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The things we do: How we might address political polarization by looking inward

Roxanne Bauer's picture

If there’s one common theme that resonates across Western democracies this past year, it’s a rejection of the status quo. Some outsider politicians have ridden this wave of populism to political office or to strong second-place finishes, stretching the boundaries of political expression. Frustration, anger with the status quo, globalization and the tradeoffs that come with it, and inequality are all basic concerns of the voters catapulting these politicians to power.

Globally, it also seems that fault lines have been erected between cultures, religions, genders, and so on.

Regardless of where the frustration comes from, though, polarization along ideological lines and negative rhetoric are pervasive. While polarization is a complex issue (and not something we can explain in its entirety in a blog post), how people process information is a significant factor.
 
If people are not open to other viewpoints or do not think critically about the negative rhetoric they encounter— which often involves self-reflection— then how can change really be achieved?  How can the frustration fueling the polarization be addressed if we cannot compromise?

Dealing with de-risking: a tale of tenacity and creativity

Emile van der Does de Willebois's picture

In 2014, money transfer operators sending funds to Somalia were coming under increasing pressure. Western financial institutions, concerned about money possibly ending up in the hands of terrorists or persons on sanctions lists, decided the risk was too high and started pulling out. Although one channel remained open, the situation was so acute that the World Bank and the Somalia Multi-Partner Fund decided to take action and create a fallback position in case that last channel, too, should close. A scenario in which the Somali diaspora had no legitimate way to send money home to their families would have been devastating to Somalis who depend on these funds for their basic needs.
 

Jobs challenges and opportunities in Sierra Leone - notes from the field

Ian Walker's picture
A key theme in this year’s IDA replenishment is the need to improve jobs through accelerated economic transformation. Generating more jobs and increasing productivity by creating stronger market linkages is a challenge everywhere in the developing world. But it is both particularly important and difficult in countries facing fragility. Sierra Leone had hardly emerged from the effects of a long civil war when the Ebola crisis struck. Around the same time, the commodity super cycle began winding down in 2014, negatively affecting revenues. The Jobs Group is working with the Government in Sierra Leone to meet this challenge. A team recently visited Sierra Leone to see how World Bank Group operations are helping and to find out what more can be done to improve the outlook for jobs in the country.
 

Are we travelling on a sustainable development path?

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

Global development as a universal objective to improve people’s social and economic wellbeing is a relatively recent concept.

It was first embodied in the United Nations Charter, signed in San Francisco 71 years ago this week, which stated: “the United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.” In time, at least among practicing economists in academia and policymakers in government, “development” came to be seen as improved economic opportunity through the accumulation of capital and rising productivity.

Myanmar has set a path to a bright energy future by 2030

Alan David Lee's picture
  Hong Sar/ World Bank
Photo © :  Hong Sar/ World Bank.

Kyaw San has trouble studying at night. The student from Yangon Division’s Buu Tar Suu village finds it especially difficult during the rainy season when his old solar-powered lamps cannot be charged, forcing him to study by candlelight. 
 
Win Win Nwe, a grade 5 student, also often prepares for exams by candlelight. Her family can’t always afford to buy candles, adding another obstacle to an activity many take for granted. “If we can afford candles, we buy them. If we can’t, we don’t. We struggle and do our best,” said her father Kyi Htwe.

Today, two-thirds of Myanmar’s population is not connected to the national electricity grid and 84% of rural households lack access to electricity. No power means no light, no refrigerators, no recharging phones and batteries. Small businesses can’t stay open in the evenings, and clinics cannot refrigerate medicines. Access to reliable and affordable energy is essential for a country’s development, job creation, poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals.

Rising divide: why inequality is increasing and what needs to be done

Matthew Wai-Poi's picture
In 2014, the richest 10 per cent of Indonesian households consumed as much as the poorest 54 per cent. Image by Google Maps.




Since the 1990s, inequality has risen faster in Indonesia than in any other East Asian country apart from China. In 2002, the richest 10 per cent of households consumed as much as the poorest 42 per cent. By 2014, they consumed as much as the poorest 54 per cent. Why should we be worried about this trend? What is causing it, and how is the current administration addressing rising inequality? And what still needs to be done?

Inequality is not always bad; it can provide rewards for those who work hard and take risks. But high inequality is worrying for reasons beyond fairness. High inequality can impact economic growth, exacerbate conflict, and curb the potential of current and future generations. For example, recent research indicates that, on average, when a higher share of national income goes to the richest fifth of households, economic growth slows—whereas countries grow more quickly when the poorest two-fifths receive more.

Bolivia’s National Research Program on Wheat: A success story of collaborative research

Francisco Obreque's picture

Wheat-Program-INIAF-Bolivia

“Don’t waste your time in local breeding programs if someone else can improve the seed for you. We are a small country and cannot afford to reinvent the wheel”. This was the pragmatic advice of a Bhutanese agro-scientist visiting Bolivia a few years ago. His statement might be true, especially in resource-limited countries. However, I strongly believe that implementing agricultural innovations requires bridging the global with the local in a two-way partnership, with strong capabilities in the field. Here's a good example.  

Lessons from our Fathers

Maya Brahmam's picture

My father holds a special place in my heart – and with Fathers Day this past Sunday, I want to give a shout out to my dad (now long gone) and share a story about him.

One summer afternoon when I was about nine years old, I was in the kitchen of our house in an un-named tropical country. I heard a rap at the back door. I peeked out – a man I didn’t recognize stood there. He thrust a small white envelope he’d been holding into my hands and rushed off.

I turned the envelope in my hands curiously – it was creased – as if it had been folded in a pocket- and it was sealed, and my dad’s name was written on it in blue ink. When my dad got home, I gave him the envelope and explained how it had arrived.

He took it from me and went to his room and changed, and a little while later he came back with the open envelope in his hand. We sat together on the porch, as we sometimes did. Dad looked both thoughtful and angry. After a moment, he said, “I want to share something with you; it’s upsetting but important, and I think you’re old enough to be told.”

Branding development?

Johannes Hoogeveen's picture
Branding is everywhere, and development agencies are no stranger to it. Many have seen pictures of food aid labeled: "Gift of the people of the United States.” Who does not remember the Medicins Sans Frontier logos displayed prominently on clinics set up in Ebola-affected countries? And who has not seen the name of the World Bank associated with some project?
 

The Kenyan financial transformation (2000-2015)

Michael King's picture

Giant leaps in financial inclusion driven by private sector innovation and supportive regulation have made Kenya a case study in financial sector development. A new book brings together a group of academics to investigate the myriad of dimensions of and issues that lie beneath Kenya’s much-touted financial inclusion success story. The book is available at this link: Kenya’s Financial Transformation in the 21st Century.

Kenya: A World Leader in Financial Inclusion?

Headline figures from survey data place Kenya at the top of the financial inclusion index both regionally and globally. Data from the last Global Findex survey shows that 75% of Kenyan adults have a formal account that allows them to save, send or receive money. In 2014 Kenya outperformed both the global average and many middle-income countries such as Chile, Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.


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