“I think the documentary, as a form, actually speaks to what’s missing. Our politicians don’t say anything any more: they just refute and assert. I think the documentary is something that people are hungry for, that it embodies careful thought, nuance.”
-- Beeban Kidron. A British Film Director.
The following post is a part of a series that discusses 'managing risk for development,' the theme of the World Bank’s upcoming World Development Report 2014.
It is an old and well known criticism of electoral politics: the conflict between short political mandates and long term objectives. To galvanize political support, policy makers not rarely resort to “benevolent” political measures, such as short-sighted tax reductions or infrastructure investments, which are often more beneficial to their own election polls than to their electorate. Such political myopia is alarmingly common, and stands in the way of effective policy making in the long term interest of people.
Risk management is one of the fields in which effective action tends to be impaired by political myopia. For instance, implementing comprehensive regulation in the financial sector, or imposing stringent environmental requirements on certain industries, would help managing the risks of financial or environmental crises. Similarly, the installation of early warning systems for tsunamis or hurricanes could provide decisive information for preparation and timely evacuation.
It’s not easy to reach Morro da Formiga, a favela that perches precariously like a bird’s nest on the side of a cliff in the northern part of Rio de Janeiro. But once you get there, its dramatic view of lush forested hillsides is impressive. It wasn’t always like this though. Sixteen years ago, it was just a barren mountain with recurring mudslides threatening its residents.
Morro da Formiga is one of 144 sites of Rio’s reforestation program. I visited last week, together with a team from the Environmental Secretariat of Rio City Hall and a journalist from Agence France Presse.
Morro da Formiga. Photo: Franka Braun
Since 1986, the Environmental Secretariat of Rio’s City Hall (SMAC) has led a community reforestation program and planted over six million seedlings on 2,200 hectares of land within the city limits. Rio had long suffered from deforestation of its hills as a result of development, causing soil erosion, sediment build-up in waterways, floods, landslides, and pools of water filled with disease-carrying mosquitos.
This summer, I made a project visit to a government clinic in northern Sierra Leone. It is a clinic pretty much in name only, being constructed as 1-bedroom living quarters for a teacher and subsequently converted into a health facility. The nurse took me on a tour, pointing out the problems: a broken scale to weigh infants, no waiting room for early stages of labor, animals grazing and
The very word “scandal” has a negative connotation. The dictionary definition says scandals are “associated with a disgraceful action or circumstance, or an offense caused by fault or misdeed” – and therefore, by definition, scandals damage someone’s reputation. No one wants to be involved in a scandal.
But: What if something good could actually come out of a scandal? Could some scandals become the source of good news?
When it comes to the disclosure of financial and business interests by public officials, the eruption of a scandal evidently can produce positive results.
From the United States in the 1970s to the recent scandals involving high-profile public figures in France, along with countless other examples worldwide, many high-profile scandals provide the impetus for the establishment or reform of disclosure systems. Initially, scandals push the issue of public officials’ integrity to the forefront of public debate. Discussions get heated up by colorful articles in the media about public officials’ wealth, both legitimate and illegitimate.
But, fortunately, some countries manage to keep their focus on the most important aspects of public officials’ financial misdeeds, without becoming distracted by breathless media gossip about the size of their bank accounts or vacation homes. Some countries take the opportunity to realize that an effective disclosure system requires the real attention.
1) Water covers 70% of the Earth, but it’s only 1/1000th of the Earth’s volume
This image from the US Geological Survey shows what would happen if all the Earth’s water - everything from oceans and seas to ice caps, lakes and atmospheric vapor - was removed from the surface and combined into a single sphere.
By volume, the Earth is about 1 trillion or 1,000 billion cubic kilometers. All of the earth’s water comes in at a thousand times smaller, in a sphere with a volume of 1.4 billion cubic kilometers and about 1,400 kilometers in diameter - that’s about the length of Madagascar.
The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn't be forgotten in these important discussions.