The Global Oceans Action Summit closed not with a call for action as is so typical of conferences these days, but with a series of very real and resourced commitments to shared and urgent action.Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, this summit convened around the consensus goal of healthy oceans, and brought the public and private sectors, civil society actors, local communities and even local Dutch fisherfolk to the table. Diverse groups came together to talk, listen and make commitments.
I’m a big believer in setting highly ambitious targets in order to galvanize communities and countries to take action on serious issues. When I was at the World Health Organization in 2003, we set a target called “3 x 5” – committing to treat 3 million people with HIV/AIDS in the developing world by 2005.
At the time, just a few hundred thousand people in the developing world had access to the life-saving treatment. When we announced the target, the global health community was still arguing about whether HIV treatment in poor countries was possible. Some called it an impossible dream that would give people false hope.
I responded that no one ever said treating 3 million people would be easy. But we needed a measurable and time-limited target to change fundamentally the way we thought about the challenges of HIV in developing countries. The target helped change the way we worked – we had fewer arguments about if we should do it, and focused on how to get it done.
This is for anyone who ever found themselves frustrated by numbers -- myself included.
Right before college, I remember my parents asking me what degree I wanted to pursue. Vaguely, I answered “Anything without math.” Even during my post graduate studies, I consciously picked a degree with less mathematics in its curriculum. The irony is, I now work in the World Bank Group and numbers is its core language. But there is good news, not only for rookies like me, but for everyone – numbers can be fascinating, insightful and even fun.
‘My Favorite Number,’ is a YouTube series that shows how digits can give us unique insight into global development and humanity. World Bank Group’s economists share their stories on their favorite numbers – demonstrating how their brilliance (and humor) reaffirm that numbers are vital to everyday life. The videos show us that economists are not just about numbers. They bring passion and personal perspectives to relevant issues around the world.
Elephants – in particular the forest elephants of Central Africa – are being poached at unprecedented rates for their valuable ivory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 forest elephants – a whopping 65 percent of the elephant population – have been slaughtered since 2002. Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been hotspots for the killing.
Now you might ask why we should care--an especially appropriate question to ask as we celebrate Earth Day. As humans, we may be attached to charismatic species such as elephants – but will their extinction affect us directly? The answer is yes. The intricate interconnections within ecosystems mean that the disappearance of a species has effects that are never limited to just that particular species. The impact can be broad and deep, affecting other animal and plant species, our water supply, people’s livelihoods, and even – in small ways – the climate.
Above, watch the trailer for "Years of Living Dangerously" and the panel discussion with Thomas Friedman during the 2014 Spring Meetings. Below, watch the premiere episode.
Fueled by warmer temperatures and added moisture in the air, a storm system coils like a snake ready to strike. Rising seas stand poised to obliterate shoreline developments and cityscapes. The brown, dry soil of once-verdant farmland threatens food security for millions, all while the number of mouths to feed grows. Wildfires rage and burning peat lands belch black carbon and greenhouse gases into our thin shell of an atmosphere.
And that’s how climate change is affecting real people, right now, all over the globe. “Years of Living Dangerously” on SHOWTIME® features an exceptional cast of world-class journalists and celebrity reporters documenting the impact of climate change worldwide. Over nine episodes, we show that climate change is 100% a people story.
World leaders just affirmed the latest in a series of reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel Prize-winning authority on climate science. These reports are uncompromising in their assessment that climate change is real, it’s us, it's now, it's getting worse, and we’re not prepared. The latest report makes clear we have the clean energy technologies to start slashing carbon pollution at very low cost, much lower than the cost of inaction – but the window to act is closing fast.
Something Is Changing
Fifteen years ago, the international community designed the Millennium Development Goals, including that of halving extreme poverty, through a process that mostly took place in New York, behind closed doors. A few years earlier, the World Bank had developed the guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries from Washington, D.C. in a similar fashion.
Fortunately, this approach has changed.
Today, the process of identifying and consulting on the post-2015 development agenda has been opened to the general public including, importantly, those whom the goals are expected to serve. In fact, the United Nations and other partners have undertaken a campaign to reach out directly to citizens for ideas and feedback on the issues most important to them in the post-2015 agenda. Those who are formulating the post-2015 goals will no longer need to assume what the poor and vulnerable want: they will have a firsthand knowledge of what their priorities are.
The World Bank Group has explicitly stated that our new goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity cannot be achieved without institutions, structures, and processes that empower local communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that all groups in society are able to participate in decision-making processes. In other words, these goals will not be within reach without a social contract between a country and its citizens that reduces imbalances in voice, participation and power between different groups, including the poor.
It may not always be called ‘radio’ anymore, but audio communication is not only alive and well – it’s an increasingly vital method to reach diverse audiences. It’s everywhere—online and on-air, on your mobile phone, and your iPad. You can listen to audio while driving, working, puttering around the house, or taking a walk outdoors. It allows listeners to multi-task, which is critical in today’s fast-paced world.
That’s why we’re so excited to launch our own new World Bank Group channel on SoundCloud, a fast-growing international web platform with more than 300 million users. Many describe SoundCloud as the “YouTube of audio” with millions of audio files that are routinely linked on blogs, websites, and social media. Even President Obama shares his speeches on SoundCloud.
Companies that include women among their executives and employees and do business with female entrepreneurs gain in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability, speakers said at the World Bank Group’s Gender and the Economy event this week in Washington, D.C.
A convincing business case for gender inclusion was made by H.E. Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo Group; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; and Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief Marketing Officer at General Electric.
“Women are bringing new insights and experiences to workplaces and markets that were previously male-dominated,” said Comstock “Diversity breeds innovation."
Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the Bank Group's managing director and chief operating officer, said closing the economic gender gap and increasing opportunities for both women and men in the private sector are key to ending extreme poverty and boosting prosperity in developing countries.
If I had to pick one critical source of exports and a key driver of economic growth for Armenia, I would pick mining.
But mining is a risky business and is fraught with hurdles. Exploration often comes up empty. Investments are very large, in excess of hundreds of millions dollars. Commodity prices can change dramatically and governments can change policies and taxes. Moreover, there can be large environmental and social risks associated with things like tailings, dams, and resettlement policies.
A risky business does not, however, mean that mining is or should be an irresponsible business. Many of these risks can be mitigated or eliminated. This requires proper policies, laws, regulations, careful implementation, and planning for life when the mine closes – all of this even before the mine opens. Supporting policies, such as easy access to updated geological information and predictability in transferring licenses, reduce the risk in exploration.
For a very long time, the rich have known to some extent how the poor around the world live. What’s new in today's world is that the best-kept secret from the poor, namely, how the rich live, is now out. Through the village television, the Internet and hand-held instruments, which a rapidly increasing number of the poor possess, life-styles of the rich and the middle class are transmitted in full color to their homes every day.
Last year, when I traveled with President Evo Morales to a Bolivian village 14,000 feet above sea level, villagers snapped pictures on their smartphones of our arrival. In Uttar Pradesh, the state in India with the highest number of poor people, I found Indians watching Korean soap operas on their smartphones.
We live in an unequal world. But while the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.
In September, the world’s top scientists said the human influence on climate was clear. Last month, they warned of increased risks of a rapidly warming planet to our economies, environment, food supply, and global security. Today, the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes what we need to do about it.
The report, focused on mitigation, says that global greenhouse gas emissions were rising faster in the last decade than in the previously three, despite reduction efforts. Without additional mitigation efforts, we could see a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of this century. The IPCC says we can still limit that increase to 2 degrees, but that will require substantial technological, economic, institutional, and behavioral change.
Let’s translate the numbers. For every degree rise, that equates to more risk, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.
With people around the world struggling to afford health care, countries as diverse as Myanmar, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, and the Philippines are warming to the idea of universal health coverage. This growing momentum was the subject of a high-profile Spring Meetings event examining the case for universal health coverage and the steps to get there.
Some 70 governments have asked the United Nations for help to achieve universal health coverage, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He spoke at Toward Universal Health Coverage by 2030, co-sponsored by the World Bank and World Health Organization and moderated by the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.
“We can celebrate the fact that virtually all mothers in Sweden survive childbirth,” Ban said. “But in South Sudan, one in seven pregnant women will not live to see their babies. Addressing this inequality is a matter of health and human rights … To secure health, we have to take preventive action. The concept of universal health coverage could be an important catalyst.”
Ban was part of a panel including World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim; Harvard University President Emeritus Lawrence H. Summers; Nigeria Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now the U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate.
I discussed our most recent Russia growth outlook at a roundtable at the Higher School of Economics Conference on Apr. 2 with a number of Russian and international experts. This conference is one of the most important and prestigious economic conferences in Russia, and traditionally, the World Bank co-sponsors it as part of its outreach to other stakeholders.
The room was packed...
The world needs to step up efforts to educate large numbers of young people to meet the challenges of the 21st century. That was a key message at the Learning for All Symposium, Investing in a Brighter Future, at the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings.
The event, moderated by PBS News Anchor Judy Woodruff and webcast in three languages, linked what several participants described as an ongoing “learning crisis” with high unemployment among young people worldwide.
While a lot of progress has been made getting children into school, 57 million are still out of school. Studies have found that education gaps are impeding skills development, economic growth, and competitiveness around the world. In 2011 it was estimated that 73 million young people were unemployed globally. Youth employment rates are two to four times as high as those of adults in most countries.
A perfect storm of disaster risk is forming at the intersection of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change – one that is threatening to upend efforts towards achieving our development goals.
The number of natural disasters has nearly doubled in the last three decades, with the cost of these events increasing substantially– from around $50 billion annually in the 1980’s to just under $200 billion a year in the last decade, with extreme weather events responsible for nearly three-fourths of these losses.
One reason is population growth, 95 percent of which is happening and will continue to happen in developing countries. Another is rapidly expanding cities. Growing stress on infrastructure, utilities, and housing will only exacerbate risks and undo decades of achievements in development and increase the burden on humanitarian efforts.
In a wide-ranging conversation, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Al Jazeera’s Ali Velshi kept returning to a topic that has been rising in importance as it worsens in the world – inequality.
Velshi, the host of a nightly business news program on Al Jazeera America, asked is the middle class growing worldwide? Is it healthy? Does solving inequality require redistribution of wealth? How can the World Bank Group make headway on ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity when there are so many obstacles?
- Spring Meetings 2014
One voice can make a difference. Many can change the world.
From civil rights in America to the global fight against AIDS, history has shown that when people come together in pursuit of a goal, they can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
We’re urging everyone to come together to help end extreme poverty by 2030.
The World Bank Group, along with other like-minded organizations and individuals, is part of a global movement to change the lives of millions of people who survive on less than $1.25 a day.
Help us do it. Take on a challenge that can help end extreme poverty – whether gender equality, education for all, or fighting climate change. There are many ways you can help.
Be part of the generation that makes poverty history.
Here are some more ways to get involved:
Sign the Global Poverty Project petition calling on countries
to support efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030
When the petition reaches 1 million signatures, it will be sent to the
heads of governments in countries around the world for action.
Often, people ask me how they can get involved in a social movement to end extreme poverty. Not so long ago, I participated in a MOOC – a massive open online course – organized by Wesleyan University called “How to Change the World.”
Wesleyan President Michael Roth asked me for advice to students who wanted to get engaged in a social movement to end poverty. My response is that we’re going to need everyone – doctors, writers, engineers, lawyers, social workers, and visionaries in governments and in the private sector.
So what is it going to take to build a successful social movement to end poverty? What role can you play? Take a minute to watch the video. What I really hope is that it inspires you to get involved, to take it on. Please share this with your friends, and let me know what you think.
Remember when you were a kid and everyone asked: “What do you want to become when you grow up?” What did you answer? Have you fulfilled your dreams?
Most of us aspire to live our lives to the fullest; to develop our talents; to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we may feel lost in the great scheme of things. But as the World Bank Group’s Jim Yong Kim points out: The most successful movements to change the world started with a small group of like-minded people. Think of the movements to find a treatment for AIDS, to promote human rights or to ensure gender equality.
Mobile money has taken off in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, where mobile operators are developing successful services. At the end of 2013, there were 219 mobile money services in 84 countries, demonstrating the extensive reach of this technology. Around 70% of people in the developing world now have access to a mobile phone, which serves as a gateway to financial services for millions of people where physical bank branches either don’t exist or aren’t readily available.
Mobile money services have made it easier and cheaper for people to use financial services, and especially for people to send payments. bKash, for example, is one such company working to “widen the net of financial inclusion” through mobile money services. In Bangladesh, bKash has 8 million registered users who use the service to send payments and remittances for a very low cost. In a country where much of the population lives in remote areas, bKash has had a great deal of success reaching the otherwise underserved with financial services through its network of 76,000 agents.
But payments are just the beginning. Some innovators are now putting digital finance at the core of their business models by allowing people to pay in small increments, often in a pay-as-you-go format, via their mobile money accounts for crucial services. The technology behind mobile money also allows for the expansion of other digital financial services such as credit, insurance or savings.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, discusses her trip to Poland, its economy, progress in boosting shared prosperity, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.
Wednesday, April 9
Next week, we’ll be hosting our Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., which will attract a few thousand leaders in development from around the world. To set the stage for these meetings, I talked this week about the fundamental issues in global development and how we’re undergoing dramatic changes inside the World Bank Group to meet those great challenges.
We live in an unequal world. The gaps between the rich and poor are as obvious here in Washington, D.C., as they are in any capital. Yet, those excluded from economic progress remain largely invisible to many of us in the rich world. In the words of Pope Francis, “That homeless people freeze to death on the street is not news. But a drop … in the stock market is a tragedy.”
While we in the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.