I once took a train from Saratov, a Russian city on the Volga, to Almaty, then the capital of Kazakhstan. The journey took nearly three days. It seemed that for most of that time we passed through nothing but dark, frozen, empty space (it was December). The train moved slowly and noisily on old tracks, a relic from Russia’s Soviet past. But it was still impressive—this creaky transportation network had once held together one-sixth of the world’s land surface. It was part of an economic circulatory system that allowed goods, raw materials, and labor to move incredible distances, from the Black Sea to the Pacific.
La semaine prochaine, la tenue des Assemblées annuelles 2011 de la Banque mondiale et du FMI va donner lieu à un programme complet de discussions, séminaires et diffusions en ligne axés autour de deux questions essentielles pour une croissance économique durable : le genre et l’emploi.
Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict—the flagship study jointly published by the UN and the World Bank—has been touted as an unparalleled, potentially paradigm-shifting piece of work. But so often, conflict prevention approaches are weighted toward Africa or the Middle East; is the study relevant to Australia’s region and interests?
This study is a mix, but it tips toward the positive for Australia’s approach to security, politics, and development. It features several countries of high interest to Australia, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste. Even Bougainville rates an instructive mention, although Solomon Islands is not discussed. Subnational conflict and middle-income country dynamics are certainly considered in a general sense. Predictably, though, African and Middle Eastern experiences are more prominent, given they are in many cases acute, high profile, and the destination of much conflict or peacebuilding support and political interest of UN and World Bank members.
Ten years ago, the World Bank and the government of Norway launched an ambitious project to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a source few people thought much about. If you’ve driven past oil fields at night, you’ve seen the flames from gas flaring. But you might not have realized just how much greenhouse gas was being pumped into the dark – and how much of a natural energy resource was being wasted in the process.
Half a dozen major oil companies joined us in 2002 in creating the public-private Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership, and we began working together to reduce the flaring. More than 30 government and industry partners are on board today.
Together, we have achieved a great deal in just the first decade.
Last month, in Mauritania, I stopped by a village just north of the Senegal river. As we drank tea under a patchy old tent, an old man pointed to the surrounding savannah – grassland with the odd acacia tree.
Cities are becoming thirstier – a 50 percent increase in urban water demands is anticipated within the next 30 years. Rapid urban population growth, economic expansion, and competing demands are increasing thirst and tightening the availability of water in areas where water scarcity is already a reality.
In a bid to develop concrete solutions for a water scarce future, the World Bank launched the Water Scarce Cities Initiative (WSC), to bolster awareness of integrated and innovative approaches to managing water resources and service delivery.
Proposals aiming to boost innovative climate change solutions often include some form of publicly-supported global venture capital (VC) fund. The rationale for such a fund is that government funding is generally available for R&D and private financing is available for the commercialization of mature technologies; but funding is unavailable for entrepreneurial activities—such as proof-of-concept, piloting, firm-building, and marketing—that happen between these two stages. Given this situation, a global climate change VC fund could have a decidedly stimulating effect. Of course, it would also be important for governments not to put all their eggs in this basket, since the VC instrument could quickly reach its limits.
The financing gap is particularly severe for climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies for a number of reasons. Not only is the market for these technologies still at a very early stage of development but it is also driven by regulation. Both of these factors represent significant risks for investors. In addition, low carbon technologies tend to be more capital-intensive and require much more start-up financing than other typical VC investment sectors like information technology. The funding gap is particularly deep in the developing world, which presents a riskier business environment and a more fragmented market for investors.
Several VC-style climate-change funds have recently been launched. The Carbon Trust, established by the British government, already invests in clean-technology firms based in the UK. In partnership with the Qatar Investment Authority, the Carbon Trust plans to set up a £250 million fund called the Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund, to be supported by both governments. The fund will primarily invest in the UK, but also to some extent in continental Europe and the Gulf Region. This will be the first major publicly-supported climate change VC fund of its size involving more than one country.
Medicines are key inputs for quality medical care and the prevention of disease, and when administered appropriately, as evidence from Sub-Saharan African countries shows, they can contribute significantly to reducing death rates due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
But it is also obvious that not everybody in these countries, particularly the poor, enjoys this benefit, since limited access to essential drugs remains a key challenge in most health systems. High out-of-pocket expenditures, typically more than 40% of total health expenditures in some countries (a large portion for outpatient drugs), also place a heavy burden on poor families with chronically ill members who require daily drug intake.
Help needs to come immediately to save lives; recovery and reconstruction have to start swiftly to lessen the impact.
However, while money is critical to this response, it’s not just about funding. Indeed, funds need to match the event scale, target the right areas and sectors, and smoothly flow to communities in need. But in order for that to happen, sound public policy on risk and frameworks have to be in place.
To address both urgent financial needs while pursing strategic disaster risk management policy goals, countries have been using the World Bank’s development policy loan with a catastrophe deferred drawdown option or, more widely known as the Cat DDO.