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May 2016

Healthy living for healthy societies and stronger economies

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

The cigarette puffs surrounded the 18-month-old boy as he stood next to his chain-smoking grandparents in the living room, while a 3-year-old girl fetched a can of Pepsi-Cola from the fridge in the kitchen. Just across in the dining area, a 7-month-old boy was being fed a creamy, sugary, chocolate cake, while a bunch of other kids were playing “house” in the front yard by actually eating unlimited number of chocolate bars, cake, and chips while drinking soda.

I could not believe my eyes. Observing these behaviors as a parent myself, it seemed like I was watching the slow death and diseases haunting these children for the rest of their lives.

It has always been like this, but I had never noticed it until I moved out of Iraq and became a parent. I grew up in a place where the unhealthy lifestyle was not a major concern. There are many other, more pressing concerns people there tend to worry about — and rightfully so — than what they eat and drink.

However, what people in my war-torn home country may not realize is that it’s not only car bombs that can kill them. Cigarettes, junk food, and soda can too.

3 reasons why ‘Housing for All’ can happen by 2030

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture


By 2030, almost 60 percent of 8.3 billion people will live in cities, according to UN estimates.

Almost 1400 of the world’s cities will have half a million or more inhabitants.

Cities can connect people with opportunities, incubate innovation and foster growth, but they require urban planning, infrastructure, transport and housing.

Social protection and the World Humanitarian Summit

Keith Hansen's picture
Beneficiaries receive cash transfer payment in Freetown, Sierra Leone during the ebola crisis. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In a world increasingly filled with risk and potential, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks.
 
Social protection systems also help people find jobs, allow them to meet their basic needs while also investing in the health and education of their children, and protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports universal access to social protection, which is central to its goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We also have projects that are directly or indirectly supporting humanitarian work around the world.

How we’re fighting conflict and fragility where poverty is deepest

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español

View from cave, Mali. © Curt Carnemark/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030:
good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.
 
By 2030, more than half of the world’s poorest people will live in very poor countries that are fragile, affected by conflict, or experience high levels of violence
 
These are places where governments cannot adequately provide even basic services and security, where economic activity is paralyzed and where development is the most difficult.  It is also where poverty is deepest. The problems these countries face don’t respect borders. About half of the world’s 20 million refugees are from poor countries. Many more are displaced within their own country.

Why cultural diversity matters to development

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Culture is an essential component of each and every society. It is the fabric that weaves communities together and gives them their unique identity. Acknowledging and factoring in cultural diversity is essential to working efficiently with our client countries and adapting interventions to the local context.
 
Embracing cultural diversity, especially through the preservation of cultural heritage assets, also brings tangible economic benefits. Preserving or repurposing historic landmarks in downtown cores, for instance, can make cities more vibrant, attract new firms, and foster job creation. In addition, the preservation of cultural assets plays a key part in supporting sustainable tourism, a sector that has significant potential for reducing poverty in both urban and rural settings.
 
On this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, Ede Ijjasz and Guido Licciardi tell us more about the role of culture and its importance to the World Bank's mission.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

Wonderful Life: Biodiversity for sustaining people and their livelihoods

Adriana Moreira's picture
Francisco "Chico" Mendes (1944 - 1988), Brazilian rubber-tapper and environmentalist, actively involved in protecting the Amazon forest through his advocacy for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Photo credit: Miranda Smith 

As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.

The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.

ThinkHazard! – A new, simple platform for understanding and acting on disaster risk

Alanna Simpson's picture
ThinkHazard! platform


Too many times after a natural hazard strikes, public outcries follow once the level of devastation becomes clear. People wonder – and often rightly so – if the disaster could have been prevented.  After the 2015 Nepal earthquake for example, years of investment in school buildings was wiped away in seconds because schools were not built to withstand earthquakes – often because people were not aware of the earthquake risk. Fortunately, it was a Saturday so the schools that collapsed did not also result in unimaginable human tragedy.  

Humanitarian assistance versus safety nets: are we asking the right questions?

Ugo Gentilini's picture
Ebola survivors Mariatu and her daughter Adam. Photo © Dominic Chavez / World Bank

As the World Humanitarian Summit approaches, the buzz around humanitarian issues is reaching fever pitch (see here, here and here). This is complemented by a growing literature on how government safety nets such as cash transfer programs can be ‘scalable’ in response to shocks (see here and here).
 
Amidst the excitement, the distinction between humanitarian assistance and safety nets is not always clear: how do they differ? Are they complementary or alternatives? What are the trade-offs? In a recent note, I tried to explore some these quandaries. 

Ending poverty means closing the gaps between women and men

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A woman in a Niger village cooks for her family. Photo © Stephan Gladieu/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.

The world is a better place for women and girls in 2016 than even a decade ago. But not for everyone, and definitely not everywhere: This is especially true in the world’s poorest, most fragile countries.
 
It’s also particularly true regarding women’s economic opportunities. Gender gaps in employment, business, and access to finance hold back not just individuals but whole economies—at a time when we sorely need to boost growth and create new jobs globally.

Free, French course on PPPs offers customized case studies, relevant regional perspectives

Olivier Fremond's picture
Also available in: Français
Free, French course on PPPs



As a former country manager in Benin, my team and I advised the national administration on the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Project Law then under consideration and engaged in PPPs. This effort took place after the private sector, both domestic and international, made a strong commitment to finance large infrastructure programs. Timing is everything, of course, and the window for passing the legislation through parliament before legislative elections was tight – ultimately, too tight. A better understanding of PPPs and the options these partnerships can offer to a country like Benin, which needs substantial infrastructure investments, would have helped the process tremendously.

At the time, however, PPP educational options for French speakers were scarce. Although plenty of PPP resources exist in English, many fewer tools are available for Francophone African countries. These tools are critical to understanding PPPs, creating and adopting legislation, applying PPPs when they may serve a need, and knowing when not to use them to secure infrastructure services.

How can the World Bank support LGBTI inclusion?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Despite recent advances, people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Intersex (LGBTI) continue to face widespread exclusion.
 
Stigmatization and discrimination often have a direct impact on the lives of LGBTI people, but also affect economies and societies at large: when entire groups are left behind - including due to sexual orientation or gender identity - everyone loses out on their skills and productivity.
 
On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), Ede Ijjasz and Maninder Gill detail some of the actions taken by the World Bank to make sure LGBTI people can be fully integrated into global development.

Unlocking investment opportunities in fragile markets

Joaquim Levy's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español

Expansion of the Azito Thermal Power Plant in Côte d'Ivoire will improve access to electricity and help sustain the country's economic growth. © Cedric Favero/International Finance Corporation

An estimated 1.2 billion people — almost one in every five people in the world — are living in areas affected by conflict and fragility today. Some of these people are fleeing from war, while others have escaped natural disasters. Most are trying to earn a living in very challenging environments.

These are not abstract numbers — we are talking about real people, with real problems. Hence, we need to ask ourselves, in the public and private sectors, what strategies can help them.

The way out of poverty and corruption is paved with good governance

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français

Woman speaks to World Bank MD and COO Sri Mulyani Indrawati in the Nyabithu District of Rwanda. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.


Twenty years ago, the World Bank took up the fight against corruption as an integral part of reducing poverty, hunger, and disease. The decision was groundbreaking then and remains valid today. Corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, leads to a culture of bribes, and distorts public expenditures, deterring foreign investors and hampering economic growth.

Oil price impact is felt beyond borders

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

Oil pumps in southern Russia © Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank

Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Income inequality and differential mortality: An ominous combination

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

A man smokes in Indonesia. © Curt Carnemark/World Bank

It is safe to argue that the issue of income and wealth inequality is nowadays at the center of political debate across the world. Leading intellectuals such as Thomas Piketty in his seminal work, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and Joseph Stiglitz in “The Price of Inequality” have rigorously analyzed the evolution of this social phenomenon and argued that increased inequality and lack of opportunity are creating divided societies that are endangering the future of nations.

Those working in public health have for years documented and discussed how low and decreasing incomes, decline in standards of living, and lack of or limited access health care and other essential services contribute to inequalities in health, manifested in a widening gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.

You liked Oceans 11? Wait till you see Oceans 2030

Yuvan A. Beejadhur's picture
 Arne Hoel / World Bank.

The ocean is a powerful resource and the next economic frontier. WWF estimates that the ocean economy is the 7th largest economy, valued at US$ 24 trillion. With more than 6 million women directly employed in the fishery sector, and global job numbers set to grow to 43 million by 2030, the oceans are roaring. Yet, its natural capital has been systematically undervalued and overdrawn. According to the Bank’s Sunken Billions Revisited report, we are foregoing about $85 billion a year in additional revenues due to the mismanagement of fisheries. It is imperative that countries and citizens make informed decisions on resources, spatial planning and other important factors including the costs of marginalizing poor communities and the loss or degradation of critical habitats.
 
But oceans are often neglected in the development discourse. Obtaining the SDG 14 goal on oceans was a gargantuan, albeit noble effort. The Financing for Development architecture, the “Life below Water” goal and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) made in Paris, urge us to capitalize on a new narrative: long-term financing of sustainable ocean economies in a climate change context.
 
Enter Oceans 2030
This is why the Bank is looking at oceans anew. People who saw our Oceans 2030 banner asked us if George Clooney or Julia Roberts were attending the 2016 Spring Meetings. While neither could make it, 20 Ministers of Finance and their representatives came to the first high-level ministerial dialogue, “Oceans 2030: Financing the Blue Economy for Sustainable Development”
                                                           
With a cast including Bank VP Laura Tuck and Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Environment, Energy and the Sea (and COP-21 President), countries tackled complex questions about the ‘Blue Economy’. What’s stopping us from maximizing returns in jobs and GDP from a thriving blue economy with growing natural resource assets? How can we reduce uncertainty and produce sustainable, investable projects? Whether it is Seychelles’s blue bonds, USA on eco-tourism, the ‘Gabon Bleu’ or Colombia’s actions to address the inequality in coastal populations, countries are starting to see the merits of a balanced approach for harnessing the potential and wealth of oceans. They’re looking for ideas, finance, and knowledge to grow sectors like aquaculture, marine tourism especially cruises, marine biotechnology and cancer research.

Evidence for better-informed decisions and more inclusive policies

Simona Palummo's picture
 Arne Hoel/World Bank
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
Why do we need evidence?
 
The sustainable development agenda adopted by world leaders in September 2015 set a series of ambitious goals to end poverty, ensure equal economic growth, and tackle climate change by 2030. Rising inequalities, especially in developing countries, remind us that if we want to achieve these goals, we need more inclusive policies which consider the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
 
Policymakers are constantly trying to identify better solutions to address global challenges, and that implies considering different policy options, and making a choice that can benefit each group of the population, which sometimes is extremely difficult. Even well-designed policies might have adverse impacts, particularly on the poor and the most socially excluded groups. That is why we need evidence to support better policy decisions, and that’s when Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) gets in the picture. What is exactly PSIA? The World Bank defines it as “an approach to assess the distributional and social impacts of policy reforms on the well-being of different groups of the population, in particular the poor and vulnerable.”

Think forests and start by listening to their people

Etta Cala Klosi's picture
Myrna Cunningham
Interview with Dr. Myrna Cunningham


My childhood forests are tall, old growth trees clinging to mountainous slopes.

My sister and I would spend the first two weeks of our summer break at camps in the mountains of Albania. Getting a spot at a camp was a coveted ‘luxury’ but my sister and I were lucky -our mother was an official chaperone. She would wake us at 5 am to walk in the forest before everyone else was up. I have to say that as a five year old I didn’t appreciate the scenery. It was too early in the morning and anyway who cared about birds and foxes? (One time though we did see a red squirrel jumping from tree branches and even I had to admit that was awesome.)