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Urban Development

Imagining infrastructure services in 2017

Laurence Carter's picture
Video: #IMAGINE a better future for all children | UNICEF


One of my favorite songs when I was growing up was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A few months ago, UNICEF created a project around it to highlight the plight of millions of refugee children. As 2016 drew to a close, I couldn’t help but imagine a world with high-quality, affordable, sustainable, well-maintained infrastructure services for everyone.

I’m not sure a video of infrastructure projects set to “Imagine” would fire people up as much as the UNICEF video does. But there is value in reflecting on what we have accomplished in 2016, and what we might hope for and imagine in 2017, to bring this vision closer to reality for millions of people.

Making local voices count: How Senegal and Tunisia inspire each other on governance reform

Salim Rouhana's picture

Also available in: Español

Photo: Mo Ibrahim Foundation / Flickr Creative Commons

Six years ago, a revolution started in Tunisia with an unemployed young Tunisian in a secondary city desperate to make his voice heard. This revolution reshaped the country’s development agenda and triggered a decentralization process to give more say to local governments in policymaking. Since then, the World Bank’s work on local governance in Tunisia has expanded from equipping municipalities with basic services into tackling the diverse challenges of decentralization: institutional reform, participatory processes, transparency and accountability, capacity building, and performance assessment.

Year in Review: 2016 in 12 Charts (and a video)

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Between the social, political, and economic upheavals affecting our lives, and the violence and forced displacement making headlines, you’d be forgiven for feeling gloomy about 2016. A look at the data reveals some of the challenges we face but also the progress we’ve made toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. Here are 12 charts that help tell the stories of the year.

1.The number of refugees in the world increased.

At the start of 2016, 65 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes, up from 60 million the year before. More than 21 million were classified as refugees. Outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, most refugees live in cities and towns, where they seek safety, better access to services, and job opportunities. A recent report on the "Forcibly Displaced" offers a new perspective on the role of development in helping refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities, working together with humanitarian partners. Among the initiatives is new financial assistance for countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that host large numbers of refugees.


Sun goes beyond turning on light bulbs in Tanzania

Sunita Dubey's picture
Elisha Thomas Laizer owns a small stationery store that provides photocopying and printing services in Kitumbeine, a Maasai village 150 km (93http://www.esmap.org mi) from the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

Kitumbeine is also 40 km (25 mi) from the nearest electricity grid.

But that hasn’t stopped Elisha. That’s because his store is actually inside a 16 KW mini grid container, under the shade of 60 solar panels. While such easy access to solar power has helped his business tremendously, it has also gifted him with a chance to learn to operate and maintain these mini grids. Consequently, he now acts as a liaison between his community and the solar company that helps set up these grids in remote Tanzanian villages that are starved for electricity.

Elisha’s story is a great example of how the sun paves the way for way more than just turning on a light bulb.

Climate-smart transport is a key piece of the sustainable development puzzle

Jose Luis Irigoyen's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | 中文

The modern tramway system in Rabat Salé, Morocco. Photo: LukaKikina/Shutterstock
When it comes to climate change, the transport sector is both a victim and a perpetrator. On the one hand, transport infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as higher temperatures, increased precipitations, and flooding. At the same time, transport is responsible for 23% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and is one of the sectors where emissions are rising the fastest. This statistic alone makes it pretty clear that there will be no significant progress on climate action without greener, more sustainable mobility.

Yet, before COP21, the transport sector was conspicuously absent from climate talks. The strong, structured presence we saw last year in Paris and this year in Marrakech is finally commensurate with the urgency needed to address the transport-related issues on the climate agenda.

The rising importance of transport in the global conversation is reflected in major commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. As an example, over 70% of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that countries have proposed to implement the Paris Agreement include transport commitments, ranging from increasing public transport in cities to shifting freight from roads to railways and waterways.

To measure the real impact of transport services, affordability needs to be part of the equation

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture

Differentiating between effective and nominal access

A couple of months ago, one of our urban development colleagues wrote about the gap between effective and nominal access to water infrastructure services. She explained that while many of the households in the study area were equipped with the infrastructure to supply clean water, a large number of them do not use it because of its price. She highlighted a “simple fact: it is not sufficient to have a service in your house, your yard, or your street. The service needs to work and you should be able to use it. If you can’t afford it or if features—such as design, location, or quality—prevent its use, you are not benefiting from that service.” To address this concern, the water practice has been developing ways to differentiate between “effective access” and “nominal access”—between having access to an infrastructure or service and being able to use it.

In transport, too, we have been exploring similar issues. In a series of blog posts on accessibility, we have looked at the way accessibility tools—the ability to quantify the opportunities that are accessible using a transit system—are reframing how we understand, evaluate, and plan transport systems. We have used this method that allows us to assess the effectiveness of public transport in connecting people to employment opportunities within a 60-minute commute.

Incorporating considerations of cost

Yet, time is not the only constraint that people face when using public transport systems. In Bogota, for example, the average percentage of monthly income that an individual spends on transport exceeds 20% for those in the lowest income group. In some parts of the city, this reaches up to 28%—well above the internationally acceptable level of affordability of 15%.

How can Hong Kong stay smart and competitive? By driving change through a 'Public-Private-People Partnership' approach

Dr. Winnie Tang's picture

According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017,” Hong Kong dropped two notches to rank as No. 9 in its Global Competitiveness Index. The decline occurred mainly because the city faces challenges to “evolve from one of the world’s foremost financial hubs to become an innovative powerhouse.”

One might argue this is an unfounded worry: After all, as a developed economy with a GDP per capita of US $42,000, Hong Kong has recorded an impressive GDP growth rate, over the last five years, of about 3 percent annually. This growth rate is higher than many developed economy.

However, if we look at the economic figures more closely, some worrisome early warning signs are already emerging – especially in terms of the factors that will drive Hong Kong’s future economic growth.

Apart from finance and insurance, the majority of Hong Kong’s GDP growth nowadays is contributed by “non-tradable” sectors that have less knowledge and innovation content, such as the construction and public-administration sectors.

According to the World Bank’s latest research on “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth,” long-term economic success and job growth in cities are usually driven by “tradable” sectors – economic sectors whose output could be traded and competed internationally. Firms in tradable sectors are exposed to fierce competition which, in turn, exerts pressure on them to invest in research and knowledge-intensive sectors so that they become more productive and innovative in order to remain competitive internationally. Hong Kong is now lagging behind its Asian and world peers in the critical features of knowledge and innovation.

Although the urgency to act to increase the knowledge-driven content of the economy is obvious, there seems to be a limited number of actions taking place here on the ground in Hong Kong.  How can Hong Kong forge ahead and start making changes?



Staying competitive in today’s global economy is like sailing against the current: Either you keep forging ahead, or you will fall behind.


The World Bank’s Smart Cities Conference – held in Yokohama, Japan last month – presented some good examples from around the world on how to use a bottom-up approach with active citizen engagement to increase the chance of success in implementing changes. The audience was interested in learning about the successful transformation of Yokohama through the cities many initiatives, such as the development of the Minato Mirai 21 central business district.

How countries and communities are taking on gender-based violence

Sweta Shrestha's picture
The stat is appalling: 1 in 3 women worldwide have or will experience intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Although it may take the form of domestic violence, gender-based violence is not merely a personal or family matter. Associated with certain societies' social norms and many other risk factors, such violence leads to severe social and economic consequences that can contribute to ongoing poverty in developing and developed countries alike.

Because violence affects everyone, it takes us all—from individuals to communities, and from cities to countries—to tackle the pandemic of violence against our women and girls.

On Day 15 of the global #16Days campaign, let’s take a look at a few examples of how community groups, civil society organizations, and national governments around the world are making informed efforts to prevent and respond to various forms of gender-based violence.

Join Sri Lanka’s journey to end poverty and promote prosperity

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

A 90 day reflection of the new Country Director of the World Bank
Join Sri Lanka's journey to end poverty and promote prosperity

I take this opportunity to thank all the Sri Lankans that opened their minds and hearts to help me understand the country context and constraints. During my first 90 days in Sri Lanka my colleagues and our clients gave me a warm welcome. I first met our core counterparts in the Government of Sri Lanka when I visited in July 2016. I have since travelled outside of Colombo several times, and I have met with many of our clients, development partners and stakeholders.  I have also had the privilege to meet with our friends from the media, civil society groups, academia and private sector to better understand the current operating environment and discuss solutions to issues of common interest.

Cricket in Sri Lanka is followed with so much passion and enthusiasm. This thrilled me as it is the same in my home country, Zimbabwe. Many things about Sri Lanka and its people and culture bring back fond memories from home.  Sri Lanka to me now is a second home so I am often torn with who to support when Sri Lanka plays Zimbabwe.  It’s even harder to know how to react when Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe recently.

I recently read an article by Kumar Sangakkara on the Spirit of Cricket.  What an apt article.  It just demonstrated so much what one can do when they find a common thread that they are all passionate about.  Sri Lanka has many lessons to teach and to learn from the game of cricket.

I join my view into that of the article, that all Sri Lankans will need to work together regardless of location, gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and social status. The focus should be on Sri Lanka’s priorities for development and how the Sri Lankan people can work together to win the match of ending poverty and sharing prosperity.

A tale of… cities

Jenny Chao's picture


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” 
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

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