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Cities and the Human Spirit

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I’m not Catholic. Not even much of a practicing Christian, but I must confess I felt a little chill the other night walking past Köln’s Cathedral. Not from the cold of the night, nor from fear. My engaging German hosts had just informed me the Cathedral was built with sufficient grandeur to house the relics of the Three Magi spirited away from Milan in 1164. For hundreds of years pilgrims from around the world have converged on the Cathedral, adding to the 20,000 visitors a day. The site is sacred and steeped in history. For a few years it was even the tallest building in the world until eclipsed by the Washington Monument in 1884. I couldn’t escape the Cathedral’s history as we walked past it on this cool, clear October night.

A Better Basra – Five Years On

Caroline Jaine's picture

3 November marks five years since CommGap writer Caroline Jaine was evacuated from the Iraqi city of Basra.  In 2006 she was heading Press & Public affairs at the British Embassy Office, during what proved to be one the most perilous moments during the British occupation.  Today her book - a personal account of her 100 days in Iraq - is launched with a seminar at the House of Lords in London.  The seminar, like the title of the book, draws from the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan for a “Better Basra” and looks at whether the city is in fact any “better” today.

An extract from A Better Basra appears below:

Here was that movie feeling again, but this time the soldiers, perhaps about a hundred or so of them, were like extras waiting to go on set.  I was intrigued about where they had been, what they had done in Iraq so far and where they were off to.  What was their day like? Why weren’t they at that moment busy “soldiering”. 

Latin America: Putting a human face on health systems

Keith Hansen's picture

Latin America: Crying out for good health systems. Photo: Marie Chantal Messier

It takes a health system to raise a healthy child—or nation. And this is true here in Latin America or anywhere else in the world.

That’s the big message of a small video the Bank has recently launched, featuring an adorable animated newborn named Maya. In it, Maya cries profusely, many times, but her tears are not the sad consequence of disease or discomfort but of the baby feeling well. Maya’s are happy tears –the product of a healthy baby. You can follow her journey into adulthood on her own Facebook page

More than we expected: what we would like to know about Conditional Cash Transfers—Part I

Emanuela Galasso's picture

A week ago we hosted an informal workshop with some academic researchers, policymakers and World Bank staff to review "The second generation of evaluations" of CCT programs. We finally have the website, where you can see all the presentations made available by the authors and video of the event. Two posts in the Development Impact blog (here and here) go into more detail on the effectiveness of conditions — their theory, evidence and the conflicting values around them. In blog posts today and tomorrow we’ll summarize discussion of the whole workshop. Today we introduce it and focus on the human capital formation side of things. Tomorrow we consider the poverty reduction objective, how CCTS are working in low income countries, and some "new frontiers" with respect to considering behavior, governance, supply, costs, and wider social protection strategies.

Notes from the Field: Consultants in Cape Verde

David McKenzie's picture

I thought I’d kick-start what I hope will be a somewhat regular feature on this blog, which is some insights, observations, and general glimpses of the real world encountered as we work on implementing new impact evaluations. I know some of our readers take umbrage with the term “the field” but I’m sure it is preferred to “Mission musings” , although maybe “Random rambling” might be appropriate.

Social media and the Arab Spring: Where did they learn that?

Will Stebbins's picture

When it comes to answering the tricky question of why increased enrollment in higher education, one of the region's notable successes, has not translated into increased employment gains, one common theme is a mismatch of skills. The skills being taught just aren't relevant to the new global economy. Yet the 'Arab Spring' revealed a generation that had a very sophisticated grasp of new technologies, and that had come up with ingenious ways of using them to organize and mobilize. A generation that was also clearly capable of critical thought and effective communication. This was evident in the ability to identify and articulate a collective sense of economic and political exclusion. In Tahrir Square, they displayed a high degree of creativity and enterprise.

Of Human Waste and Water: Cleaning up Lagos City

Olatunbosun Obayomi's picture

In 2007, for the first time in human history, 50 percent of the global population lived in urban areas. The United Nations predicts that this figure will rise to 69 percent by 2050. A significant part of this urbanization is taking place in developing countries as a result of natural growth within cities and large numbers of rural–urban migrants in search of jobs and opportunities. Rapid urban growth tends to overwhelm developing cities, where there is already a struggle to develop infrastructure.

I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria all my life. Lagos city is the economic capital of Nigeria with the country's higest population density at 4,193 people per square kilometer. The U.N. estimates that the population of my city will hit 16 million by 2015 making it the worlds 11th largest urban system.

A combination of official neglect, corruption, extreme poverty coupled with rapid, largely uncontrolled, population growth has led to the decay of Lagos’ existing city infrastructure, which determines how livable a city is. Specifically, the human waste (sewage), water and sanitaion systems are largely inadequate. The infrastructure is poorly organized and not controlled. It is common to see drinking water pipes pass through open drainage systems. At times, these systems receive human waste as a result of locals opening their septic tanks into them or the tanks leaking. The city does not treat all of the human waste generated by millions of individuals every day. This waste is emptied directly into the Lagos lagoon. The urban poor are affected the most. Because the drinkable water infrastructure is so poor, many Lagosians depend on satchet water, local water vendors, private boreholes or expensive water filtaration units for their the daily domestic and sanitation needs.

African diaspora is sitting on $50 billion in savings

Dilip Ratha's picture

Bill Gates wrote yesterday in Washington Post (see article): 

"In my report to the G-20, I’ll make half a dozen recommendations for mobilizing tens of billions of dollars annually from private sources. The African diaspora is sitting on $50 billion in savings that could fund development in their home countries if it were captured through diaspora bonds.

Cannes Summit: Building Foundations for Growth

Zia Qureshi's picture

Much of the attention at the Cannes summit this week will be focused on addressing the crisis in the eurozone. But as president Zoellick emphasized in his press teleconference yesterday, the summit should aim to go beyond the immediate crisis-response actions to build some foundations for future growth. A focus on growth is the central theme of a report the Bank released yesterday as an input to the discussions in Cannes. The report conveys the following main messages:

  • The global economy has entered a dangerous phase that threatens to stall economic recovery in advanced economies. Weaker growth in these economies and financial turmoil also threaten growth in developing countries that has been an engine driving the global economy. These developments call for a renewed G20 focus on growth. Actions to address immediate risks to financial stability must be complemented by actions to strengthen the foundations for global growth.