Can we end extreme poverty in a world with extreme inequality? That question inspired a spirited debate in English and Spanish on Oct. 7, just ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, addressing corruption, taxation, discrimination against women, and the need to even the playing field for the younger generation.
Latin America’s experience with inequality was front and center at the live-streamed event, Inequality, Opportunity, and Prosperity, featuring World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Ibero-American Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan, Oxfam International Chair Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, and moderated by CNN Español news anchor Patricia Janiot.
This week, the world’s countries are coming together at UN headquarters in New York to affirm the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development efforts through 2030. While the SDGs have had plenty of active involvement and support from the World Bank Group and our multilateral counterparts, the countries themselves have set this agenda.
The agenda is both ambitious — more than doubling the eight Millennium Development Goals that will officially expire at the end of 2015 — and more comprehensive. For example, where the first MDG set out to “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” its successor SDGs take on these challenges in their entirety: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” (Goal 1) and “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” (Goal 2). And in a world whose “emerging markets” now include larger economies than many members of the European Union, countries have chosen to make these goals universal, equally applicable to the globe’s richer and poorer nations.
The World Bank is working toward two incredibly ambitious goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring shared prosperity for the bottom 40% of the population in each developing country. To achieve these goals will take not only the World Bank Group, the United Nations and all the national and multilateral development agencies, it will take all of us.
The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.
And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.
But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.
In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale.
So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.
- world health organization
- Clean energy
- Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
- Clean Cookstoves
- indoor air pollution
- Urban Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Europe and Central Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
This fall is a pivotal time for the international development community. We are shifting from a Millennium Development Goal that challenged the world to halve the global extreme poverty rate, to a Sustainable Development Goal that asks us to build on that momentum and work toward a true end to extreme poverty.
Make no mistake; this will not be easy. We will need sustained, shared growth, with a special emphasis on agricultural growth in the poorest countries. We will need programs and policies that are equitable, ensuring that every child has the same opportunities to succeed in life, and that all citizens are able to benefit from fiscal and social systems and representative institutions. And we will need to ensure that those who live in extreme poverty, and those who are vulnerable to falling back in, are protected when global or local markets fail, and when disease and drought persist in their communities.
What happens when you help a farmer succeed?
You create opportunities, not just for the farmer, but also for his family, often improving their financial standing, health and educational prospects.
But the impact goes much further than that. When you give a farmer tools to succeed, you can help grow prosperity in his community, and build a food system that can feed everyone, every day, everywhere—nutritiously and sustainably.
This is the story in West Africa, where the World Bank-funded West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP) has helped 13 countries generate, improve and disseminate agriculture technology to pave the way for a food-secure future for Africa. Already, WAAPP has developed 116 technologies that have been adopted by and directly benefited up to 2.5 million people across West Africa—or 17 million people in total, if you count both direct and indirect beneficiaries. WAAPP has also improved productivity on up to 2.74 million hectares of farmland and is estimated to have increased food production in West Africa by more than 3 million tons.
At the core of the encyclical is both a concern for the health of the planet and for the earth’s poor, reflected in a commitment to social values and integrity, environmental resilience, and economic inclusion.
The stock-taking begins, aptly, with pollution: “Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” The World Bank’s latest edition of the Little Green Data Book finds indeed that in low and middle-income countries, 86% of the residents are exposed to air pollution levels (measured in exposure particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The WHO last year made headlines when it calculated that 7 million people had died prematurely from indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2012. From safer cookstoves in rural areas, to better air quality management in fast growing cities, this is an area where solutions are known and must be urgently applied.
One billion women – more than 40% of the women around the world – still don’t have access to financial services, despite women’s growing share of global consumer spending. Having a safe place to keep and save money, obtain credit, insurance, pension or other financial services can enable financially excluded one billion women from around the world to gain better control over their lives and improve the lives of those around them.
Benefits of giving women access to finance extend to children and beyond, as women spend money on health, education and other ways that benefit their offspring. As our Voice and Agency research shows, in some countries, like South Africa and Brazil, granddaughters are more likely to be enrolled in school and are healthier when grandmothers receive pensions.
There has been great progress over the last three years in providing access to financial services for the “unbanked”. Between 2011 and 2014, 700 million people gained access to a transaction account, according to the latest Global Findex data.
But . Overall, the gender finance gap remains at 9% in developing countries, although in some parts of the world it’s much higher. In South Asia, for example, only 37% of women have access to a bank account, compared to 55% of men. There are many benefits of helping to reach these women: women spend money on health, education and other ways that benefit their children.
Poaching African elephants for ivory provides a case in point. Elephant poaching has sharply increased since 2006. We may now be losing up to 50,000 elephants per year with only 450,000 elephants remaining in Africa. In short, we are running out of time and unless we can stop the killing, we will surely lose the battle. Decreasing demand for ivory is vital over the long term, but the scale of current elephant losses makes this strategy too slow to save elephants by itself. The ecological, economic and security consequences from the loss of this keystone species will be quite severe and potentially irreversible.