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December 2015

Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’: The Maestro Handles Complexity Adroitly

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Chi-Raq movie billDifficult social problems are fiendishly difficult to communicate. For, these are issues about which experts disagree and citizen-voters, too. The causes are unclear, the solutions are unclear, and then there is the ideological deadweight that tends to drag meaningful debate and discussion all the way down to seedy depths. Above all, public debate on complex social problems also leads to framing battles: you frame the discussion to privilege the ‘solution’ you want. So, for instance: what do we do about homelessness in our cities? If you don’t want public funds spent on it, you frame it as an individual responsibility issue. You argue that the homeless need to pull themselves up by the straps of their dirty sneakers. If you want public funds spent on the problem, you frame the issue as a structural challenge. You ask for a focus on unemployment, targeted welfare schemes, improved care for the mentally ill and so on.

Chi-Raq’, Spike Lee’s new movie, tackles a horrendously difficult problem: the horrific and persistent gang violence in inner cities in the United States of America (and, by implication, several such places across the globe). His setting is the South Side of Chicago. The title of the movie is a play on Chicago and Iraq. The movie opens with these stunning statistics: while American deaths in the Iraq War between 2003 and 2011 came to 4,424, between 2001 and 2015 there were 7,356 homicides in Chicago. Think about that for a second: 7,356 homicides.

Carbon markets in the Paris Agreement - an early holiday gift

Vikram Widge's picture
 Max Edkins / World Bank
COP21 conference center at Le Bourget, near Paris. Photo: Max Edkins / World Bank


Last Saturday, UN climate negotiators from 195 countries agreed on a historic climate change accord in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations. While many of us were hoping for a hook that would support the use of markets, we were happily surprised to see the extent and detail on carbon markets that was ultimately included in the Paris Agreement.

Women are key for corporate success

Ahmed Ali Attiga's picture

Female board members can dramatically improve the fortunes of public companies — and the Middle East

While the Middle East has made strides towards gender equality in recent years, the upper echelons of its corporate world are still dominated by men.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in Jordan. Women there hold just 4% of all board of directors’ seats, and nearly four-fifths of firms don’t have any women on their boards. Those numbers pale in comparison with many other countries, including the United Kingdom, where 25% of all board members are women.

But a new study from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, suggests that companies would do well to inject some female leadership into their ranks — a finding that has deep implications for the entire region.

Middle East moves from power cuts to sustainable energy and lower emissions

Charles Cormier's picture
Switched ON Lightbulb in the Shape of the World - Shutterstock l tr3gin

The agreement reached by 196 countries at Paris to collectively work to limit the growth of global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is a landmark for efforts to avert the worst impact of climate change.  At Paris, each agreed to do its part to promote sustainable energy.  Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are willing to do their share to mitigate climate change, as demonstrated by their respective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. 

The trade-off of spousal secrets in family planning: Guest post by Aine McCarthy

This is the eleventh in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

When men desire nearly three times as many additional children as their wives and possess most of the decision-making power in the household, the stark difference in fertility preferences leads to excess fertility and welfare losses for wives.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption Is Just a Symptom, Not the Disease
Wall Street Journal
If you ask development experts, Western politicians and pundits how to end global poverty, you’ll hear one answer more than any other: Fight corruption. Even the Catholic Church agrees. In Nairobi last week, Pope Francis urged young Kenyans, “Please, don’t develop that taste for that sugar which is called corruption.” In a packed stadium in the same city in July, President Barack Obama was even more emphatic: “Corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life,” he said. “It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.” In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two days later, he told the African Union, “Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.”  But this conventional wisdom has it backward. For all its crippling costs, corruption is a symptom, not the disease. To get rid of corruption (and, for that matter, global poverty), we must build and strengthen institutions that work for the people of the developing world, rather than tolerate existing structures that typically serve the narrow, graft-addicted elites that often suck poor nations dry.

Global Media Monitoring Project 2015
Who makes the news?
Every five years since 1995 a growing number of scholars, activists, media professionals and policy-makers around the world has looked forward with intense anticipation to the results from the Global Media Monitoring Project. The 2015 edition, spanning a record number of 114 countries, has been awaited with particular intentness. This 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) has catalysed much reflection. Two decades after the BPfA identified the media as one of the ‘areas of particular urgency that stand out as priorities for action’ in advancing gender equality and women’s human rights, where do things stand? The GMMP findings provide some answers.

Don’t shut your doors to refugees

Bassam Sebti's picture
The author on the day of his graduation from the Master of Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 2008. © Jenny Spinner

I walked among dead bodies of people blown up by bombs. I ducked and covered from bullets falling around my feet, and I was almost choked to death by an angry mourner. One of millions of Iraqis, I was trying to survive a brutal reality that never seemed to end.

I still cannot escape these images. I still smell the dead. I had to go to where death lay due to my job as a reporter. That job left many journalists, including one of my former colleagues at the Washington Post, dead.

As rewarding as it was, that job cost me my country. I had to seek refuge. Armed groups had taken every chance to attack journalists and their families, especially those who worked for American media. They kidnapped them, tortured them, and asked for ransoms to spare their lives. I did not want this to happen to my family.

Six things you need to know about crowdfunding in developing countries

Sam Raymond's picture

This post was originally published on “Crowdfund Insider.”

If you are an entrepreneur in emerging markets, you have probably heard a lot about crowdfunding, but have wondered how it could be useful for your early-stage business.

In developed markets, crowdfunding is swelling the ranks of early-stage entrepreneurs and bolstering the pipeline of enterprises that diversify economies and create the majority of jobs. However, for early-stage entrepreneurs in emerging markets, the path toward crowdfunding remains untrod.

Microlending platforms like Kiva are issuing consumer lending finance but cannot provide enough capital to fund the core business operations of a startup – the average loan on Kiva, for example, is $454. Larger amounts of debt or equity are available via online platforms, but these are best suited for more mature companies or projects with an established track record.

What is missing is a normative usage of presale, rewards, or contributions crowdfunding for early-stage companies, as they attempt to move their idea to prototype and on to customer engagement. In societies where e-commerce is underutilized, payment systems are frail, and even the term “crowdfunding” is widely unknown, the lack of established models and best practices is understandable.

Despite these challenges, many African entrepreneurs are paving the way for crowdfunding by experimenting with different online platforms, testing new techniques, and adapting models to developing markets. The new World Bank Group’s study “Crowdfunding in Emerging Markets: Lessons from East African Startups” captured and analyzed what these first crowdfunding adopters have learned through their innovative campaigns in East Africa.

#Music4Dev guest Rahim Alhaj: We have a responsibility to end the refugee crisis

Bassam Sebti's picture

He learned to play the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, at an early age in his hometown of Baghdad. He grew up writing protest songs against the dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually forced to leave his beloved Iraq in 1991. He later found refuge in the United States.


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