil and 19.4% of farm land is polluted, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
A few weeks ago, the working group tasked with drafting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) issued its official list of recommended goals and targets for consideration by the UN General Assembly in September. It is an extraordinary milestone: As far as I know, it is the first time that metrics are defined through a robust intergovernmental process. The Millennium Development Goals, which will expire next year, were the result of a very different process. The international community is showing a growing appetite for setting targets and tracking results to ensure concrete action on the ground.
While the ultimate outcome of the SDG process is still uncertain, sharpening our collective focus on results is good news for the sustainability of our planet and for creating the conditions not only for pulling people out of poverty, but for enabling rich, productive lives. It is a cliché, but it is true: what gets measured, matters.
It was getting dark and the mist engulfing the jungle made the challenge of spotting the stripes even harder. My guide, a trained local tribal youth, was excited and kept telling stories about the sights and sounds of the jungle. In all fairness, I had enjoyed the trek. Every turn or straight path presented a beautiful landscape, majestic trees, bamboo thickets, gurgling streams, colorful birds, distant animal calls and the gentle fresh breeze. Sighting a tiger would only complete the experience. Will we? Won’t we, see one?
In many ways, the experience of sighting a tiger reflects the challenge its very survival is facing! Will it? Won’t it, survive? But more importantly, will someone notice if it is not around? Fortunately, I was in Periyar Tiger Reserve in the southern Indian State of Kerala, a turnaround success story where the World Bank’s India Ecodevelopment Project significantly increased income opportunities for the locals, improved reserve management and encouraged community participation in co-managing the reserve. Though this happened a decade ago, even today the incomes are sustained and communities are closely engaged! But such success stories are few and far between.
Economists speak a secret language. Markets, management, supply, costs, returns, rents – words I think I know, until I see them on a PowerPoint slide with a graph and an equation that starts with a sigma. Suddenly, it becomes clear these markets aren’t only the ones where I buy my peaches and rent is something more than a monthly check.
This past week I attended the bi-annual conference for the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade. The hottest topics in fisheries economics were presented – the global state and outlook of aquaculture, capture fishery models, artisanal fishing, governance, rights based management, individual transferrable quotas, the impact of climate change, and dozens of others. Mostly comprising academics, the talks were technical, pithy, and representative of latest. An honest opportunity for discourse amongst equals to share and vet their work on ocean economies.
As a non-economist, I was in the minority here (though not a complete outsider – ecologists, trade experts, and fishermen were also in the mix). In spite of this lack of ‘expertise’ it is clear that the issue of ocean health is an economic one. We lose billions of dollars every year from mismanaging our fisheries and degrading ocean habitats. That money comes out of everyone’s our pockets. From small-scale fishers to large industry fleets to average consumers, we all pay the price. Economics can indeed play a large role in solving our ocean health problems, how challenging it is to get economists to agree on these solutions is another matter…
Thanks to Urbanization, Tomorrow's Megalopolises Will Be in Africa and Asia
Tokyo will still be the world’s largest city in 2030, but it will have many more contenders on its heels. According to a fascinating new report from the United Nations, the globe will have 41 “mega-cities” -- defined as those with 10 million or more inhabitants -- up from 28 now. Although the world’s largest urban centers have historically been concentrated in the developed world, fast-paced urbanization in Africa and Asia means that the megalopolises of tomorrow will be found in the developing world. By 2030, Asia and Africa will host nine of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the report.
Mobilizing Private Investment for Post-2015 Sustainable Development
The sustainable development goals are likely to have a more ambitious scope than the Millennium Development Goals. Accordingly, they will need a more ambitious financing for development strategy that can mobilize much more public, private, and “blended” finance. Very rough estimates indicate that at least $1 trillion of additional annual investment is required in developing and emerging economies. At first glance this might appear to be a large number, but it represents only approximately 10 percent of extra investment above current levels. It is clear that official development assistance, on its own, would be incapable of meeting financing needs, even if the target to provide 0.7 percent of gross national income were to be achieved by all developed countries. But official development assistance (ODA) could, through leverage and catalytic support, help mobilize substantially more private capital.
World Bank Vice President for the East Asia and the Pacific region Axel van Trotsenburg calls for joint efforts to tackle climate change in Vietnam.
In our messy, multipolar world, daunting problems like responding to climate change, feeding a growing population, and fostering viable states in the wake of conflict were among the topics covered in yesterday’s conversation between Madeleine Albright and Kaushik Basu at the World Bank. Adding levity, the former US secretary of state also spoke of Kim Jong Il’s elevator shoes and bouffant hair, her role in lifting a ban on Iranian caviar, carpets and pistachios, and the byzantine math of the UN Security Council.
Kaushik held up an interesting mirror for Albright, given his own multidisciplinary perspective as a former economic policy advisor for India (a big cacophonous democracy), as a professor keen to ignite young minds to think creatively about the world, and as a big thinker at an international institution. Most fascinating to me were his questions about the moral imperatives that guided her decisions in the Balkans as well as her ability to grapple with everything from nuclear negotiations to sanctions to a tenuous mission to Pyongyang in October 2000.