Anyone who has ever been to the Central African Republic (CAR) knows that the country has huge infrastructure needs after years of internal turmoil and strife. But when you look up how much of the government’s investment budget actually was implemented and financed infrastructure development in 2009 for instance, you find a stunningly low execution rate of 5 percent.
The skies have darkened with rain outside the Istanbul Congress Center, but spirits are high inside. The labyrinth of conference rooms is abuzz with government officials and civil society representatives, looking for pragmatic and innovative solutions to today’s most important development issues.
I personally think the CSO functions are going really well. I’m seeing a lot of collaboration, a lot of common ground, and even more so than in the past.
Yesterday an exciting panel of committed global experts and international leaders spoke compellingly about the extreme problems faced by countries affected by fragility and conflict, and what can be done. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Managing Director of the World Bank) asked probing questions to the panel of Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion, and Wars, Guns and Votes), Donald Kaberuka (President of the African Development Bank, former Finance Minister of Rwanda), and George Soros (Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation).
I will write a more systematic summary paper later; here I am just trying to capture some memorable points that struck me from the lively discussion and debate.
On the one hand a sense of optimism, that the problems of fragile states can be addressed, the world is much more aware of these problems, and fragility is not a permanent condition, although it will require much more money and greater accountability, as well as strong leadership in the countries themselves.
On the other hand the recognition that helping countries move out of fragility and conflict is a long-term and thankless task, the dynamics of these countries often put them in a downward spiral, and it is essential to take advantage of windows of opportunity when they arise – whether at the end of a conflict or when there is political change (because once the windows are gone they are gone), and then have staying power. Deterioration can occur quickly, whereas rebuilding takes years and decades. Important not to lose hope.
Don’t bypass the state but rather use aid to help these countries build institutions, was a key message of the seminar.
More money for fragile and conflict affected countries (although it is tiny in relation to what has been spent on the global financial and economic crisis) needs to be accompanied by greater accountability. There are promising ideas, some of which have begun to be put into practice, that need to be scaled up and taken farther.
This morning I had the chance to chat with Sam Worthington, the President and CEO of InterAction, who is attending the Civil Society Forum here in Istanbul. Sam took some time between the sessions of the CSO Forum to tell me a little about InterAction, the work that they are doing with the World Bank, and what he hopes to come out of the Annual Meetings in Turkey this year.
You can watch the entire 5-minute chat below:
G24 Discusses Financial Crisis
The Ministers of the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four (G24) met in Washington yesterday to discuss the global financial crisis and its widespread impact.
Following the meeting, they released a communique that highlighted, among other issues, the fact that the current crisis was having a "disproportionate effect on developing countries through various channels, including falling prices of primary commodities, sharply contracting exports, declining remittances, negative net private capital flows, and credit crunch affecting many countries"
G7 Addresses Recession and Downturn
The G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors met in Washington DC yesterday, amidst what they claim is "the the deepest and most widespread economic downturn and financial stress witnessed in decades."
The Bank released today the latest edition of the World Development Indicators, an annual Bank flagship. The WDI provides a comprehensive overview of development drawing on data from the World Bank and more than 30 partners.
"The WDI is the statistical benchmark that will help measure both the impact of the crisis and, eventually, of global recovery," says Shaida Badiee, director of the Bank's Development Data Group.
Some of this year's highlight focus on the economy, spread of new technology, migration, energy and climate change.
For example, did you know that India leads all countries in exports of information communication technology (ICT) services? ICT sector exports account for about 42% of total service exports. Ok, so that was an easy one.
But did you know that energy use has doubled since 1971? The United States, Japan, Germany, Russia, China and India consume most energy, and are the largest emmiters of carbon dioxide?