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Timing Is Everything: Are We Heading to a New Global Food Price Crisis?

José Cuesta's picture

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Today the world seems to hold its breath again amidst the sudden hike in food prices caused by a historical drought in the US and lack of rain in Eastern Europe.[1] It is a thorny task to predict whether the very recent increases in food prices will unfold into magnitude of the crises seen in 2007-08 and again in 2010-2011: differences between now and then in the price of energy, a critical driver of food prices, give a reason for optimism; as does the hope that governments now better understand the painful consequences of some panic policies that have been put in place during previous episodes. On the other hand, months of volatility in global food prices, low food stocks and food security crisis alerts in parts of East and West Africa all paint a gloomy picture.

AIDS Debate Poses Tough Funding Questions to Top Thinkers

Donna Barne's picture

AIDS Debate

The question was on the pros and cons of HIV/AIDS funding and the tools were sharp insights and passionate views as some of the most influential figures in the fight against AIDS and poverty participated in a lively debate before a packed World Bank auditorium July 23.

The webcast event, co-hosted by the Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development/ U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the medical journal The Lancet, asked a panel of experts to weigh global funding for HIV/AIDS in a fiscally strained, post financial crisis environment. The debate was part of the first International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington in 22 years.

How a Week in Rio Leads to an Active Monday Morning

Rachel Kyte's picture

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What will you do Monday morning to start making a difference? UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

We came to Rio+20 determined that one outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development must be a plan for what ministers of finance, development and environment and ourselves need to do differently Monday morning, June 25th  – if we are to achieve sustainable development for all. 

We have our plan.

We came to Rio+20 knowing that inclusive green growth is the pathway to sustainable development, and the evidence here is that this international community agrees. 

The analysis behind the World Bank’s report Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development framed many of the conference debates and helped facilitate a new focus on natural capital accounting – a fundamental component of inclusive green growth.

According to the 59 countries, 86 companies, and 17 civil society organizations that supported the World Bank Group-facilitated 50:50 campaign – as well as many others – natural capital accounting is an idea whose time has come.   

In fact, natural capital accounting events filled the Rio Convention Center, and government and civil society groups alike highlighted the importance of moving beyond GDP.

This new energy and emphasis around this issue may be the most important outcome of Rio+ 20. 

Gender Equality: Smart Economics & Smart Business

Rachel Kyte's picture

Gro Harlem Brundtland speaks with Michele Bachelet at Rio+20. UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco
Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and special envoy of the UN secretary-general on climate change, speaks with Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and executive director of UN Women, during a press conference at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

Twenty years ago, evenings in the Planeta Femea - the women’s tent in the alternative forum, the Global Forum - changed my life. I started connecting health, rights, environment, and development through the vision of the women there. Now, 20 years later, a new generation of young women is angry and frustrated that their rights and their health always seem to get traded away at the last moment.

Absent here in Rio are some of the pioneers on whose shoulders we stand - Wangari Maathai and Bella Abzug to name just two. We should remember that in the run-up to Rio the first time around, delegates and officialdom thought them troublesome -  they “needed to be managed.” Wangari, of course, faced much worse before she was embraced as a radical reformer for peace and sustainable development and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Rio this time around, gender equality is understood as smart economics, and judging by the energy and programming in the private sector summits, smart business, too. This is a real advance in implementing Agenda 21.

It's All Connected: Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Development

Rachel Kyte's picture

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China's Loess Plateau, before and after restoration through a landscape approach. Photos: Till Niermann, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0), Erick Fernandes/World Bank.
China's Loess Plateau, before and after restoration through a landscape approach.
Photos: Till Niermann, Wikimedia Commons (CC), Erick Fernandes/World Bank.

Yesterday, I joked that I didn't want to come to another Agriculture and Rural Development Day. I wasn’t trying to be flip, and I was only half-joking, but not for the reasons you might think.

I said that we need to be coming to “Landscape Days” – where we have the foresters in the room with the farmer and with the fishers and with the producers and with everybody in the research community.

The bottom line is that we can't achieve food security, or nutrition security, without preserving the ecosystem services that forests provide. We can't sustain forests without thinking of how we will feed a growing population. And we can't grow food without water.

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action on Oceans

Rachel Kyte's picture

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Taina Tagicakibau, permanent secretary for Fiji’s Environment Department. Credit: Mariana Kaipper Ceratti
Taina Tagicakibau, permanent secretary for Fiji’s Environment Department, reaches out to a public audience during Rio +20 to explain the need for action to restore the world's oceans to health. Photos: Mariana Kaipper Ceratti/World Bank


It was an important day for the oceans at Rio +20. With negotiations around the Rio outcome text now reaching a crucial stage, it was good to get away from all the talk about words, to actually talk about action.

At the Global Ocean Forum – a gathering of ocean thinkers and doers on the sidelines of the Rio +20 conference – I announced the official birth of the Global Partnership for Oceans. It felt good to announce that 83 countries, civil society groups, private companies, research bodies and more have joined forced to make things happen for better managed, better protected oceans. Each of them has “signed on” (by email) to the Declaration for Healthy, Productive Oceans to Help Reduce Poverty (pdf). Read it and tell us what you think.

It has been inspiring to see the excitement that has gathered around this partnership. Country after country is now talking about the crisis facing oceans, the lack of action on all the unmet promises since the last Rio conference, and the fact that it’s time for all interests – public, private, non-government – to come together around innovative solutions.

It’s time for a global platform of action.

Rio+20, une scène internationale

Rachel Kyte's picture

Cette semaine, la ville de Rio de Janeiro va se transformer en scène internationale pour accueillir des dizaines de milliers de participants à la Conférence des Nations unies sur le développement durable.

Cette grande scène mondiale qu’est la conférence Rio+ 20 va permettre à ceux qui souhaitent agir — acteurs publics, du secteur privé et de la société civile — de montrer comment il est possible d’accélérer les progrès à condition de changer nos modes de croissance.

Rio +20: A Global Stage

Rachel Kyte's picture

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Earth Summit 1992. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras
Photo: The scene at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the conference adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Agenda 21 programme of action, among other actions. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras.


This week, the city of Rio de Janeiro will become a global stage, home to tens of thousands of people attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Rio+ 20 is an important global stage upon which those committed to action from government, the private sector, and society can show how they plan to demonstrate that we can accelerate progress, if we change the way we grow.

We need a different kind of growth, a greener and more inclusive growth. We think it is affordable with help to those for whom upfront costs may be prohibitive. We think we should be able to value natural resources differently within our economic model. We think that with the right data and evidence we can avoid the irreversible costs of making wrong decisions now. And we can have economic systems that are much more efficient.

Inclusive Green Growth Is Smart Growth, as South Korea Is Proving

Rachel Kyte's picture

One of Asia’s fastest growing economies in the last 40 years, South Korea, has emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse that has virtually eliminated poverty.  Its resilient economy survived the 2008–2009 financial crises better than almost any other country, but it is far from complacent.  Korea spends a bigger percentage of GDP on research and development than Germany, the UK and the US.

Today, Korea is a global champion of green growth with a long-term plan for transitioning to green growth and a focus on exporting green tech, and it is moving away from energy imports and energy-intensive industries.  Korea’s journey is not complete, but its progress stands as an inspiration to developing countries wherever they are in theirs.

At the second Global Green Growth Summit, in Seoul on Thursday, President Lee Myung-bak reinforced Korea’s commitment to playing a leadership role on the global stage, restating Korea’s commitment to increasing official development assistance through to 2020 and announcing that 30 percent of that ODA will be green.

Launching our report in Seoul was an excellent opportunity to further strengthen our partnership with Korea and expand our inclusive green growth knowledge base.

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