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New financial management technologies improve transparency and trust in Afghanistan

Mohammad Zaher Ebadi's picture
Many government civil servants are now using technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices in Kandahar Province.
Many government civil servants are now using technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices in Kandahar Province. Photo credit: Taimani Films/World Bank

The use of technology in Afghanistan’s government offices is not yet the norm. However, in the Directorate of Ministry of Finance (Mostofiat) in Kandahar Province, a province associated more with insecurity than with technology, we have used the power of technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices. 

Finance is the backbone of any country’s economy. Therefore, it is very important for it to be transparent and credible so that citizens as well as donors feel committed to the development process. With this in mind, we decided to implement the Afghanistan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS) and Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS), with the help of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFMR), a project implemented by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) with support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). SIGTAS was also supported through the ARTF Incentive Program.

Since 2007, when we started using AFMIS, we have been able to manage and execute budget-related activities, collect revenue, and pay salaries on time. A computerized system, AFMIS enables multiple users to access financial information and records, whenever and wherever they want. This was not possible with manual records.

Fighting climate change with green infrastructure

Michael Wilkins's picture

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Image: chombosan / Shutterstock

According to NASA, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. So—with climate change high on the global agenda—almost every nation signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, the primary goal of which is to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, with the acute effects of global warming already being felt, further resilience against climate change is needed.
 
To meet both mitigation and adaptation objectives, “green infrastructure” can help.

What's the cost of open government reforms? New tool can help you find out

Daniel Nogueira-Budny's picture
Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Advocacy around open government reforms to date has largely revolved around the intrinsic value of transparency, accountability, and participation. In a resource-constrained environment, development practitioners, policy makers, and citizens increasingly have to be more judicious. Adopting new methods or tools – such as open contracting mechanisms, open data dashboards and participatory budgeting – is not free. How can we measure the instrumental value of open government reforms?

How can Malawi move from falling behind to catching up?

Richard Record's picture
A bypass under construction in Lilongwe. A sign that Malawi is inching its way forward. Photo: Govati Nyirenda/World Bank


A new Country Economic Memorandum gives us a chance to step back and look at the deep drivers of growth since Malawi’s independence in 1964. What stands out, though, is just how far Malawi has fallen behind its peers. It’s easy to look at the seemingly insurmountable challenges the country faces—from droughts and floods to the country’s landlocked status—yet other countries in the region have experienced just as many climate-related disasters, and overcome them better. And throughout the 50 plus years of its independence, Malawi has been fortunate to be at peace and mostly politically stable.

How behavioral science has helped me deal with development projects and my children

Anna Fruttero's picture
 
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank

“Working on the World Development Report 2015 and subsequently in the eMBeD Unit mainstreaming the use of behavioral insights within World Bank’s projects, has also been very helpful when dealing with my kids”, I told a class of undergrads where I had been invited as a speaker. The first question I was asked in the open Q&A was whether I could elaborate on that statement. How had behavioral insights helped me with my kids? Students wanted to know more. The fact that college students picked up on this sentence out of an hour-long conversation on my experience with behavioral work at the World Bank struck me.

Define the problem in terms of a behavior. Ask how rather than why. Change the frame, the perspective of looking at a problem. Diagnose the constraints. Test and adapt your interventions. These are some of the messages we teach in our workshops on behavioral insights designed for our colleagues and counterparts in governments. They are simple, yet very powerful, and they have certainly helped me working on projects in a wide range of places such as Brazil, Ethiopia and the Maldives, but also, unexpectedly, in dealing with my children.

Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
Women collecting water in  Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
 
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
 
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
 
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

Measuring youth employment projects: What can we learn from each other?

Jose Manuel Romero's picture
When it comes to youth employment projects, there is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. (Photo:  Flore de Préneuf / World Bank)


Youth employment projects face varying contextual realities and constraints that often result in generating innovations when adapting and customizing their monitoring and evaluation system. There is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. Project teams find their own solutions to similar rising challenges, which in some instances lead to a medley of methods and conventions in monitoring and evaluation that lack a uniform standard.

To capture some of the main innovations and challenges in monitoring and evaluation, we held our first Virtual Workshop with Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio, which is a group of 19 promising and innovative youth employment projects. This brought together 30 participants from locations spanning across regions. As our new report highlights, challenges include: measuring job creation; consistently measuring important outcomes such as the financial behaviors of entrepreneurs; and tracking beneficiaries after graduating from youth employment programs to measure labor market outcomes.

We covered two new frameworks varying in scope, from a broad overarching framework to track jobs-related outcomes of projects to a newly developed metric focused on cost-effectiveness.

In Bulgaria, giving Roma children equal opportunity starts with free preschool

Daphna Berman's picture
Eugenia enjoying a music lesson together with preschool children in the Bulgarian village of Litakovo. (Photo: Daniel Lekov / World Bank)

In Bulgaria, where just 15 percent of Roma children complete secondary school, Eugenia Volen, 42, knows only too well how hard her job is.  

What kind of evidence might persuade people to change their minds on refugees?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.

Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the  ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.

When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, had drowned.  Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon.  Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.

The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.

Cairns 2


Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK.  It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue.  Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.

Urgency and unity central at Fiji-led climate conference

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture

The inspiring slogan of the UN Climate Change conference COP23 “Uniting for Climate Action – Further Faster Together” still reverberates in my daily thoughts. The World Bank Group partnered with the Fijian Presidency, the German hosts and numerous partners to spread the message of unity, and the urgent need to increase ambition and action.


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