The breakup of the former Soviet Union left more than a dozen newly independent states in its wake. What were the top priorities for these newly-minted governments? Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of them got things started by becoming members of existing international organizations and acceding to international multilateral legal instruments, both rites of passage as symbolic as they are pragmatic for any new country. But they also got quickly to work establishing dozens of bilateral road transport agreements (BRTAs) with other nations. BRTAs, it turns out, form the bedrock of many countries’ transport and trade integration strategies, and they are the first type of agreement concluded in any initiation of foreign trade relations. In other words, when it comes to trade, it all starts with road freight transport.
A significant share of the population in the Kyrgyz Republic – 37 percent – lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data. And despite a relatively modest population of about 5.5 million, poverty rates across oblasts (provinces) span a striking range -- from 18 percent to 50 percent.
Why? Well, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
You might be wondering how buses and social accountability are related. In Baglung, western region of Nepal, they are not just related - one is the direct result of the other.
Nepal, with its diverse topography has amazing landscapes for tourism but when it comes to accessible roads, it is one of the rural community’s biggest concerns. In the hilly or mountainous regions, the problem is severe; the same can be said about the remote regions of Baglung where people were not getting any bus service from the centre to the upper faraway villages (up to Kalimati). As their only other option, they had jeeps (people carrier) as substitutes for public transportation.
“Now, it’s become easier for us to go to the villages as the bus is cheaper – it’s less than half the price of what we pay for jeeps. The jeeps cost us NRs. 150 to 200 (US$ 1.75 to $2.35) while the bus is just NRs. 40 (US$ 0.50). I am happy that the bus is in operation now but what is more exciting is - the bus service started as the direct result of the public hearing we had with the municipality last year,” says Pingal Khadka GC, one of the PETS members set up by Deep Jyoti Youth Club in the municipality.
Under the Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN), Deepjyoti Youth Club (DYC) organised one of the most effective tools of Social Accountability: a public hearing in a remote village of Baglung. The turnover of more than 2,500 people from local communities not just made an arresting sight but yielded results in less than two weeks. During the summer last year, the citizens had the opportunity to ask questions to the municipal officers and one of the concerns was the bus service. The people were promised the service to start as soon as possible and it did. The commitment of the Local Development Officer (LDO) in front of the entire community made the bus service a reality.
|Photo by echo0101 through a Creative Commons license|
Most of the world celebrates New Year with fireworks. In Thailand we welcome the New Year, in April, with water. During “Songkran” (Thai New Year), we pour scented water on the hands of our elders as a show of respect and to receive their blessings. It’s also a very festive celebration that’s marked by entertainment, water fights that spill into the streets, and a huge amount of people travelling by road to spend the holidays with their families and friends.
When things get out of hand, the situation becomes a recipe for disaster. During the Songkran week of 2012 alone, according to the government’s Road Safety Directing Center (pdf in Thai), there were 320 deaths and 3,320 people injured by road traffic crashes, mostly from drunk driving. Every Songkran becomes a reminder that road traffic injuries and fatalities are still a major public health and development challenge in Thailand.
The emergence of mega-regions, as metropolitan areas merge to form a system of cities, has demonstrably contributed to growth in the developed countries. With South Asia experiencing one of the highest urbanization rates, connecting cities presents opportunity to mobilize people, goods and services, and develop supply chains over larger spatial areas. However, this also implies unraveling overlapping commuting patterns, economic linkages, social networks, multiple jurisdictional boundaries- which add to the complexity of decision-making for policymakers and practitioners.
Over the past decade, Africa has been experiencing tremendous economic dynamism and growth: seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries are in Africa; the continent’s economic output has more than tripled; and average economic growth is expected to be 4.8 percent in 2013.
Thomas Friedman’s bestseller The World Is Flat highlights the strong forces pushing the world towards a single economic platform. The technology-fueled globalization in the provision of services, and the widespread organization of production processes as global value chains are part of his narrative.
During a trip to South Africa last week, I was saddened to read this newspaper headline: “24 people killed, 14 seriously injured, and 44 with minor injuries after bus smashed into a mountainside.” The bus was bringing people back to Cape Town's township of Khayelitsha from a church gathering in eastern Mpumalanga—most of the occupants were women and children.
The World Bank, together with the ministries of Communications and Transport and Egypt’s information technology industry, just organized the first ever Cairo Transport App Challenge (Cairo TApp). Teams of digital innovators tackled a range of issues related to moving about the Egyptian capitol’s congested streets.