With newspaper headlines focused on violence and political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa region, it is easy to forget that an annual beginning is also underway. Children from the Mashreq to the Maghreb have started going back to school. Parents are buying school supplies for little ones and millions of teenagers are going down a path that may shape their future careers. This week, Voices and Views presents Back to School 2013 - a series focused on the challenges that both teachers and students face in the region, and the policies and programs that can change a generation.
The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn't be forgotten in these important discussions.
From the World Bank office in Tripoli, Representative Marouane El Abassi outlines his commitment to helping Libya build a new state, with a strategy that ensures the right skills and expertise are delivered at the right time.
About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank. All interviews have been edited for clarity.
The interview below was conducted with Gozde Isik, a Trade Economist in the Africa Region Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network. She spoke with us about the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) Update for Sierra Leone and how these studies help Least Developed Countries (LDCs) prioritize and sequence trade-related interventions and integrate trade into poverty-reduction strategies. Gozde is part of the Africa Region's Trade Practice and co-author of “De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services” and “Why Does Cargo Spend Weeks in Sub-Saharan African Ports?”
"Syria's neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan in particular, have shown tremendous hospitality and tremendous generosity [in hosting the influx of Syrian refugees]. The international community needs to help them carry that burden, as they should not have to bear it alone." Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director.
Conflict is a major cause of poverty in the developing world today. In addition to endangering lives, conflict disrupts the functioning of an economy in many ways. It destroys infrastructure, prevents children from going to school, and closes factories. A little-studied economic impact is conflict’s tendency to restrict the mobility of goods and labor within and across borders. These restrictions are caused both by insecurity associated with the conflict and by explicit barriers that constrain the mobility of people and goods. Our recent World Bank study measures the harm such barriers have caused the economy of the West Bank by limiting mobility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The recent political unrest and violence occurring across the world have revived an old question, one that is so straightforward that it rarely gets a straightforward and convincing answer: Does democracy fuel or quench violence? For decades, sociologists, historians, political scientists, criminologists, and economists have hypothesized numerous associations, predicting just about any result.
Let’s focus on democracy’s relationship with crime. Democracies have been predicted to fuel crime (conflict theory); decrease crime (civilization theory); initially raise and then decrease crime (modernization perspective); have no impact at all (null hypothesis); or have an unpredictable impact depending on the development of their political institutions (comparative advantage theory).
In a recently published paper, I argue that the many existing explanations relating crime and democracy suffer from what I describe as an “identification” problem. The different explanations are not necessarily exclusionary in terms of their determinants, mechanisms, and predictions, which makes testing those explanations a rather difficult business. Furthermore, predictions are imprecise. This is unsurprising when dealing with concepts as fluid as democratization, political transitions, and democratic maturity. Arguments talk vaguely of early and late stages and of short or medium terms to describe the processes’ dynamics. The result is a broad range of predictions consistent with various hypotheses simultaneously.
Today in Sana’a, the international community and the Government of Yemen once again came together to track progress on Yemen’s transition and the agreements between the country and its donors. The 2012 peace initiative determined the transition to include a national dialogue bringing together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country (this is already underway), the drafting of a new constitution, and new elections. All of this is meant to be completed by February, 2014.
For its level of per-capita income (around $1,500), the Palestinian territories have among the best social indicators in the world. These achievements are all the more remarkable given the difficult economic circumstances facing the Palestinian territories. In contrast to other countries such as India, Indonesia or Peru, teachers in the Palestinian territories do teach and clinics are staffed with health workers.
The urgent need for help in coping with the massive influx of refugees is especially clear in towns like Mafraq near the Syrian border.