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January 2010

Dzud: a slow natural disaster kills livestock --and livelihoods-- in Mongolia

Arshad Sayed's picture

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(Available in: монгол хэл.)

Mongolia is currently experiencing a white "dzud" – a multiple natural disaster consisting of a summer drought resulting in inadequate pasture and production of hay, followed by very heavy winter snow, winds and lower-than-normal temperatures. Dzuds occur when the winter conditions – particularity heavy snow cover – prevent livestock from accessing pasture or from receiving adequate hay and fodder. 

'Some Current Approaches to Climate Adaptation May Bypass Local Institutions'

Tom Grubisich's picture

Carbon dioxide -- the chief cause of manmade global warming -- doesn't park itself only in the atmosphere over major emitting countries.  So, obviously, the response to climate change requires global action.  But drought, storms, flooding, and rising sea levels demand climate adaptation tailored to circumstances that will vary by region and even locality.  For example, farmers in one part of southern Zambia may have to respond with a hybrid maize seed that differs significantly from what needs to be planted in another part of that climate-besieged food bowl.  The issue in southern Zambia is not just more intense drought, but how it can, and does, vary in intensity even within one region.  Dry weather may be so severe in one area that farmers there may have to give up maize cultivation and plant an entirely different crop.

Such fine-tuned local adaptation can't come primarily out of ministries of the national governments of developing countries trying to cope with the mounting adverse impacts of climate change on people and resources.  It requires local institutions to meet the capacity gap.  But national governments aren't collaborating that closely with civil society at the community level.

This from the new book Social Dimensions of Climate Change (World Bank, 2010):

"It is unfortunate that some current approaches to adaptation planning and financing may bypass local institutions.  The current push to formulate national adaptation plans of action [NAPAs] seems to have missed the opportunity to propose adaptation projects for community- and local-level public, private, or civic institutions."

Can Informal Finance Substitute for Formal Finance?

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

A couple of years ago, at a meeting of World Bank financial sector experts, one of the Vice Presidents at the time challenged me by saying, “You always talk about the importance of the financial sector for development, and emphasize we need to prioritize financial sector reforms, but just look at China. It is doing very well without a well functioning financial system.”

This struck a chord. I had also recently seen an academic paper making more or less the same point, that China is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world despite weaknesses in its formal banking system. Of course there is a large literature on finance which shows that development of formal financial institutions is associated with faster growth and better resource allocation. It has also long been recognized that informal financial systems play a complementary role in developing countries, typically consisting of small, unsecured, short-term loans restricted to rural areas, agricultural contracts, households, individuals, or small entrepreneurial ventures.

There is even a direct parallel in developed countries called angel finance, where high-net-worth individuals—“angel investors”—provide initial funding to young firms with modest capital needs until they are able to receive more formal venture capital financing. But informal finance substituting for formal finance? Conventional wisdom has always been that this is not likely since informal monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are generally ill equipped for scaling up and meeting the needs of the higher end of the market. 

ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch -- and Learn From

Michael Trucano's picture

KERIS looms increasingly large on the international ICT/education scene | image attribution at bottomAs part of engagements with ministries of education around the world, I am often asked to provide lists of countries considered to be 'best practice examples of ICT use in education'. I am asked this so often that I thought I'd provide a representative list here to help point people in some useful directions, in case doing so might be of any interest.

But before I get to the list ...

First, I'd like to say that I prefer the term 'good practice' to 'best practice'.  This may seem to be unnecessary semantic nitpicking, but in many if not most cases and places, learning from and adapting 'good' practices is often much more practical -- and more likely to lead to success.  

And: Given that many initiatives seem immune to learning from either 'best' or even 'good' practice in other places, I am coming to the conclusion that it may be most practical to recommend countries that have had 'lots of practice' (of any kind).  Is this ideal?  Obviously no -- but it tends to yield better results. For whatever reason, there appears to be a natural learning curve that accompanies large scale adoption of ICTs in the education sector in many countries, and that there is an important element of 'learning by doing' that appears to be important, even if this means 'repeating the mistakes' of others. (This is a process often known in international development circles as 'capacity building'.)

Sunita Narain on acting now for climate-smart development

Alexander Lotsch's picture

The World Bank's Sustainable Development Network held its annual forum over the past two weeks in Washington DC with World Development Report 2010’s theme of 'Act now, Act together, Act differently'. Hundreds of World Bank staff convened to discuss the way forward on climate action with colleagues, clients and climate experts. With the Copenhagen Accord leaving many important issues of international climate policy unresolved, development experts focused on the positive actions that can be taken to foster ‘climate-smart’ development. In a high-level plenary discussion, international experts discussed how green investments stimulate economic recovery and climate-smart growth, as in Korea and China, and the role of rich and poor countries in sharing the global atmospheric commons going forward. We asked Sunita Narain, one of the panelists—and Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi—about what actions she thinks need to be taken now at the global level, and about the role of international development institutions in putting climate-smart development into practice. 
 

Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi from World Bank on Vimeo.

India's Testosterone-free Alternative

Writing in the blog last year, Sarah Iqbal pondered whether the financial crisis was the result of too much testosterone on Wall Street, wondering if things would have been different if women were in charge:

Peer pressure leads to male herding behavior in financially pressurized situations resulting in high risk bets. Women’s propensity for risk-taking, however, seems immune to this type of pressure.

Hard Choices in Botswana

Zeinab Partow's picture

Despite being pummeled by the global crisis--diamond production and exports contracted by 50 percent in 2009--Botswana was in the enviable position of being able to cushion its people and the economy, thanks to large savings accumulated over the years and access to inexpensive financing. 

But it may have overdone the cushioning.  The fiscal deficit for the 2009/10 budget year is projected at 14 percent of GDP.

Although diamond prices are expected to rebound, production and exports will remain below pre-crisis levels, and another double-digit deficit is expected in 2010/11.  Not even Botswana can maintain double-digit deficits for long without jeopardizing its fiscal sustainability, especially given the specter of a rapid fall in diamond production--and eventual depletion of known reserves--in a few decades. 

At the same time, cutting spending is particularly painful in a country like Botswana where government expenditures are pivotal to economic activity and to sustaining non-mining private sector.

 Some tough choices ahead for one of Africa's best-managed economies.


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