World Bank President Robert Zoellick this week urged civil society to help show how greater engagement on the ground brings about better development outcomes, particularly by improving governance and service.
Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde met with civil society organization (CSO) representatives in a town hall prior to the 2011 Annual Meetings. Some 600 CSOs—the largest number ever-- are participating in this year’s Civil Society Forum—four days of discussions to promote substantive dialogue between civil society representatives and Bank and Fund staff. Topics include climate change and energy, gender, aid dependency, and jobs as well as mechanisms for Bank-civil society engagement.
It’s that time of year again… this week the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings open, making for an energetic and hectic time for all involved. For those of us working on climate change issues in Africa, this is an especially exciting time.
For one, there is heightened awareness and urgency surrounding climate change issues in Africa. In November, South Africa will assume presidency of the Convention of Parties (COP-17) meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which will take place in Durban, the first time a climate change COP will be held on the African continent. This being Africa’s “first COP”, many people not traditionally expected to be involved with such issues have been taking a lead and stepping up to the plate – country leaders and finance ministers for example, joining their environment and natural resources ministers in seeking adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change.
In the past two weeks, three meetings–on climate-smart agriculture, environmental protection, and sustainable energy access–have been held in South Africa and Mali, creating a momentum of support for the issues that lie at the heart of Africa’s development challenges. Closely tied to this is the collective realization that is emerging: that climate is not just an environmental issue, but also fundamentally a social issue, an economic issue, and a major threat to achieving development. In fact, a changing climate affects every facet of human endeavor.
So how does one go about combating climate change within a sustainable development context? Given the cross-cutting nature of climate change effects, we believe that actions–adaptation and mitigation–are needed on a broad range of fronts.
During a visit to Sierra Leone a few months ago, I was struck by the commitment that the government has shown to making changes in delivering basic services—such as education, health, and water—so as to try to reach and benefit poor people. But it was also clear to me that while the government must continue to make improvements in its existing programs, it cannot reach all citizens immediately—and this is true in many low-income countries in Africa, especially those recovering from conflict or civil war.
Last week, President Zoellick gave a speech at George Washington University in which he outlined his vision of how the aid agenda should adapt to what he described as “shifting tectonic plates,” which has seen the world change dramatically since 1944 when the Bretton Woods system was established. This shift has created a world in which developing countries are now the drivers of the world economy while the developed world is facing severe economic headwinds.
In Zoellick’s vision of a “world beyond aid,” international assistance would be “integrated with—and connected to—global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by investment and entrepreneurship. The goal would not be charity, but mutual interest in building more poles of growth.”
For a region not known for its equitable attitudes towards women, the Middle East offers up some surprising results for girls in school, results that are better in some ways than the rest of the world. For the moment, however, this academic achievement is not necessarily translating into progress for women in higher education or the labor market. In a recent NBER working paper, authors Fryer and Levitt find evidence for a gender gap in elementary school level mathematics in the United States, a gender gap that they find, extending their analysis to international results, in elementary- and secondary-level students around the world – except the Middle East.
With gender equality a main topic for the World Bank's Annual Meetings this week, some of us have done a bit of a reflection on how our investments in health and other human development programs shape, and are shaped by, gender equality. It turns out that during the past 6 years, the World Bank mobilized $28.4 billion -- or nearly three-fourths of the Bank’s financing for human development during this same period -- to help promote gender equality and empower women and girls through investments in health, education, social protection, and labor. Not too bad.
For those of us anxiously awaiting the new edition of the World Bank’s leading publication, the World Development Report (WDR) each year, this year’s edition does not disappoint. Credit should be given to the team of the ‘WDR2012: Gender Equality and Development’ team for successfully moving their analysis from skepticism to the elaboration of a sensible analytical framework focused on aspects of gender equa
In Vietnam, several women with extraordinary vision have been the technological leaders in agricultural innovation. From the laboratory, to the factory, to the farm, women have been the pioneers along every link of the supply chain in this project called “Sustaining nitrogen-efficient rice production.”
Under the DM in early March 2011, Agriculture Green Future (AGF), a non-profit organization devoted to promoting sustainable fertilizer, was founded on the research of the only female soil scientists in Vietnam: Phan Thi Cong (pictured).
AGF promotes the manufacture and use of BioGro, a microbial bio-fertiliser invented in the 1990s by Professor Nguyen Thanh Hien (also pictured). AGF provides starter cultures and training in quality control to BioGro manufacturers, while promoting the BioGro brand. Phan Thi Cong, who continues to advance the BioGro technology, represents a younger generation positioned to carry this work forward.