Soon will be January 1, 2015. Most of us will make New Year’s resolutions and most of us will fail to keep them. Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. But it turns out that we are much more likely to make good on our resolutions if we decide to build upon our strengths rather than focus on fixing what’s wrong. This insight is all the more important if we combine it with the intriguing view that it is the depth of our strengths, not the absence of weaknesses, which makes us successful. People are successful not because they are perfect but because they have deep strengths. What if this was also the case for countries?
With this in mind I turn my attention to some of the strengths of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three countries that have recently put together their “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle.” The Plan is in part a response to the well-known security challenges facing those countries and the challenges posed by the surge in unaccompanied migrant children but it is also an opportunity to focus on the strengths of the Northern Triangle of Central America and how to develop them even further. And when one goes beyond the headlines one discovers a variety of success stories.
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
1. Raising More Fish to Meet Rising Demand
- natural capital
- food security
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
Back in the 1930s, Sri Lanka thought it would be a good idea to give everyone free access to health care. More than 75 years later, as the global health community bangs the drum for universal health coverage (UHC), Sri Lankans can be forgiven for letting out a yawn and wondering what all the fuss is about. But as shown by a workshop organized in Colombo last week to mark the first World UHC Day, the concept of universal health coverage (“all people receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship”) does still have relevance here.
Start with the history. By 1960 Sri Lanka’s health indicators were already well above the curve for its income level, and it was close to having the best health outcomes in developing Asia. It started the MDG era in 1990 with a level of child mortality that was lower than where most Asian countries – including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and its South Asian neighbors India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – will finish it in 2015. Vaccination rates are above 99%. And all this was achieved without results-based financing, conditional cash transfers, or today’s other proposed silver bullet solutions for improving health.
A year ago, we polled Future Development bloggers for predictions on the coming year (2014). Looking back, we find that many unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) events had major economic impact.
We missed the developments in Ukraine and Russia, the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the collapse in oil prices and their attendant effects on economic growth. At the same time, we picked the winner of the soccer World Cup, and got many of the technology trends right. Perhaps economists are better at predicting non-economic events.
Here’s the scorecard on the seven predictions made:
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Russian Federation
- United States
Women make up almost half the world's labor force and perform most of its unpaid care work, for children, the elderly, and the disabled. They also earn less and own less than men — especially land and housing. And they face enormous constraints in the world of work — from laws that prevent them from opening bank accounts to social norms that push them into lower-paying, less secure jobs.
As a result women are more vulnerable to poverty than men.
The limited availability of data on poverty and inequality poses major challenges to the monitoring of the World Bank Group’s twin goals – ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. According to a recently completed study, for nearly one hundred countries at most two poverty estimates are available over the past decade.Worse still, for around half of them there was either one or no poverty estimate available.* Increasing the frequency of data on poverty is critical to effectively monitoring the Bank’s twin goals.
Against this background, the science of “Big Data” is often looked to as providing a potential solution. A famous example of this science is “Google Flu Trends (GFT)”, which uses search outcomes of Google to predict flu outbreaks. This technology has proven extremely quick to produce predictions and is also very cost-effective. The rapidly increasing volumes of raw data and the accompanying improvement of computer science have enabled us to fill other kinds of data gaps in ways that we could not even have dreamt of in the past.
Foreign access rarely receives good press. Although over half of the world’s exclusive economic zones are subject to some form of foreign fishing arrangement, there is a perception that industrialized nations are "giving with one hand while taking away with the other." Criticism abounds regarding the role that foreign fleets play in overexploiting coastal state fish stocks, in engaging in illegal and unreported activity, in contributing to conflicts with small-scale fisheries and in generally undermining domestic fishing interests in vulnerable developing economies.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
Prince William of the United Kingdom gave a speech at the World Bank's International Corruption Hunters Alliance Conference on Monday in which he announced the establishment of a royal task force to work with the transportation industry to examine its part in illegal wildlife trade.
The task force is a part of the royal conservation organization, United for Wildlife, and "will call on companies to implement a 'zero tolerance' policy towards the trade," the Prince said. He went on to say, "Criminals are able to exploit weak and corrupt standards, so we must raise those standards, collectively."
The prince also linked wildlife poaching to terrorism and organized crime: “Criminal gangs turn vast profits from the illegal killing or capture of wildlife; armed groups and terrorists swap poached ivory for guns; and middle-men oil the wheels of the trade in return for reward.”
The speech was delivered one day before International Anti-Corruption Day, which is observed annually on December 9. This year’s theme, “Break the Corruption Chain”, urges people to avoid taking part in everyday acts of corruption that undermine education, health, justice, democracy and sustainable development in communities around the world.
In accordance with the Prince’s speech, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime previously published a video calling for an end to illegal trade in wildlife products.
For a variety of reasons, economists have avoided getting too closely involved with the concept of culture and its relationship to economic development. There is a general acceptance that culture must have a role in guiding a population along a particular path, but, as Landes (1998) points out, a discomfort with what can be construed as implied criticism of a particular culture has discouraged broader public discourse.
As we discuss in a recent paper, the role of culture in economic development is not an easy subject to get a handle on. To start with, one faces issues of definition. The more all-encompassing the definition, the less helpful it tends to be in explaining patterns of development. Economists tend to narrowly define culture as “customary beliefs and values that ethnic, religious, and social groups transmit fairly unchanged from generation to generation” (Guiso, Sapienza and Zingales, 2006). This approach is largely dictated by the aim to identify causal relationships, by focusing on aspects of culture that are constant over time. Not surprisingly, some of the most insightful writing on the subject has been done by anthropologists. Murdock (1965) argues that a culture consists of habits that are shared by members of a society. It is the product of learning, not of heredity. Woolcock (2014) highlights how the sociologic scholarship has evolved to consider culture as “shaping a repertoire or ‘tool kit’ of habits, skills, and styles from which people construct ‘strategies of action” (Swidler, 1986, p.273).