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October 2016

Why are we blind to human progress and development? Harvard’s Steven Pinker has an explanation.

Dani Clark's picture

Harvard’s Steven Pinker paints a hopeful picture with data. He believes a humanitarian revolution has been underway for generations. “Our species has a history of violence,” the renowned psychologist and writer said at the World Bank, but humankind is less violent than it ever has been. We are living through the most peaceful era in history. Taking from his 2011 bestselling book, “The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” Pinker clicked through graph after graph to prove it.

State-sanctioned slavery? Abolished everywhere. Capital punishment? Almost abolished everywhere. For the most part, no more dueling, blood sports, judicial torture, debtors’ prisons or witch-hunting. And here’s an interesting data tidbit: A person in England has 1/50th the chance of being murdered today compared with the Middle Ages.

“Open in Action” at the World Bank

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture


The 9th annual Open Access Week kicks off this week and this year’s theme of “Open in Action” brings the information community together to celebrate the achievements of accessibility and openness.

The World Bank has initiated and contributed to many activities in support of Open Access over the years including:

• June 1997 - Launch of Documents and Reports (D&R). Previously known as World Development Sources (WDS), D&R contains more than 240,000 publicly available World Bank documents and enables the sharing of the institution's extensive knowledge base and operational documents.

April 2010 – Launch of the Open Data Initiative, making World Bank flagship databases and hundreds of other datasets freely available to the public.

July 2010 – Launch of Access to Information Policy (AI), a landmark shift regarding how and which information the World Bank makes available to the public. By setting the default classification to one of maximum disclosure (with a limited set of exceptions), tens of thousands of previously undisclosed information – including projects under preparation and implementation, analytic and advisory activities, and Board proceedings – are now available to the public through D & R. And there is an App for that too (the World Bank InfoFinder)!

August 2011 – Launch of Open Finances, presenting publicly-accessible data related to the Bank’s financials available in a social, interactive, visually compelling, and machine-readable format.

April 2012 – Launch of the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR), the Bank’s official Open Access repository that contains Bank publications since 2000. Prior publications are available to the public through D&R.

July 2012 – Launch of the Open Access Policy. The policy mandates Bank's publications and their associated research data to be made freely available, with no restrictions on use and reuse. It governs works published or funded by the Bank and works written by Bank staff and published externally.

July 2012 – Adoption of Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license allowing the public to freely share and adapt Bank publications with proper attribution to the Bank.

December 2013 – Adoption of the newly-created CC BY 3.0 IGO license for use by intergovernmental organizations to share research, data, and educational materials they produce.

Where do the world’s talents immigrate to?

Bassam Sebti's picture


"We’re the nation that just had six of our scientists and researchers win Nobel Prizes—and every one of them was an immigrant," U.S. President Barack Obama recently said after the Nobel Prize winners were announced.
 
The Internet was abuzz about it, and how could it not be?
 
The announcement couldn’t come at a better time. Not only are US Nobel laureates immigrants, but also the country has been identified as one of four where the world’s high-skilled immigrants are increasingly living, according to a new World Bank research article. The other three countries are the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

The data revolution continues with the latest World Bank Innovation challenge

Marianne Fay's picture
Also available in: 中文

On September 22, 2016, we launched the World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge – a global call for big data solutions for climate resilience and sustainable development.

As the world grows more connected--through mobile phones, social media, internet, satellites, ground sensors and machines—governments and economies need better ways to harness these data flows for insights toward targeted policies and actions that boost climate resilience, especially amongst the most vulnerable. To make this data more useful for development, we need more data innovations and innovative public-private arrangements for data collaboration.

The World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge invites innovators across the world to reimagine climate resilience through big data solutions that address the nexus areas of food security and nutrition, and forests and watersheds – high priority areas of the World Bank’s Climate and Forest Action Plans and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Giving voice to the poor: Adding a human touch to poverty data in South Sudan

Utz Pape's picture
Also available in: Español | Français

We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human. –Hannah Arendt

We all know that measuring poverty is critical to monitor progress and to tailor effective policy response. But what the numbers mask is the pain and suffering that people go through to make ends meet. Let’s take the case of South Sudan. The country has had a very tumultuous time, witnessing more than its share of a few crises between 2015 and 2016. The collapse of a fragile peace accord led to a renewed military confrontation while simultaneously international oil prices dropped, depriving South Sudan of its main source of foreign exchange. This triggered a severe fiscal and economic crisis, leading to sky rocketing prices as documented in our real time market price dashboard. Securing livelihoods has become more and more difficult with 66 percent of the population now living in poverty, a new peak.

The 66 percent number certainly summarizes the country’s poverty level, which is unquestionably useful for comparisons and analyses to inform policies and programs. However, what the number doesn’t reveal is the struggle that families go through daily. To capture this aspect and give a humane feel to an abstract poverty number, we have started collecting short video testimonials from people living in South Sudan as part of the High Frequency Survey:

Big data innovation – moving from ideas to implementation

Trevor Monroe's picture

If you want to do something fast, do something that has already been done. If you want to hardwire a data innovation into World Bank Operations, be prepared to involve others in a process of learning by doing.  – Holly Krambeck, Senior Transport Specialist, WBG



As the world grows more connected, data flows from a multitude of sources. Mobile networks, social media, satellites, grounds sensors, and machine-to-machine transactions are being used along with traditional data--like household surveys--to improve insights and actions toward global goals.
 
At the World Bank, a cadre of pioneering economists and sector specialists are putting big data in action. Big data sources are being harnessed to lead innovations like:

  • satellites to track rural electrification, to monitor crop yields and to predict poverty;
  • taxi GPS data to monitor traffic flows and congestion
  • mobile phone data for insights into human mobility and behavior, as well as infrastructure and socio-economic conditions 

Celebrating a steep poverty drop in Bangladesh

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Español

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim celebrated Bangladesh’s dramatic progress fighting poverty on End Poverty Day, October 17, at a special event in the heart of Dhaka.

 © Dominic Chavez/World BankMore than 20 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty in Bangladesh in the last two decades. By 2010, the extreme poverty rate fell to 18.5 percent, down from 33.7 percent in 2000.
 
Speaking in the Bangla language, the prime minister said Bangladesh’s journey has never been smooth, but strong leadership and the resilience of the population have helped it become a lower middle income country and a model for others to imitate.

Advancing women’s land and resource rights

Renée Giovarelli's picture
Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Development practitioners know secure land rights for women are important for the well-being of rural families, whether a woman is head of her household or lives in a household headed by a man. We know the research shows that women’s land rights are associated with family improvements, such as:
  • Increases in food expenditures
  • Children less likely to be severely underweight
  • Improvements in child educational achievements
  • Increases in share of expenditures devoted to healthcare
 

Change your Facebook profile picture and help raise awareness to end poverty

Zubedah Robinson's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year’s theme is Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms. This is not only the United Nations’ Global Goal #1, but it’s also one of the World Bank’s two main goals.
 
Working to end poverty can be an everyday practice. And we have dedicated our work to helping nations invest in both people and infrastructure to achieve this goal. To support our mission to end poverty by 2030, we launched the #ItsPossible social media campaign to inspire hope that it is indeed possible to end extreme poverty – if we all work together. 

Multilateral cooperation needed to solve world’s biggest challenges today

Zubedah Robinson's picture
Event Replay


Today, 1.2 billion people still don’t have access to electricity and close to 600 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Worse, in developing countries, 4 billion people – which is 60% of the global population, don’t have internet access – their voices are not being heard.

Invisible wounds: Mental health among displaced people and refugees

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Mural of Emiliano Zapata and Displaced Mexican Campesinos by Diego Rivera, Palacio de Cortés, Cuernavaca, Mexico

The plight of forcibly displaced people, who are fleeing conflict and violence, is best summed up by the lyrics of the plaintive 1970 classic by Argentine troubadour Facundo Cabral:  "No soy de aquí ni soy de allá"("I'm not from here nor there").

Those lyrics convey both the sense of uprootedness felt by those displaced from their native lands and habitual routines, and the feeling of “otherness,” emotional detachment, and powerlessness when relocated to foreign surroundings and societies, which in some cases, are unwelcoming to outsiders.

Powerful panel weighs progress on financial inclusion

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Русский
Event Replay


Government leaders and advocates came together during the Annual Meetings to discuss a major development goal – ensuring everyone has access to affordable financial services such as a bank or mobile money account. While a lot of progress has been made on “financial inclusion,” new rules affecting the flow of funds threatens to slow or even reverse some gains.

Financial Inclusion not Exclusion: Managing De-Risking brought together Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Minister of Finance. Arun Jaitley, India’s Minister of Finance, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Juan Manuel Vega-Serrano, the president of the Financial Action Tax Force (FATF), which sets international standards for  combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats.

Some 700 million people were brought into the formal financial system between 2011 and 2014 – a major success – but 2 billion people remain cut off, said Queen Máxima, who is the United Nations Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development.

A new challenge to financial inclusion is a trend toward “de-risking” by banks. Many larger banks are increasingly terminating or restricting business relationships with remittance companies and smaller local banks in certain regions of the world. De-risking has therefore made money transfers more difficult for migrant workers and humanitarian organizations working in war-torn places.

Using technology to make everyone count

Arathi Sundaravadanan's picture
Event Replay


Many people don’t think twice when they’re asked to show their ID while opening a bank account or even while waiting in long lines to get a driver's license. Yet for the 1.5 billion people around the world who don’t have a form of identification, this is the first barrier they face completing these basic – but important – tasks.

Harnessing the potential of technology to overcome the challenges of providing unique identification to people across the developing world was the topic of an Annual Meetings seminar on ‘Identification for Development.’ The panel was moderated by the new World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer, and featured Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance of Indonesia; Ajay Pandey, CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India; Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF; Tara Nathan, Executive Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships at MasterCard; and John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, an association of 800 mobile operators.

The great escape, out of fragility: jobs

Dani Clark's picture

 Why Jobs are Key, World Bank Live.

Yes, there are approximately 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide. Yes, conflicts continue unabated, producing inordinate human misery. Yes, we urgently need political solutions.

But there is growing consensus that creating jobs so people can work—wherever they are—is key to escaping fragility and preventing further conflict. And it’s what we need to focus on right now, experts and policymakers agreed at the “Overcoming Fragility: Why Jobs Are Key” event on Friday during the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, DC.

Human Capital Summit highlights need to invest in the youngest children

Donna Barne's picture
Event Replay


The World Bank Group convened a Human Capital Summit on the opening day of the Annual Meetings to make the economic case for investing in the early years of children to drive future growth and development.

Nine developing countries heeded the call, pledging to improve nutrition, health and education programs for young children. They became the first wave of countries expected to make similar pledges over the next few years to tackle childhood malnutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and other problems affecting the health and development of children.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim warned that the future competitiveness of countries in the world economy will depend on whether their young people are able to reach their potential.

Failure to eliminate childhood stunting will have high economic costs – a loss of 7 percent per capita of GDP, on average, and as high as 9 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and 10 percent in South Asia, according to a recent analysis by the World Bank Group.

Kim illustrated the dangers of undernutrition, under-stimulation, and other threats to the health and welfare of young children in a presentation at the beginning of the event. For example, one in every 45 children in the world today has been uprooted from their home, according to a recent report by UNICEF. One quarter of children under five worldwide are chronically malnourished (are short for their age, or “stunted”) with rates as high as 50 percent or more in some countries.

Why does half the world distrust government?

Dani Clark's picture

Governance Gap, World Bank Live.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, half the world population distrusts government. Understanding why and how governments can better serve their citizens was the central theme of the “Governance Gap” high-level public discussion at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings on Thursday.
 
“Governance is complex and complicated. We need to unpack it to understand those complexities better,” said Kyle Peters, interim chief operating officer and managing director of the World Bank at the start of the event, moderated by Clare Short, chair of the CITIES Alliance and former UK Secretary of State for International Development. 

From billions to trillions: converting billions of official assistance to trillions in total financing

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


Urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect and unlock trillions of dollars of private resources to ensure global growth and shared prosperity.

Since 1956, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s member focused exclusively on the private sector, leveraged $2.5 billion in paid-in capital from its shareholders to invest over a trillion dollars for private sector development. IFC’s 60 years of experience has demonstrated the private sector’s ability to create innovative, commercially viable solutions that deliver development impact.

“A year ago, we all signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals. The only way to achieve these goals is if private capital funds them and private business implements them,” said Gavin Wilson, CEO of IFC’s Asset Management Company (AMC) during the World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings 2016.

“That’s why we came up with the phrase ‘Billions to Trillions’ last year with our multilateral institutions in the run-up to the Addis conference on financing for development,” he added.

But what does “Billions to Trillions” actually mean? Wilson explained that “we must convert billions of official assistance … to the trillions in total financing.” But he raised a very important question: how are we going to combine commercial capital with development needs?

Kim and Chief Economist Romer talk development

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية
Shaping the Global Development Agenda: A Conversation between Jim Kim and Chief Economist Paul Romer


The World Bank Group’s president and new chief economist had a friendly hour-long conversation before an overflow Annual Meetings crowd about some of the biggest risks and opportunities confronting the world today – and the kind of innovative thinking needed to reach ambitious development goals.

 
Sitting side by side, Jim Yong Kim and Paul Romer discussed the potential impact of automation on jobs, the need to raise the profile of practical development research, the best way for people to acquire valuable “soft skills,” and other issues. The event, Shaping the Global Development Agenda, was simultaneously translated into French, Spanish and Arabic, and livestreamed in four languages.
 
The rapport between Kim and Romer quickly became clear.
 
“When I first interviewed Paul, it was supposed to be a 35 to 45 minute meeting. We ended up going for about two hours and 15 minutes, talking about all kinds of different things. And so we thought that we’d share some of that,” said Kim.

Jim Yong Kim: Growth must be much more equitable

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Русский

In a speech just ahead of Annual Meetings, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said there must be a new push to bring enough financing, innovation, and creativity to tackle the world’s many challenges – and the World Bank Group has a vital role to play.

Despite rapid reductions in extreme poverty and improvements in the incomes of the bottom 40 percent of the population, progress is “still far too slow” and inequality is still too high, said Kim.

“We have to make growth much more equitable,” said Kim at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington.

He referred to a new World Bank report finding that income inequality has decreased between people and nations, but “still constrains growth and breeds instability.”

The world is facing low growth, technological change, and threats posed by climate change. By 2030, almost half of the world’s poor will live in countries affected by fragility and conflict, and emerging markets and low-income countries face an annual infrastructure financing gap of up to $1.5 trillion, said Kim.

“We have to face up to the fact that we are not reaching the scale required to make the kind of impact on growth that’s needed in developing countries,” Kim said at the packed event.

 “These are no ordinary times. So ordinary measures will not work.”