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What’s your strategy for innovation labs?

Adarsh Desai's picture
Innovation is a hot topic these days. Not just in the private sector, but also increasingly in the public sector. When the World Bank created its Innovation Labs about five years ago, we were one of the few development institutions to do so. Since then innovation units within other international development institutions, foundations, and aid agencies have slowly emerged. This is a welcome trend, as it indicates the acceptance by development institutions that innovation is important to meet many of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Fragility, conflict, and natural disasters – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to resilience?

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
A partner from the EU assesses damage to an apartment building in Ukraine. Photo credit: EU

It’s a simple yet essential idea: war and disaster are linked, and these links must be examined to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Alarmingly, the total number of disaster events – and the economic losses associated with those events – keep increasing. This trend has been driven by population growth, urbanization, and climate change, leading to increasing economic losses of $150-$200 billion each year, up from $50 billion in the 1980s. But here is another piece of information: more than half of people impacted by natural hazards lived in fragile or conflict-affected states.

Amid growing risks, will leaders protect the poor?

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
© Ashraf Saad Allah AL-Saeed / World Bank


There is enough trouble out there to keep any policymaker up at night. Recent volatility has roiled Chinese and global stock markets, commodity prices have slumped, and security concerns are rising. All of this raises serious questions over the health of the global economy. This year could shape up to be risky, full of challenges and concerns for the fight against poverty.  
 
We ended 2015 with good news: For the first time in history, the number of extremely poor people dropped below 10% of the world’s population. The new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate deal bring momentum to our effort to lift the remaining 700 million extremely poor people out of poverty while generating climate-smart economic growth.

In Bolivia, being female and Indigenous conveys multiple disadvantages

Caren Grown's picture
Florina Lopez spoke movingly about her experience of double discrimination, being both Indigenous and a woman, at the recent launch of the new World Bank Group report, Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century. Lopez belongs to the Panamanian Indigenous Guna people and has spent decades working for Indigenous movements, starting at the community level and now coordinating the regional Network of Indigenous Women's Biodiversity.

She is one of many Indigenous women in Latin America who have dedicated their lives to creating more inclusive societies. While it is important to acknowledge that not all Indigenous groups and not all women have the same experiences, the concept of intersecting identities helps explain the concept of  "additive" or "multiplied disadvantage" (or advantage). Individuals are part of multiple social structures and roles simultaneously, and these structures interact and influence experiences, relations, and outcomes. 

The intersection of gender and ethnicity, for example, can deepen the gaps in some development outcomes. Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-first Century explains that, while Indigenous Peoples' access to services has improved significantly, services are generally not culturally adapted—so the groups they are meant to benefit do not take full advantage of them. In Bolivia, where more than 40 percent of people identify themselves as Indigenous or Afro-descendants, according to the 2012 Population and Housing Census, indigenous women face a higher risk of being excluded. Further, according to a 2014 Perception Survey on Women’s Exclusion and Discrimination, all women feel discriminated against in different aspects of their lives, with Indigenous women particularly affected.
 

How does intersectionality and discrimination play out in education and health?

Access to education in Bolivia has improved considerably in recent years. Today, overall primary schooling completion rates and secondary school enrollment rates are similar for boys and girls. Yet major gender gaps persist among Indigenous and rural students.

In urban Bolivia, females are less likely to finish secondary school than males.  In urban areas, an Indigenous female student is about half as likely to finish secondary school compared to a non-Indigenous male student. But an Indigenous rural woman is five times less likely than a non-Indigenous urban man to complete secondary school (see graph, based on Census 2012):
 


Many factors prevent girls from attaining higher levels of schooling in Bolivia, including domestic care work, early pregnancy, and the need for income.  But girls who persist in secondary and higher education face other barriers:  one in five female students aged 15 to 24 report having experienced discrimination in academic environments: 25 percent of Indigenous women versus 18 percent of non-Indigenous women.

The situation is similar in terms of access to key health services.  According to household survey data (2013), while almost all non-Indigenous women in urban Bolivia give birth with either a nurse or a doctor present, that is the case for only 6 out of 10 Indigenous women in rural Bolivia. While this may be explained in part by Indigenous women’s preferences to use traditional parteras, the difference in access rates may also in part be driven by perceived discrimination. According to the Perception Survey, 20 percent of Indigenous women report having experienced discrimination when seeking care, compared to 14 percent among non-Indigenous.

Investments in education and health shape the ability of men and women to reach their full potential, allowing them to take advantage of economic opportunities and lead productive lives. Limited access to these kinds of investments not only adversely affects an individual’s opportunities, but may have significant costs for entire communities and economies.

Inclusion must be front and center on the development agenda. More and better information—both qualitative and quantitative—is needed to highlight the persistent issue of overlapping disadvantages. This will allow us, ultimately, to do much more to expand every person’s capacity to participate fully and equally and achieve his or her potential. As Florina Lopez said earlier this month, "Without the effective participation of Indigenous women in society, it will be difficult to eradicate the poverty and extreme poverty that we live in."

Melihat dampak kebakaran hutan di Sumatra Selatan: Pandangan dari lapangan

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: English
Indonesia, burned forest. Photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

Musim gugur lalu saya kaget membaca judul berita ini: Kebakaran hutan di Indonesia menghasilkan emisi gas rumah kaca setara seluruh ekonomi Amerika Serikat.
 
Judul lain berbunyi: Antara Juni dan Oktober 2015, lahan sebesar 2,5 juta hektar – atau 4,5 kali luas Bali – terbakar guna membersihkan lahan untuk produksi minyak kelapa sawit, tanaman hasil hutan non-kayu dengan nilai tertinggi, terdapat dalam, antara lain, produk makanan, kosmetik dan biofuel.
 
Belum lama ini, bersama Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck dan Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, saya mengunjungi Sumatra Selatan, salah satu provinsi yang paling menderita akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Kami melihat berbagai ilalang dan tanda-tanda lanskap rusak yang lain, mengganti kawasan hutan gambut yang kaya akan keanekaragaman hayati.
 
Kami berbicara dengan masyarakat setempat yang menjelaskan bahwa mereka menutup pintu dan jendela dengan handuk basah agar mengurangi asap. Keluarga mereka termasuk dari setengah juta warga yang menderita gangguan pernapasan serta sakit kulit dan mata akibat kebakaran hutan. Anak-anak mereka termasuk diantara 4,6 juta siswa yang tidak bisa sekolah, bahkan selama beberapa minggu, akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Namun walaupun banyak keluarga kehilangan pemasukan karena usaha mereka terpaksa  tutup sementara, ada juga yang mengatakan api itu memperbaiki kondisi  tanah setempat.

Seeing the impact of forest fires in South Sumatra: a view from the field

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: Bahasa Indonesia
Indonesia, burned forest. photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

This past autumn, I saw a shocking headline: Forest fires in Indonesia were creating as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States economy.
 
Between June and October 2015, an estimated 2.6 million hectares—or 4.5 times the size of Bali— burned to clear land for production  of palm oil, the world’s highest value non-timber forest crop, used in food products, cosmetics, biofuels.
 
Recently, along with Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck and Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, I visited South Sumatra, one of the provinces hardest hit by the fires.
 
We saw scrubby fire-adapted landscapes that had replaced biodiversity-rich peat swamp forests.
 
We spoke with local communities who explained how they covered doors and windows with wet towels, to help reduce the smoke.  These families are among the half million people who suffered from fire-related respiratory infections, skin and eye ailments; their children were among the 4.6 million students who missed school last year due to fires, some for weeks at a time.
 
While some of these families lost earnings or assets due to the fires, others spoke of how fire improves soil quality. 
 

Sustainable tourism, a unique opportunity for developing countries

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
With the number of international visitor arrivals now exceeding 1 billion a year, tourism has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy: overall, the travel and tourism industry contributes to almost 10% of the world’s GDP, and is linked to 1 in 11 jobs.
 
The trend has largely benefited developing countries, which for the first time last year received more tourists than the developed world. At the World Bank, we believe that tourism, when done right, can provide our clients with a unique chance to grow their economies, bolster inclusion, and protect their environmental and cultural assets.
 
In this video, Lead Urban Specialist Ahmed Eiweida tells us more about the potential of sustainable tourism, and explains the Bank’s role in helping low and middle-income countries make the most of the international travel boom.

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR


If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:

Lead pollution robs children of their futures

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.

Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.

These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL).  So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs. 

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