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Middle East and North Africa

Sensitizing development challenges through virtual reality

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


There is a round metal tray surrounded by four children and their parents. In it, there are plates filled with instant noodles, hummus, lebne, olives and pickled eggplant. I look left and there is a silver tea pot. I look right and my eyes catch a plastic bag of pita bread.
 
The tray is put on an unfinished concrete floor covered with a bunch of heavy winter blankets. The brick walls are partially covered with bedding sheets, while heavy winter clothes are hanging on a water pipe.
 
I lift my head up. I see a light bulb hanging from an unfinished cement ceiling. When I look back down, I see a toddler approaching me trying to poke my eyes, until I realize that I am not actually there and she is only trying to poke the 360 camera!

Youth and peacebuilding one act at a time

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


Aristotle once said “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference,” and what a difference a group of young Lebanese men and women are making to advocate for peace to make a difference!

Their ages range between 16 to 25 years old. They are poor and unemployed. They once fought each other, literally, in their sectarian-divided Lebanese city of Tripoli. Sunni residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Alawite residents of Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods fought each other repeatedly.

But at the beginning of 2015, the government imposed a ceasefire that put an end to the endless rounds of fierce clashes and restored calm in the city.

And that’s when a Lebanese non-profit organization promoting peace through art went there looking for a different kind of recruitment: one of peace. March brought the youth together to perform in a play!

In Jordan, cultural taboos are challenged as girls soccer thrives

Natasha Tynes's picture
Also available in: العربية
© Jordan Women's Football
© Jordan Women's Football

“Come get your daughter. She’s playing soccer with the boys,” said the neighbor to my mother one hot summer day in the early ’90s. I will always remember the look on our neighbor’s face. She opened her bedroom window on the second floor and looked below at the children playing soccer in the dirt field across from the apartment building where she lived in Amman, Jordan. She was a middle-aged woman, with short brown hair and a pointy nose. She lived in the same neighborhood where I played soccer with my cousins. I don’t remember her name but I’m going to call her “The Neighbor”. The Neighbor saw me from her window. We exchanged looks. Hers was of disapproval, mine was of fear. Fear of being caught.

How satellites and social media help us anticipate the needs of conflict-affected countries

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank Group plays a major role in recovery and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries. Therefore, it is important for us, in collaboration with international partners, to engage in assessing the needs and planning for recovery and reconstruction as much ahead of time as possible. In recent times, we have been conducting broad-brush damage assessments in active conflict situations using innovative remote-based techniques like satellite imagery or social media analytics to provide not only damage numbers and trends but also qualitative information on the status of various services. These new approaches have helped us maintain situational awareness of and be ready for recovery when the situation allows.

During the initial stages of recovery efforts, supporting local-level recovery initiatives can serve as a springboard for large-scale reconstruction programs, which remains our biggest comparative advantage. Therefore, there is a need to expand these assessments to include other elements of recovery, which would inform preparation of multi-sectoral local level recovery interventions in the short-term, and major reconstruction programs in the medium- to long-term.

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

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


On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony. 

The world’s refugee crisis needs both a humanitarian and longer-term response

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Denham and his family have been refugees living in this tent for the last four years. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


The world's greatest risks can't be confined within borders. This is clearly the case with the ongoing refugee crisis, which is unprecedented in scale and affecting people and places far from the scene of civil war, fragility and conflict. The UK vote to leave the European Union showed, in part, the volatility and reach of the impact of forced displacement.

Arab reality show tests humanity and empathy

Bassam Sebti's picture


It’s Ramadan and the Arabic TV channels are festooned with shows that vary from recurring popular soap operas, cooking and competition shows — but one has become the talk of the town.

Al Sadma, or The Shock, the Arabic version of the popular American show What Would You Do, is a reality TV prank show. But it’s not like many other tasteless reality shows that invoke fright and even terror, it is a show that invokes morality and examines humanity.

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.

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.

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.

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