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Putting safe water on the development agenda

Christopher Walsh's picture

April 23, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. Water and Sanitation Event.

Not even the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull could keep the Netherlands’ Prince of Orange, the chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and the World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from participating in a Davos-style panel discussion of solutions for the 2.6 billion people who still lack access to sanitation.

The BBC’s Katty Kay moderated today’s official Spring Meetings event, which also included South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Patience Sonjica; Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Gloria Steele; Ek Sonn Chan from Cambodia’s General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; and IFC’s Executive VP Lars Thunell.

I haven’t seen the Bank’s J building mini-amphitheater filled with that much energy since, well, ever.  The standing room-only event started with a delighted Ngozi acknowledging the crowd for bringing the issue of water and sanitation to such a high level on the occasion of the Spring Meetings.

Europe and Central Asia facing a slow recovery

Sameer Vasta's picture

April 23, 2010. Washington DC - World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings . Europe and Central Asia regional press briefing. Philippe Le Houerou, Regional Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

At a press briefing earlier today at the Spring Meeting, Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, spoke of how the region has faced the greatest fiscal pressures among all the world's regions during the global economic crisis.

20 out of 30 countries in Europe and Central Asia have experienced a decline in GDP in 2009, and Le Houérou remarked that the region will face a slow recovery in the year ahead:

"2010 is going to be a tough year for the Region with growth projected at around 3 percent.  The prospects for 2011-2013 are only slightly better.  Rising joblessness is pushing households into poverty and making things even harder for those already poor."

Photographers jostle and nudge for the perfect shot of a dark suit

Alison Schafer's picture

Photographers prepare to snap EU leader, 22 February 2009

One of the benefits of working the spring meetings is getting to watch the press at work (work which is really a lot of waiting around for things to happen).

But occasionally, everybody rushes off to earn their paychecks.  And the ones who rush fastest are the still photographers. When they move, you know something is happening.

At Bob Zoellick’s kick-off press conference on Thursday, about 15 still photographers lurked in the bottom of the IMF building, their lenses gleaming in the dim light. It appears to be a macho business, capturing the perfect image of that prolific species, the DC policy maker.

A minute before Zoellick arrives, a staffer gives a heads up. A brief hush and then the photographers pick up their cameras and their foot long lenses (big enough to photograph a lion far across the watering hole) and rush to get the best angle. All 15 of them want to stand in the same spot, of course, and so they jostle and nudge and, when Zoellick sits down, retreat back to their lair just below the dais.

Then comes the talk, and most of the photographers tune right out. They’re waiting for movement—anything even remotely resembling action—so if Zoellick raises his hand off the table, or makes the most minimal gesture, they leap into gear. And the whirr of their lenses is just about loud enough to drown out the talking.  What they don’t want is just “a head”—press corps lingo for just another dude in a navy blue suit. They want something, anything, that makes this picture of a guy in a navy blue suit different from last week’s.

Global Monitoring Report 2010: What about Population Growth?

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

April 23, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2010. Global Monitoring Report: The MDGs after the Crisis.

Measuring human progress is a messy, complicated effort. The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are an effort to bring some standardization to that process, but the 8 globally agreed goals are viewed by some as a construct that handicaps the poorer countries into a race where they started a lap behind many other nations.

It's 10 years since the goals were agreed and 2010 has been designated the 'Year of the MDGs' by the UN and its partners. If all this helps feed hungry families, educate more kids and increase the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, I'm all for it. Good thing I feel that way, since I was working with the team that launched the Global Monitoring Report 2010: The MDGs After the Crisis on April 23.

Yet beyond the goals, targets and exhortations, as well as useful forecasts of extreme poverty rates in 2015, I wonder about the elephant in the room: population growth.

Mobile Phones and Literacy in Rural Communities

Michael Trucano's picture

mobile learning while sittingGiven their low costs and increasing ubiquity, even in very poor communities, much has been written about the potential for mobile phones to aid in the delivery of 'anytime, anywhere' education. But what might such educational practices look like in practice? The MILLEE project  (Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies) has been examining this issue for the last six years, beginning with low-income communities in the urban slums and villages in India.

In a recent presentation at the World Bank, Matthew Kam, the founder of MILLEE, shared experiences from ten rounds of iterative small pilot field studies in developing and testing mobile phone gaming applications that enable children to acquire language literacy in immersive, game-like environments. One goal of this work is to investigate how to make localized English language learning resources more accessible to underprivileged children, at times and places that are more convenient than schools. (A short video profile of the project is available here; it is not embedded for direct viewing on this blog because it features a 15-second commercial at the beginning.)

A focus on gender issues at the Spring Meetings

Sameer Vasta's picture

In their discussions this weekend, the Development Committee will be assessing five strategic priorities for the Bank in a post-crisis environment. Gender is considered a cross-cutting issue that will factor into all of the Bank's work in these priority areas.

Gender is also getting special attention this year from IDA (International Development Association) deputies as they deliberate the current round of funding known as the IDA16 replenishment.

Attitudes, Opinions, and Why Dinner Matters

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.

Spring Meetings: What’s on the agenda?

Angie Gentile's picture

Development Committee meeting. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

“Spring Meetings” is the name used to describe a series of events—seminars, roundtables, press briefings and official meetings—spread over five or so days every year and all geared toward one thing: improving the lives of people in the developing world.

Discussions throughout the week focus on a broad range of topics (see meetings and civil society forum schedules) and are in many ways a prelude to the main event—the official meeting of the Development Committee—a group of 24 finance and development ministers appointed by each of the countries, or groups of countries, represented on the Boards of Executive Directors of the Bank and Fund. This year's meeting is set for Sunday, April 25.

The Development Committee meets twice a year and advises the Boards on critical development issues and on the financial resources needed to promote economic development in developing countries. The President of the Bank has a special responsibility to propose topics that he believes require the ministers’ attention.

This year’s agenda, just announced, includes:

  • Strengthening Development after the Crisis: World Bank Group Post-Crisis Directions, Internal Reforms and Financial Capacity
  • World Bank Group Voice Reform: Enhancing Voice and Participation of Developing and Transition Countries in 2010 and Beyond

Better drug supply chains keep thousands more children alive

Monique Vledder's picture

On April 21, a few days before World Malaria Day, we announced some very encouraging results from a pilot project in Zambia through which we were testing various improvements in the public sector supply chain for lifesaving drugs. What we had been trying to do, with support from DfID and USAID, was to remove bottlenecks and get key supplies like pediatric malaria drugs off the shelves in district storage facilities and out to patients in rural areas on time.

When private sector techniques--like hiring someone to plan drug orders based on actual consumption in rural public health centers--were used to strengthen the public sector supply chain, we saw that the availability of pediatric malaria drugs nearly doubled in rural health centers in the 16 pilot districts.

This is a very significant finding, as just 7 percent of children in rural Zambia receive first-line treatment for malaria within 24 hours of developing fever (Zambia National Malaria Indicator Survey, 2008). We estimate that if these techniques are scaled up nationwide, 27,000 children could be saved from malaria deaths between now and 2015—cutting child mortality from malaria by 37 percent in Zambia.


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