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access to services

One-stop shops and the human face of public services

Jana Kunicova's picture
Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Delivering pension or disability services may sound mundane, but if you have seen the recent award-winning movie, I, Daniel Blake, it is anything but. As the film poignantly demonstrates, treating citizens with respect and approaching them as humans rather than case numbers is not just good practice -- it can mean life or death. In the film, Mr. Blake, an elderly tradesman with a heart condition, attempts to apply for a disability pension. In the process, he navigates a Kafkaesque maze of dozens of office visits, automated phone calls, and dysfunctional online forms. All of this is confusing and often dehumanizing.

Government could cheaply encourage citizens to save water by doing this

Laura De Castro Zoratto's picture
 Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank


Crises in access to water are making headlines around the world. Among difficult policy pathways to respond, convincing people to change their behavior and reduce their consumption can be one of the hardest.

This post gives us a promising picture from Belén, a small town in Costa Rica.  Of Belén’s 21,633 inhabitants, 99.3% have access to water service, but shortages are anticipated by 2030. Our recent study demonstrated that the government could cheaply encourage citizens to save water by enabling them to compare their consumption with that of their peers. 

This is a timely lesson, as the United Nations estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions by 2025.  Demographic and economic pressures make water management an increasingly urgent policy priority even in water rich areas like Latin America, home to nearly 31% of the world's freshwater resources. 

While Costa Rica is relatively well-endowed with water resources, current demand virtually matches production capacity  Risks of water deficits and existing shortages are heightened by overdevelopment of areas with limited water supply. To help address these challenges, we partnered with local authorities in the small municipality of Belén to conduct a randomized control trial, capturing an innovative approach that can help conserve water across the country, and in similar contexts around the world.

The project built on insights from the growing field of behavioral economics, which challenges the underlying, intentionally simplified assumption of standard models: that people make rational decisions based on a self-interested cost-benefit analysis. Behavioral economics borrows from other sciences to consider the full scope of social and psychological influences on human decision-making.

How Colombia is improving access to justice services

Jorge Luis Silva Mendez's picture
A female farmer near Santander, Colombia. Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


Proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

The UN General Assembly adopted this ambitious objective as one of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) when they convened last week.  This is a landmark recognition of the importance of justice services for poverty eradication and sustainable, inclusive development. But how will it work in practice?

In the midst of ensuing debates around this question, Colombia offers valuable lessons. In a country torn by almost seven decades of civil war and conflict, access to justice is critical for the advancement of peace and development. Yet inefficiencies of the courts, and their concentration in select urban centers, raise the cost of access. Compounded by lack of information, these barriers have kept justice services out of reach for many citizens, particularly for the poor and most vulnerable.