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February 2014

President Kim on Discrimination’s Hefty Human and Economic Costs

Elizabeth Howton's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Jim Yong Kim knows something about prejudice. When he was growing up Asian American in Iowa, kids would make “kung fu” gestures and hurl racial slurs at him. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, the World Bank Group president writes that his experiences are “trifling indignities” compared to what gay and lesbian citizens of Uganda and Nigeria are now experiencing, in the wake of new laws making homosexuality a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

Institutionalized discrimination goes far beyond those countries, he notes; 81 other countries also criminalize homosexuality. It also goes beyond sexual orientation to encompass laws that discriminate against women and members of minority groups. And aside from being wrong, Kim writes, “Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”

He points out the irony that AIDS activists, many of them gay, fought to ensure access to life-saving drugs for people with AIDS, most of them African. Kim concludes, “Eliminating discrimination is not only the right thing to do; it’s also critical to ensure that we have sustained, balanced, and inclusive economic growth in all societies.”

Read the full op-ed here.

A Coalition of the Working – That’s What the Oceans Need

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Los océanos nos necesitan


​What is it about oceans? Ocean events seem to be getting bigger and broader in their participation. No matter whether the people in the room are representing government, seafood companies, private foundations, or conservation groups, they are unified by one thing: the need for serious action and soon.

Is the World Turning a Corner on High Food Prices?

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

 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
If you Google the latest headlines, you will see plenty about the high price of food. Globally, however, average prices for major food commodities actually are 11% lower than a year ago, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s quarterly Food Price Watch. Does this mean the world is out of the danger zone on high food prices? Economist José Cuesta sheds light on the issue.

Food prices have been falling globally since August 2012. Have we turned the corner on the food crisis?

It’s true we’ve seen prices declining in a sustained way, but we’re still only 18% away from that historic peak in 2012. The reasons prices increased in the first place – such as growing demand for food and weather concerns – are still issues, and probably will be in the future.I don’t think that we have turned any corner. Prices seem to be less volatile, and that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean the level of prices hasn’t continued to be high; they are still high.

Food Waste: Doing the Math

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Many consider statistics cold and faceless. I have always thought the opposite. There are multiple numbers in the development world that are striking and moving: the millions of people living on less than $1.25 a day; the number of children dying of preventable diseases or being unable to attend school regularly; or how many families have no access to safe water or electricity in today’s super-sophisticated technological world, just to mention a few.
 
But I have never found more compelling numbers than those related to food. In a world where 842 million people go to bed hungry every night, we actually produce sufficient food to provide, on average, 2,700 kilocalories every day, for everyone. In this same world:
 
  • Between one-fourth and one-third of the nearly 4 billion metric tons of food produced annually for human consumption is lost or wasted.
     
  • Asia and Africa account for  about 67% of all food lost and wasted, globally.
     
  • North America and Oceania lose and waste almost half of what they produce: 42%! More than half of food loss and waste in developed countries happens during consumption — usually as a result of a deliberate decision to throw food away.
     
  • Developing countries lose an average of 120 to 220 kg of food per person per year, which means that even regions ridden by undernutrition, such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, lose as many as 400 to 500 kilocalories per person, every day. 
If you want to know how many kilocalories someone living in your region loses or wastes, on average, check the following figure:

Food Lost and Wasted by Region, 2009
Food Lost and Wasted by Region
Source: Brian Lipinski, Craig Hanson, Richard Waite, et al., “Reducing Food Loss and Waste,” World Resources Institute Working Paper, June 2013.

A 19,000-Strong Global Classroom Learns About Climate Change

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

If you’re thirsty for knowledge about important global development topics like climate change, you’re not alone.  More than 19,000 people signed up for the World Bank’s free online course, Turn Down the Heat –a virtual guided tour of a World Bank- commissioned report by the Potsdam Institute and Climate Analytics on the likely impacts of a warming Earth.  

MIT Climate Co Lab Tweet

The four-week Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) began Jan. 27 and  just wrapped up.  It featured interactive video talks by renowned climate scientists and practitioners, Google hangouts with international experts, discussion forums and social media collaboration via #wbheat on Twitter.  

Best Advice: Give It a Shot

Jim Yong Kim's picture

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received sounds pretty simple: Give it a shot.

Dr. Ted Alyea, a senior resident at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, gave me this advice in 1991 when I was the most junior of physicians, an intern.

We were standing outside a patient’s room in the Intensive Care Unit. Our team was discussing the plan for treating a very sick patient when Ted said to me, “Tell us what you think we should do next. Give it a shot.”

During patient rounds, interns take turns outside a hospital room presenting the patient’s background; reciting what is known about the patient and the disease or condition including careful recounting of symptoms, laboratory data, diagnostic studies and current treatment. Then the intern and senior resident go into the room to examine the patient and afterward the team decides on a plan for treatment.

Dialogue with Central Asian countries

Laura Tuck's picture

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic – Laura Tuck, the vice president for the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia unit, talks about her trip to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and important issues related to the economic growth of the region that she discussed in these Central Asian countries.


 

Of happy and sad faces: How poverty and changing gender norms impact Roma communities

Valerie Morrica's picture
Also available in: Français
When we carried out focus group discussions in four Roma communities in Bulgaria for our study on Gender Dimensions of Roma Inclusion, we asked Roma men and women to indicate their overall level of happiness on a scale from 1 to 10. A 10, represented by a smiley face, meant they were “very happy.” A 1 was depicted by a sad face and meant they were “very unhappy.”

What we found from this survey stunned us: most Roma women answered that they were “happy” or “very happy” and the majority of Roma men had circled the sad face. We did not expect this outcome. In fact, we had expected to find the exact opposite.

On the surface, our research confirmed several common perceptions – especially concerning gender norms.

So why, then, do Roma women seem to be much happier than Roma men?

Equality of Opportunity - giving Roma children a chance

Roberta V. Gatti's picture
On December 17, 2013, Prof. Raj Chetty gave a talk on “Improving equality of opportunity” at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. I have always found the concept of equality of opportunity fascinating.

A world where your future does not depend on where you come from, how much your family earns, what color your skin is, or whether you are male or female” sounds like a good world to me - a world I am sure we all would want to live in.

And, wearing the hat of a development worker, I know that with “equality of opportunity” I can always reach the heart of even the toughest policymaker: who can argue with giving children a fair start in life?

The Global Economy Without Steroids

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Economic growth is back. Not only are the United States, Europe, and Japan finally expanding at the same time, but developing countries are also regaining strength. As a result, world GDP will rise by 3.2% this year, up from 2.4% in 2013 – meaning that 2014 may well be the year when the global economy turns the corner. The fact that advanced economies are bouncing back is good news for everyone.

Thinking Twice Before Having Children in Poland

The first thirty minutes of Elzbieta’s day are the most precious.
 
Between five and five-thirty in the morning is the only time she gets to herself, which she uses to work out, or read a book. After that, the grind of everyday life in Poland’s countryside takes over. She cooks, washes, cleans, irons, and cooks for her seven children, aged two to fifteen. And it doesn’t stop until late at night.
 
Elzbieta’s family and other families with multiple children are rather unique in Poland, which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. When asked why they didn’t have children in a recent country-wide survey, 71 percent of Poles said unstable employment and difficulties in balancing work and family life were big factors.
 
Their fears are not without reason -- with each child, the risk of poverty increases tremendously -- families with three or more children are more likely to be in the lowest income group, with 26.6 percent of households with four children living in poverty in Poland, according to the Main Statistical Office.
 
Even buying clothes for children is a daunting task, in such cases. “We have started participating in lotteries organized by local clothes stores, with no luck so far,” Elzbieta said. “We do it because taxes for children’s clothes and shoes were recently raised, and families like ours are most affected. Families with children are just not given a chance.”
 
Elzbieta talked to me as she picked flowers in a nearby field, while watching her five-year old daughter. The flowers she collected would later be dried on a bench outside her rural home and used for making herbal teas for the family. Even buying tea is a financial challenge for Elzbieta’s family, whose income, a total of PLN 3,280 (about $1,100) comes from social assistance for children, including a disabled child (PLN 2,000) and her husband’s income – after the payment of a home renovation loan – of PLN1, 280.
 
The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia

 
But hospitality is not to be spared.

The Importance of Sour Cherries in Serbia

Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi's picture
“What a shame you cannot be here in two weeks,” our driver said, as we entered Toplica District in Southern Serbia, the poorest part of the country. It is an open countryside of rolling hills, with thick forests on the horizon. Next to the road, neat rows of bushes and low trees appear, dotted with red.

Sour cherries.

“In two weeks, everything will be red,” he said. “And what do you do with all these cherries?” I asked, half dreaming of one of my mother’s best tarts. 

Export to Russia, came the reply. A river of sour cherries flowing from this small corner of Serbia, across Europe and into Russia is a less interesting image than my mother’s spectacular tart, but in a country where signs of the ongoing economic crisis abound, this is good news.

Every field we looked at had new plantings alongside more established trees. A new parasite is apparently threatening these cherry orchards, and foreign experts are working with local growers to control it. Still, it seems clear that people are investing in the business, and this means jobs – though only temporary, tough and lasting long hours of cherry picking, these jobs are a blessing for those who have little else to rely on.

Ivan and his wife Daniela, in the village of Vlahovo, are a case in point - and the face of poverty in the region.
 
The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia

Poverty Drives Daily Choices in the Kyrgyz Republic

There is nothing worse than having to wonder if you will be able to afford tomorrow's meal. Or the day after's.

But for millions of poor in the Kyrgyz Republic, it is routine - and their every day reality. The World Bank interviewed several families in the country recently to showcase the real face of poverty in the region, where the poor spend significantly more to stay warm and buy enough food to survive than in other parts of the world because of the region's extremely long and cold winters.

Watch the full documentary on poverty in Europe and Central Asia here.

Dreaming about a better future in Armenia

The World Bank recently interviewed several families in Armenia to depict the hardships people face when they cannot earn more than $5 a day per person. The country faces long, harsh winters and paying to stay warm and eat enough to survive the cold can quickly eat into the poor's meager incomes.

The Face of Poverty package aims to show how tough life can be for these families and their belief that education is the singular way out of poverty for their children.

Watch the full documentary here.

Want to Build a Movement? Learn from AIDS Activists

Jim Yong Kim's picture

Building social movements. I often hear about the need to create social movements to tackle a number of entrenched global challenges such as ending extreme poverty, promoting greater income equality, and combatting climate change.

History is full of social movements that have succeeded and failed. The lessons from one ongoing movement that I know well – the fight against AIDS – should be examined closely by those looking to build movements today.

Lesson No. 1 from the AIDS movement is to believe only in the possibility -- not the inevitability -- of success. Opponents will fight and appear immovable. As those of us who lived through the early days of the AIDS fight, it was always far from certain that we would reach our goals.