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Donna Barne's blog

Is the World Turning a Corner on High Food Prices?

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 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
If you Google the latest headlines, you will see plenty about the high price of food. Globally, however, average prices for major food commodities actually are 11% lower than a year ago, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch. Does this mean the world is out of the danger zone on high food prices? Economist José Cuesta sheds light on the issue.

Food prices have been falling globally since August 2012. Have we turned the corner on the food crisis?

It’s true we’ve seen prices declining in a sustained way, but we’re still only 18% away from that historic peak in 2012. The reasons prices increased in the first place – such as growing demand for food and weather concerns – are still issues, and probably will be in the future.I don’t think that we have turned any corner. Prices seem to be less volatile, and that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean the level of prices hasn’t continued to be high; they are still high.

A 19,000-Strong Global Classroom Learns About Climate Change

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Also available in: العربية | Français | Español

If you’re thirsty for knowledge about important global development topics like climate change, you’re not alone.  More than 19,000 people signed up for the World Bank’s free online course, Turn Down the Heat –a virtual guided tour of a World Bank- commissioned report by the Potsdam Institute and Climate Analytics on the likely impacts of a warming Earth.  

MIT Climate Co Lab Tweet

The four-week Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) began Jan. 27 and  just wrapped up.  It featured interactive video talks by renowned climate scientists and practitioners, Google hangouts with international experts, discussion forums and social media collaboration via #wbheat on Twitter.  

Making Renewable Energy Happen

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The green energy revolution used to look pretty far off.  Today, businesses are starting to factor the cost of climate change into their planning, countries have set targets for increasing the use of renewable energy, and wind farms and solar panels are popping up everywhere. But large-scale renewable energy development is still a challenge – especially in the absence of government incentives. Large-scale renewable power such as solar, wind, and wave power, though technically viable, is often seen by investors as too expensive to develop and too risky.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, is working to overcome those concerns. In Chile – a country with considerable renewable energy potential – these efforts are starting to have an impact.  As the video below shows, Chile plans a significant shift in its energy equation – from 37% renewables today to 55% by 2024. Though still a very small percentage of the overall energy mix, non-conventional renewable power such as wind and solar is starting to happen there, without government subsidies. 

Harness the Private Sector to End Poverty – But How?

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has started a conversation about development and the private sector on Oxfam’s blog.

The evolving discussion isn’t so much about whether to harness the private sector to cut poverty, but how to do it.

In an Oct. 28 blog post, Kim said the Bank needs to work with many partners to help meet the goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Private sector investment “is needed to stretch scarce development resources.”

“Engaging the private sector is not about how we feel about business; it’s about how high our aspirations are for poor people. If we rely only upon foreign aid, then our aspirations are far too low.”

Annual Meetings: World Bank Group Strategy Approved; Gender Equality Agenda

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde confer. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.”  Read the communiqué and article.

A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.

Annual Meetings: World Bank’s Future Path, Malala, Gender-Based Violence, Help for Children

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the plenary session of the Annual Meetings. © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

President Jim Yong Kim outlined his plan for a leaner, more efficient and tightly knit World Bank Group in his opening address at the Annual Meetings — and listed several ways changes would be visible to countries working with the institution. Among them: reducing by a third the amount of time a project takes to get off the ground; gathering feedback from all beneficiaries on development projects; and openly sharing knowledge and experience, including making it easy to see exactly where the Bank is working and what it is doing.  “Together, we must urgently lift a billion people from extreme poverty, help them to regain dignity, help them find hope, and help them change their own lives — and the whole world’s future — for the better,” said Kim. The Development Committee discusses the Bank Group’s new strategy on Saturday.

An excited crowd greeted Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old whose fight for girls’ education earned her the European Union’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year. In an often humorous, sometimes touching conversation with President Kim and young people in the audience on International Day of the Girl, Malala talked about her life before and after an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Her cause, education, is the best way to fight poverty and should be the top priority of development institutions, she said. “I believe that when we work together, that it’s really easy for us to achieve our goals,” she said. Kim pledged $200,000 to the Malala Fund on behalf of the World Bank. Replay the webcast and read our Youthink blog.

Annual Meetings: 400 Million Children Living in Extreme Poverty

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the media. © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim delivered two startling facts at his Annual Meetings press briefing today: 400 million of the world’s extreme poor are children; and in 35 low-income countries, 100 million more people are living in extreme poverty — defined as less than $1.25 a day — than 30 years ago. 

Both statistics are from a new report, the State of the World’s Poor, and they reveal that critical challenges remain despite historic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries in recent decades. “How can we in good conscience not do all we can to lift these children and their families out of extreme poverty?” asked Kim. “They can’t wait for progress to emerge slowly. They need our help today.”

In Jocular Interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Kim Announces Serious Poverty Target

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Richard Quest at End Poverty - Really? Event
The mood was light-hearted and lively as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim traded jokes with CNN’s Richard Quest in an early morning, no-holds-barred interview before a live and online audience from around the world.  But Kim soon turned serious about a new target the world must meet on the road to effectively ending extreme poverty by 2030 — cutting it from 18% percent today to half that by 2020.

Annual Meetings: Halving Poverty, Spreading Innovation, Reducing Risk

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Also available in: 中文

World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu discusses strategic policy questions related to shared prosperity. © Brangelina Clawson/World Bank

Can the world cut poverty in half by 2020? In a webcast interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for reducing extreme poverty to single digits in just seven years. The Bank Group will work with countries and the international community to reduce the number of people living under $1.25 a day to 9% of the global population, down from 18% today. The 2020 target would be an interim step on the way to cutting extreme poverty to 3% by 2030 — a goal approved last spring by the Bank Group’s 188 shareholders. Read more: Blog, Release.

Annual Meetings: Kim, Lagarde Talk Climate Change and Growth

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Economic Case for Climate Change Event
Can countries tackle climate change and still grow? Yes, say the leaders of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund – and the need to do so is urgent.

Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde weighed in on development and climate change in their first public discourse together on the topic, ahead of Annual Meetings with finance and development leaders this week.

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