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Mauritania’s race against the rising sea

Nathalie Abu-Ata's picture
Photo by Nathalie Abu-Ata / World Bank

“If we don’t take action now…the city of Nouakchott will soon be underwater.” These words, spoken by Mauritania’s Minister on Environment and Sustainable Development Amedi Camara, during a recent workshop in the country’s capital city, echoed a recurrent theme during our visits with Mauritanian authorities and local communities alike. They have stuck with me since.

Floods are not a new phenomenon for Nouakchott. A busy port city on Africa’s west coast, Nouakchott is mostly below sea level and is particularly vulnerable to rising groundwater levels, seawater intrusions, porous soils, sand extractions, and heavy rains in low-lying areas. Poorly planned port infrastructure has dramatically altered the dynamic and flow of sediments along the coast leading to substantial erosion in the city’s south (up to 25 meters annually in some years).

To make matters worse, severe and sometimes deadly floods have struck the city in recent decades. Extreme weather and human interventions have played a significant role in making the capital, with one-third of the population, or 1 million people, increasingly vulnerable to floods. 

Knowing your steak’s origin and impact on the environment? It’s possible

Katie Kennedy Freeman's picture
Also available in: Español
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information.
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information. Photo: Holger A. Kray/World Bank

Imagine if you could know where your steak was born, and all of the details about its life until it reached your plate.  Since 2011, this has been possible with Uruguay’s national system for livestock information or Sistema Nacional de Información Ganadera (SNIG).  

Why 100% traceability of cattle matters

The World Bank aided the development of SNIG, which became fully operational in 2004, as part of its support for Uruguay’s recovery from the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The SNIG, which is a livestock registration system with more than 75,000 participants in the agricultural and industrial sectors, paved the way for Uruguay’s mandatory individual cattle traceability program. All animals born in September 2006 or later are required to be tagged with one visual ear tag and one radio frequency identification tag, both for traceability purposes. The novel system allowed Uruguay to become the only country in the Americas (and one of only a few in the world) with 100% traceability of cattle and allowed consumers, mainly in China, Europe and NAFTA areas to know the origin of the beef for health (fewer diseases with full tractability), social (ability to know that the cows were grass-fed) and environmental (sustainability of natural resources) reasons. ​

Paying it forward in a digital age: A global community committed to a mapped world

Alanna Simpson's picture
Specialists in Sri Lanka receive training on the InaSafe risk assessment platform. © World Bank
Specialists in Sri Lanka receive training on the InaSafe risk assessment platform. © World Bank

​​When I first heard about OpenStreetMap (OSM) – the so called Wikipedia of maps, built by volunteers around the world – I was skeptical of its ability to scale, usability in decision making, and ultimate longevity among new ideas conceived in the digital age. Years later, having working on many disaster risk management initiatives across the globe, I can say that I am a passionate advocate for the power of this community. And I continue to be struck by the power of one small initiative like OSM that brings together people across cultures and countries to save lives. It is more than a technology or a dataset, it’s a global community of individuals committed to making a difference.

Madagascar: Expanding the bandwidth of the extreme poor

Andrea Vermehren's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español
​Photo: Laura B. Rawlings / World Bank

It is 8 AM. The winter sun begins to appear over the gray-green mass of trees above the village of Tritriva in Madagascar’s central highlands. The courtyard of a stone church is already filled with women, many holding still-sleeping children in their arms. They have assembled for the first time in two months to receive a cash payment from the Malagasy state.

The women are poor and all live on less than $2 per day. The money they receive from the government amounts to about a third of their cash income for the two months in between each payment: it will go a long way in helping them support their families for the rest of the winter.
Initiated by the Madagascar government,  with support from the World Bank, the payments are part of a new program implemented by the Fonds d'Intervention pour le Développement (FID) to combat poverty in rural Madagascar and provide sustainable pathways to human development.

Financing sustainable development: Innovative ideas for action

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture

Three billion people, nearly half the world’s population, is under the age of 25. Today’s youth will be the people most affected by the outcomes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015. They will also be the ones responsible for implementing this global agenda as well as contributing to the solutions necessary to attain them.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), take a holistic approach to development and present a universal agenda to development.  The goals encompass the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development. In signing up to the goals and targets, the global community has agreed to a more ambitious development compact. Like their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs cover a broad range of interconnected issues, from ending poverty to addressing inequality, sustainable economic growth, to governance, to well-being, to global public goods, like climate change.

Farmers and food companies can build resilient supply chains

Marc Sadler's picture
People working on a strawberry farm in Argentina.

So the global challenge is clear: We need to sustainably feed 9 billion people in 2050, while building the resilience of farmers and food companies AND concurrently making agriculture part of the climate solution, not an increasingly large part of the problem.

Daunting? Well, yes of course, but that is why it is a “global challenge” and not just something that incremental change will solve.

There is nothing new in this story and many of the things we need to do are known, but just not done at scale. What is new is the fact that the interests, aspirations and objectives of a wide group of stakeholders are coming together. We have long searched for truly sustainable farming – one that will sustain farmers and enable them to prosper, while ensuring that the landscapes in which we live and work are not the subject of short term gain resulting in long term degradation.

The path to carbon pricing

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | 中文 | Español | العربية
Iron and Steel giant ISKOR's Vanderbijl Park refinery. © John Hogg/World Bank

In just six weeks, world leaders will meet in Paris to negotiate a new global climate-change agreement. To date, 150 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will move their economies along a more resilient low-carbon trajectory. These plans represent the first generation of investments to be made in order to build a competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions that are now driving global warming.

The transition to a cleaner future will require both government action and the right incentives for the private sector. At the center should be a strong public policy that puts a price on carbon pollution. Placing a higher price on carbon-based fuels, electricity, and industrial activities will create incentives for the use of cleaner fuels, save energy, and promote a shift to greener investments. Measures such as carbon taxes and fees, emissions-trading programs and other pricing mechanisms, and removal of inefficient subsidies can give businesses and households the certainty and predictability they need to make long-term investments in climate-smart development.

Global dialogue bolsters World Bank engagement with Indigenous Peoples

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Also available in: Español
Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development is critical to meeting the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the countries in which they live. The recent International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty both helped draw attention to the 350 million Indigenous Peoples in the world who:
  • Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
  • Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and 
  • Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
The World Bank is working actively and globally with Indigenous Peoples on a number of issues directly affecting them, and seeks to position marginalized groups such as the Indigenous Peoples at the center of the development agenda.

It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.

The private sector and peace: What does Tunisia’s Nobel Peace Prize teach us?

Daniela Henrike Klau-Panhans's picture
A Tunisian woman makes and sells items from palm tree by-products.
Private companies are often associated with profit maximization, labor exploitation and environmental harm especially in conflict situations. But can companies like Airtel in Kenya or a small enterprise in Sri Lanka contribute to peace?

Five challenges prevent financial access for people in developing countries

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español

Financial products must be adapted to women’s needs, like enabling them to open their own account or improving their financial literacy. Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection

Two billion people worldwide still lack access to regulated financial services. Despite significant progress and the increased technical and financial resources devoted to financial inclusion, much work remains ahead.
There is broad consensus that access to a transaction account can help people better manage their life and plan for emergencies.

But financial access and the underlying financial infrastructure taken for granted in rich countries, such as savings accounts, debit cards or credit as well as the payment systems on which they operate, still aren’t available to many people in developing countries. This past September, I participated in the Global Policy Forum of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) held in Mozambique.  This annual meeting convened policymakers, the private sector and other stakeholders to assume new commitments, discuss best practices and agree on the way forward.