As I reported in my last post, Jim Kim’s arrival as World Bank President has reinvigorated the debate about the idea of the World Bank being a ‘knowledge bank’. In the post, I argued that the knowledge produced by the Bank – whether gleaned from its lending operations, or from its research and other analytic work – is a global public good, and that we should therefore assess the success of the institution in its knowledge work not in terms of how specific ‘client’ governments value the outputs of its knowledge work but rather in terms of how people around the world use and value them.
world development report
As a junior member of the team who produced the forthcoming East Asia and Pacific companion to the World Development Report 2012 “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific”, I was excited to present its findings in the Pacific. After spending months reading, writing, reviewing and revising our findings and content, I had a plethora of questions waiting to be answered about the impact of our work: How would our audience receive it? Will our findings, based on painstakingly collected data and research, be adapted to the reality of gender and development in their country? Will they be able to use these reports to continue working toward gender equality in all aspects of life? Will our reports help people, namely women, lead more productive and fulfilling lives?
Last month I went to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji with the rest of the team to share and discuss our findings with members of government, the media, civil society, students and our donor partners.
The World Bank has just published its annual World Development Report, something it has been doing for more than three decades. [Disclosure: this economist has been contributing comments to early drafts of the WDR for the past 20 years.] The new volume is about security and development. It says that societies are constantly under internal and external “stresses”—think corruption, youth unemployment, racial discrimination, religious competition, foreign invasion, and international terrorism.
Nigel Roberts, co-director of the World Development Report 2011, blogs on the report’s release today over on the Bank's Conflict and Development blog. "We’ve estimated that 1.5 billion people live in areas experiencing or threatened by organized violence; that’s roughly a quarter of the world’s population," he writes.
>WDR Webcast and Panel Discussions: April 14
>World Development Report
Equality between men and women matters for development, which is why the 2012 World Development Report (WDR) will focus on this vital topic. Since the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is March 8, we thought it an auspicious day to launch the WDR 2012 website.
Gender was chosen as the focus for next year’s WDR in part because gender equality can lead to better development outcomes and because, as Amartya Sen asserted, development is a process of expanding freedoms equally for all individuals. This view assumes that gender equality is a core goal in and of itself and that people’s welfare shouldn’t be determined by their birthplace or whether or not they were born male or female.
The 2012 WDR will analyze the wide swath of literature on gender and development and it will highlight the impressive progress in gender indicators on many fronts. However, it will also reveal that in many domains—whether in the realms of power and decision making or maternal health – outcomes for women have improved very slowly or not at all.
The Economist carried a couple of stories recently about how two hitherto major institutions in my home country (newspapers and pubs) have been forced to adapt in the face of changes in public preferences. Many didn’t—as a result newspaper circulation and pub numbers have both fallen dramatically. The newspapers and pubs that did survive operate very different business models from the newspapers and pubs in existence even 10 years ago.
Some data I’ve assembled make me wonder whether—like the newspaper and pub—the development-agency flagship might not also be an institution in need of reform.
Most big development and international agencies have a flagship. The World Bank launched its World Development Report in 1978. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook started two years later. The UNDP launched its Human Development Report in 1990, and WHO followed with its World Health Report five years later. Several other UN agencies have annual or periodic flagship reports too.
Update: This post has generated a very interesting discussion in a different blog. See it here.
I gave a lunch talk at a recent conference of civil society and technology people organized by the Tech@State people at the U.S. State Department. I thought I’d share it more widely.
In the old days—that is, the 1950s and 1960s—development was about correcting market failures. Influenced by the “big push” theories of economists like Rosenstein-Rodan, post-war Keynesian economics and the apparent success of the Soviet Union, policymakers in developing countries saw the role of government as providing public goods (bridges, roads and ports), addressing externalities (protecting “infant industries”) and redistributing income to poor people (by, for instance, keeping food prices low). Donors supported these countries by financing some of the public goods—a bridge, say. Knowledge assistance consisted of helping to identify the market failure, and then designing the “optimal bridge”.
|Some recipients of a scholarship given to young girls in Cambodia at the end of primary school. The program has had a significant effect on girls’ secondary enrollment. (photo by Deon Filmer)
Those of us who have had the pleasure of raising an adolescent girl – and survived the experience – might blanch at the thought of a program to stimulate education that gave her, rather than the doting parent, a grant equivalent to 3% of the family’s average per capita monthly consumption. And yet, that’s exactly what a policy experiment, conducted by my friend Berk Ozler and other researchers, did in Malawi. What’s more, they found that raising these girl-targeted cash transfers increased school attendance much more than raising those given to parents.
Empowering women with resources has long been recognized as a powerful weapon to safeguard investments in human capital. Research has shown that transfers to women have a more powerful effect than to men in raising school attendance and ensuring that kids are immunized. But more recent research, like Berk et al.’s, is showing that policies aimed directly at adolescent girls and young women may have an even greater effect, not only in encouraging schooling but in ensuring reproductive health. Pascaline Dupas’ policy experiment in Kenya showed that simply giving young women information showing that older men were more likely to be HIV-positive led them to eschew partnering with ‘sugar daddies’.
This year's World Bank World Development Report focuses on climate change and its effects on international development. The report emphasizes that developing countries are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, and that a “climate-smart” world is possible if we act now, act together, and act differently.
Yesterday at the Annual Meetings in Istanbul, climate change experts addressed some of the issues from the World Development Report. World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin, Norwegian State Secretary for International Development H.E. Hakon Gulbrandsen, and WDR Co-Director Marianne Fay spoke about the impact of the changing climate, re-iterating that developing countries will face 75 to 80 percent of the potential damage from global climate change.
To find out more, watch the full webcast of the press conference, or visit the WDR 2010 website. To learn more about the World Bank's work on the topic, visit the new Climate Change beta site or the climate change blog, Development in a Changing Climate.
Every fall, Governors of the World Bank Group and the IMF meet to discuss progress on the work of the two institutions. The joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee and the International Monetary and Financial Committee are also convened.
This year’s meetings will focus on the impact of the financial crisis and the ensuing global recession on developing countries, as well as solutions to help countries hit hard by the downturns in capital flows, trade, remittances, and tourism.
Governors are expected to discuss the Bank’s financial capacity as it continues to meet the demand from countries coping with the crisis. In fiscal year 2009, the Bank Group committed nearly $60 billion to help developing countries, which marked a 54 percent increase over the previous year and was a record high.
Other issues on the agenda include the impact of climate change on developing countries and the World Bank's role, against the backdrop of the upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. Climate change complicates efforts to reduce poverty in developing countries, but a “climate smart” world is possible if we act now, act together, and act differently, according to the latest World Development Report.
Governors are expected to reflect on the results of IDA15 to date. The International Development Association (IDA) is part of the World Bank that provides grants and no-interest loans to the poor countries. A mid-term review of IDA15 gets underway in November.
After five years in Indonesia, my family and I have left this wonderful country and moved to Kenya. The last five years have been excellent years for Indonesia. The economy stabilized, growth resumed and services started to improve, although modestly and not in all areas. Indonesia still remains an underrated country, but this may change.