For a very long time, the rich have known to some extent how the poor around the world live. What’s new in today's world is that the best-kept secret from the poor, namely, how the rich live, is now out. Through the village television, the Internet and hand-held instruments, which a rapidly increasing number of the poor possess, life-styles of the rich and the middle class are transmitted in full color to their homes every day.
Last year, when I traveled with President Evo Morales to a Bolivian village 14,000 feet above sea level, villagers snapped pictures on their smartphones of our arrival. In Uttar Pradesh, the state in India with the highest number of poor people, I found Indians watching Korean soap operas on their smartphones.
We live in an unequal world. But while the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.
In September, the world’s top scientists said the human influence on climate was clear. Last month, they warned of increased risks of a rapidly warming planet to our economies, environment, food supply, and global security. Today, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes what we need to do about it.
The report, focused on mitigation, says that global greenhouse gas emissions were rising faster in the last decade than in the previously three, despite reduction efforts. Without additional mitigation efforts, we could see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of this century. The IPCC says we can still limit that increase to 2 degrees, but that will require substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral change.
Let’s translate the numbers. For every degree rise, that equates to more risk, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.
A perfect storm of disaster risk is forming at the intersection of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change – one that is threatening to upend efforts towards achieving our development goals.
The number of natural disasters has nearly doubled in the last three decades, with the cost of these events increasing substantially– from around $50 billion annually in the 1980’s to just under $200 billion a year in the last decade, with extreme weather events responsible for nearly three-fourths of these losses.
One reason is population growth, 95 percent of which is happening and will continue to happen in developing countries. Another is rapidly expanding cities. Growing stress on infrastructure, utilities, and housing will only exacerbate risks and undo decades of achievements in development and increase the burden on humanitarian efforts.
Remember when you were a kid and everyone asked: “What do you want to become when you grow up?” What did you answer? Have you fulfilled your dreams?
Most of us aspire to live our lives to the fullest; to develop our talents; to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we may feel lost in the great scheme of things. But as the World Bank Group’s Jim Yong Kim points out: The most successful movements to change the world started with a small group of like-minded people. Think of the movements to find a treatment for AIDS, to promote human rights or to ensure gender equality.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, discusses her trip to Poland, its economy, progress in boosting shared prosperity, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.
With its scenarios of increasing risks as a result of climate change – from sea level rise to disappearing fish populations, food insecurity, and forest diebacks from extreme heat – the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a picture of a complicated future where no one gets by unscathed, where existing vulnerabilities are exacerbated, and where, as Fred Pearce so aptly puts it, we need to “prepare for the worst.”
But, as the scientists rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be like this.
We know that numbers are useful. We rely on them to analyze global economic trends, but also to count calories, create passwords, manage schedules and track our spending. Numbers give order to the chaos of our lives. And that means we can use numbers to reflect, learn, and re-discover ourselves.
We’ve launched a new YouTube series called ‘My Favorite Number,’ that shows how a single digit can give us unique insight into global development and humanity. A number can have a profound effect on human lives.
Many people have the misconception that my field -- global development -- is just about do-gooders and charities helping the poor. To be sure, many charitable groups are doing generous, laudable work. But global development extends far beyond charity and has a greater impact on the global economy than most people think.
Strong economic growth in developing countries became an engine for the global economy after the 2008-09 financial crisis, accounting for roughly 50 percent of all global growth. In addition, fully half of the United States’ exports now go to emerging markets and developing economies.
Global economic development can be good for your bottom line. Our focus is on helping more than a billion poor people lift themselves out of extreme poverty and on boosting the incomes of the poorest 40 percent in developing countries. To do that, we need to find economic growth strategies that help all segments of society in emerging markets -- reaching even fragile states striving to put years of conflict behind them and to create good jobs for their people.
The question I ask my team all the time is, what’s our plan? Increasingly scarce public funding isn’t enough to get the job done. We need to attract private sector investment that creates jobs. Ninety percent of all jobs in the developing world are created by the private sector. If we have high aspirations for the poor and vulnerable, there is no argument: We need the private sector to flourish, even in the poorest countries.
After more than two hours stranded at a small town train station near Tokyo, Japan, with record snowfall and freezing temperatures outside our windows, the train driver addressed us for the third time – no new updates. “Our personnel are working to fix the problem,” the voice said. At that moment, an older man seated next to me leaned over and told me, “We have to do our part; the people working in the snow are trying their best to fix the system, so we can move. We should remain calm and wait - we cannot be part of the problem.” I was starting to understand why Japanese are so resilient.
This adventure began last February, following my participation in the launch of the new, $100 million joint program between Japan and the World Bank for disaster risk reduction. This program, implemented by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), will benefit a large number of especially vulnerable countries around the world. As part of this new initiative, the World Bank also launched the Disaster Risk Management Tokyo Hub.
The launch for the Tokyo Hub was held at a high level symposium at the Japan Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on February 3, which attracted more than 400 people and had substantial media coverage. The Senior Vice-Minister for Finance/Senior Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Jiro Aichi (a native of Sendai) spoke of Japan's commitment to disaster risk management (DRM) and thanked the World Bank for its strong support, before kicking off an intense program of inter-agency meetings to better utilize Japanese expertise in DRM practices.
My experience with Japanese solidarity and resilience, however, was best highlighted the day I was returning home. On February 9, as I was trying to get to Narita airport, more than 27 centimeters of snow fell on Tokyo and other areas of Japan, the heaviest of 40 years. Many buildings in the city collapsed, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country.
Building social movements. I often hear about the need to create social movements to tackle a number of entrenched global challenges such as ending extreme poverty, promoting greater income equality, and combatting climate change.
History is full of social movements that have succeeded and failed. The lessons from one ongoing movement that I know well – the fight against AIDS – should be examined closely by those looking to build movements today.
Lesson No. 1 from the AIDS movement is to believe only in the possibility -- not the inevitability -- of success. Opponents will fight and appear immovable. As those of us who lived through the early days of the AIDS fight, it was always far from certain that we would reach our goals.