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The Bank punches above its weight. But where and why?

Steve Knack's picture

In October 2015, the Washington Post ran a story that compared the World Bank’s performance to that of other bilateral and multilateral development finance institutions. It identified the Bank as a leader among its peers in the value-for-money that it provides to its shareholders (and their taxpayers).

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

A Year After Panama Papers, Is Enough Being Done to Stop Illicit Finance?
Transparency International
One year ago today a group of more than 300 journalists in 79 countries sent a powerful message to the corrupt: you can no longer hide. The publication of the Panama Papers on 3 April 2016 was a shot heard around the world against corruption. Suddenly one of the most closely held secrets of the biggest criminals was revealed – where and how they hide their money. The Panama Papers showed how a Panamanian law firm helped set up 214,000 secret shell companies, many of them used by corrupt politicians, criminals and tax abusers around the world. The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, was just one of hundreds of law firms around the world that provide services that can be used to enable corruption, illicit financial flows, drug-dealing, terrorism, tax evasion and the surge in economic inequality. The Panama Papers showed how secretly owned companies are an important vehicle for corruption that allows secret movements of money and other activity away from the eyes of law enforcement, tax collectors, regulators and others.

Human Development Report 2016
UNDP
The report finds that although average human development improved significantly across all regions from 1990 to 2015, one in three people worldwide continue to live in low levels of human development, as measured by the Human Development Index. This is a concern in developed countries too, where poverty and exclusion are also a challenge, with over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – living in relative poverty. The report shows that in almost every country, several groups face disadvantages that often overlap and reinforce each other, increasing vulnerability, widening the progress gap across generations, and making it harder to catch up as the world moves on.

Working to attract PPPs in countries with the greatest needs

François Bergere's picture



At the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) we are always trying to improve how we help countries—especially those with the greatest needs—develop strategies to attract private sector investment in much-needed infrastructure such as transport, water/sanitation, and energy. And we aren’t afraid to assess our past work to find ways to do it.

How can Social Accountability address fragility and help societies rebuild?

Jeff Thindwa's picture
Students in a war torn classroom. Photo: Alex Baluyut / World Bank

By 2030, almost half of the world’s poor will be concentrated in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence.  It’s easy to associate these problems with only poorer countries, but in fact they affect a broader range of countries, and yes, middle income countries too. And, increasingly, they cross borders. Beyond the threats of terrorism, conflict and violence, poor public services and economic livelihoods have led to mass migration and forced displacement, trapping growing numbers of innocent people in vicious cycles of deprivation.

Consider how the Syrian refugee situation has spilled over beyond the Middle East, and the current famine in South Sudan, which is impacting approximately 100,000 people, with millions of lives at risk in the region if we do not act quickly and decisively.

On World Health Day, why I'm choosing to talk about depression

Patricio V. Marquez's picture
Also available in: Español | Français
photo: WHO


This year’s World Health Day carries a particular significance for me and for many others. The theme, “Depression: Let’s Talk,” shines a light upon a problem that oftentimes remains hidden in a dark corner of our minds, trapping us in a painful agony of sadness, loss of interest, and fear. 

Who goes to school? Here’s what Afghanistan’s Provincial Briefs tell us about primary school attendance

Christina Wieser's picture
Student in a classroom in Afghanistan.
Students in a classroom in Bamyan Province. Photo Credit: Taimani Films/ World Bank


Afghanistan grapples with a range of challenges from growing insecurity to stagnating growth and rising levels of poverty. It is no surprise that the impact of the violent conflict on the country’s economic prospects and the welfare of its people is profound. Yet, Afghanistan carries ambitious development goals including achieving gender parity in primary schooling by 2030 among others. To ensure Afghanistan meets its goals, it is important to know how the country has progressed on socio-economic outcomes.  

In collaboration with the Ministry of Economy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and based on data provided by the Central Statistics Organization, the World Bank recently published the third edition of the Provincial Briefs (also available in Dari and Pashto), which provides a comprehensive profile of the most recent progress on a set of socio-economic indicators including education both at the national and at the provincial levels[1].

What do they reveal? We can see Afghanistan has achieved impressive improvements in human development outcomes—in areas such as education, health, and access to basic services. But this overall progress has not benefitted everyone equally and gaps in access between Afghans living in different provinces persist. In fact, where Afghan families live matters greatly for their socio-economic outcomes. And when it comes to schooling, this is no different. Location determines whether children will go to school or not.

Urban jungles in jeopardy

Ivo Germann's picture
Why the world’s cities are at risk – and what we can do to make them more resilient



We may not know exactly what the world will look like in two decades, but we know this: it is going to be a world of cities.
 
The global population is becoming increasingly urban, and at an astonishing rate. Each year, urban areas are growing by an average of more than 75 million people – more than the population of the world’s 85 smallest countries combined.
 
For the world’s economy, this is great news, since cities produce 80 percent of global GDP, despite currently being home to only 55 percent of the population. But it is a problem for urban infrastructure, which can’t keep up with such fast-paced growth. As a result, cities, already vulnerable, are becoming increasingly susceptible to natural disasters – from flooding and landslides that can decimate informal housing settlements, to earthquakes that can devastate power grids and water systems.
 
These risks could be disastrous for the urban poor, 881 million of whom currently live in slums (up 28 percent since 2000). And climate change – which is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters – will only exacerbate the problem. For this reason, multilateral and government institutions now see resilience and climate adaptation as integral pillars of development.
 
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), for example, considers low-emission and climate-resilient economies to be key to global competitiveness. A recent report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) found that climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents into poverty by 2030 – unless we take action to improve the resilience of cities around the world.

Ubuntu: How social networks help explain theories of change

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the second post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

There is a Nguni-Bantu phrase, “I am because we are” which arises from the Ubuntu philosophy of community. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee translated it in her TED Talk as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” At its most basic understanding, Ubuntu means “human kindness toward others,” but its meaning is much greater, expressing ideas of connection and community. It is a concept known to cultures around the world. The Maori of New Zealand say “We all in the same boat”, and the North American Sioux tribe believes that, “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Globally, cultures around the world know and use the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. 

Modern philosophers have taken these axioms and developed social science research to explore them. Social capital refers to the interpersonal interactions we all participate in to create economic and cultural resources. When social capital is functioning well, social relations are marked by reciprocity, trust and cooperation and individuals can produce goods and services not just for themselves, but for the common good.  Relatedly, social cohesion describes the degree to which a society works toward the wellbeing of all its members, supports inclusive practices, and allows individuals to work for upward mobility.

These theories are essential to international development because, as Michael Woolcock points out, “Development changes who people interact with, and the terms with which people interact.”  Whether you think of these ideas as Ubuntu or social capital, they encompass the way in which people deal with power structures, like the state, and with other people who are not like them. 
 
Michael Woolcock

 

Media (R)evolutions: Is the Internet increasing labor market polarization in Europe and Central Asia?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

According to the World Bank report “Reaping Digital Dividends: Leveraging the Internet for Development in Europe and Central Asia” Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region has experienced, on average, a larger decline in routine employment than other parts of the world, coupled with an increase in high-and low-skill occupations. With anxiety about the job replacement effects of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the rise, let’s look into some of the highlights of the report focusing on possible short term disruptions and long term opportunities brought by ICT.  

Is the Internet responsible for the increasing market polarization? According to this report, it is not. The authors argue that in addition to technologies associated with the Internet that may have helped this process, there are other aspects, such as structural changes in economies, technological and trade, as well as labor market liberalization that help explain such rapid labor market polarization. In addition, the report points out that the depth of Internet adaptation by individuals and firms tends to be lower in ECA than many other regions.

At the same time, the report found that countries that implemented reforms in the telecommunications sector, with an objective to improve competition, increase provision, and lower prices, created the enabling environment for the increase in Internet adaptation. The graph below demonstrates, that the introduction of the telecommunications reform is strongly correlated with the decrease in the routine labor employment share.

Early recovery programs help restore economic stability in central Yemen

Abdulelah Taqi's picture

 
By the end of 2016, the security situation in parts of central Yemen had improved—relatively speaking—in many rural areas of the governorate of Taiz, prompting a proportion of the more than 3.2 million Yemenis displaced nationwide to return to their homes after a period of bitter suffering. Many Yemen's returnees have faced such significant challenges since returning home, however, that some see little advantage to having done so.

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