This year marks the 200th birthday for Charles Dickens who is likely the best-known social commentator who documented the more troublesome aspects of the Industrial Revolution and the start of the world’s headlong rush to urbanize. Dickens’ writings give a ringside seat to the turmoil London, and Paris, faced over two hundred years ago. That Dickens’ vantage point was London only made sense; it had just surpassed Beijing as the world’s largest city, and arguably is the birthplace of capitalism and industrialization.
The big question now is, where in the world would today’s most important social commentator choose to live? We obviously know it would be a big city as cities are the most powerful determinants of our futures. But what city best captures today’s and tomorrow’s social milieu?
In a session on water’s role in food security at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, the director of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Mr. Alexander Mueller, has just outlined water's role in meeting the world's food challenges in the most graphic way. By 2050, when the global population is expected to reach nine billion, the world will need to produce 60-70% more food to meet the needs of a larger number of people whose consumption patterns are influenced by higher incomes and increased urbanization. At current rates of water usage in agriculture, that would require an additional 5,500km2 of water. That would mean having to find the amount of water that is stored in Egypt’s Aswan Dam 55 times every year.
Save the Children’s recent report, A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition, reminds us that undernutrition is not a new crisis—and that the crisis will deepen if the global community fails to take serious action. If current trends persist, 11.7 million more children will be stunted in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, compared to 2010.
What can we do? Food is part of the answer, but it’s about the right food, at the right time—not just starchy staple foods that fill empty stomachs. According to Save the Children, more than half of children in some countries are eating diets of just three items: a staple food, a legume, and a vegetable (usually green leaves).
Availability of food and access to food are necessary but insufficient to ensure good nutrition. Insidiously, malnutrition (undernutrition) is not hunger, although malnourished children are often hungry. And undernutrition is frequently invisible, but increases the risk of child death; steals children’s growth; decreases cognitive potential, school performance, and adult productivity; and contributes to the development of non-communicable diseases later in life.
We’re entering a phase where AIDS is moving from emergency crisis financing to sustainable development financing—which is a major challenge, but one that we’re continuing to tackle, with the goal of stronger national ownership and responsibility.
One of the Bank’s international mandates is to support countries to develop better national health plans and budgets. Today, the Bank released an important study, The Fiscal Dimension of HIV/AIDS in Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, and Uganda, which is a part of this mandate. The study helps countries do the long-range planning that we so desperately need in HIV programs.
The Bank has a long-established partnership with ministries of finance and planning, and we understand country systems. We stand ready to help countries integrate HIV into their programs and plan for it in a sustainable way.
We’ve seen extraordinary progress in AIDS. Today, we have more antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV than every other virus in history combined. We’ve reduced treatment costs from tens of thousands of dollars to as little as $100. And we’ve expanded our understanding of effective HIV prevention, including the role of male circumcision and the important role that treatment can play in prevention under the right circumstances.
Many of us involved in HIV remember the days when 70% of beds in health facilities in Africa were occupied by people with AIDS. Our successes in treatment and prevention have removed this specter and have allowed health systems to focus on other important health priorities.
At the World Water Forum in Marseille, I participated in a session on innovative ways to finance water for the poor. Most of the ideas proposed were good, including testing Output-Based Aid, improvements to the water tariff structure, and a sanitation fee on the water bill.Then the organizers asked for ideas and the discussion was opened for plenary...
The historic changes in Tunisia since the Arab Spring revolution of last year have opened many new opportunities – notably the potential to revitalise a dynamic and entrepreneurial private sector. Technology and social media played an important role in bringing about the revolution. So it is logical to expect that information and communication technologies (ICTs) will continue to be important in the post-revolutionary phase of Tunisia’s development. But to find out quite what the role of ICTs is likely to be, infoDev – a global partnership program within the World Bank – recently commissioned the wide-ranging study ‘Tunisia: from revolutions to institutions’, describing how Tunisians are using ICTs to build a new future.
Imagine you are a young, technologically-savvy college graduate in Tunis with a start-up idea. Although your domestic market is small, your French and Arabic language skills and diaspora ties give you a foothold in both Europe and the Arab States. Furthermore, the historic changes across North Africa present new opportunities in an increasingly networked region. So, what’s stopping you from building the next killer app?
Does an increase in household wealth decrease child labor in poorer households? Available literature in economics suggests that when poorer households need to make their ends meet, they tend not to dispense on child labor. And as households’ income increases, child labor declines in favor of schooling. However, if schools are few and far, and their infrastructure and teachers’ performance are deficient, there is less incentives for parents to send their children to school. Child labor would then appear as a sensible option, not only for increasing family’s current income but also for training children in skilled work. Thus, an appropriate question is: To what extent and under what conditions an increase in household wealth can either decrease or increase child labor in poor households?
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.