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May 2016

Weekly links May 13: Bad science reporting, bad measurement, bad social science ethics, and good books

David Evans's picture
 
  • This week in macro measurement: “‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’ said Otto von Bismarck. Turns out you can probably add GDP to that list.” Duncan Green gives a useful summary of The Economist’s extensive critique of GDP, how it is becoming decreasingly useful over time, and how it could be better.

Gender equality: what do the data show in 2016?

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture


This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.
 

Disparities between men and women are fewer + smaller than 20 years ago, but critical gaps remain

We have seen significant progress in closing gender gaps over the last two decades, especially in education and health. Most countries have reduced disparities between girls and boys in enrollment and completion of primary school, and in transition to secondary school.  And both women and men are living longer and healthier lives. But critical gaps persist: Women have limited access to economic opportunities, and their ability to make decisions about their lives and act on them—their agency —is restricted in many ways.

Hurdles to gender equality

These gaps are related to entrenched social norms and biases that constrain women and girls and prevent them from fulfilling their potential. In many economies, women face legal provisions that restrict their capacity to access opportunities—these include requirements that they obtain a husband’s permission or produce additional documentation to open a bank account in their own name. Persistent gender-based violence is pervasive and reflects the imbalance of power relations in the household and society more generally. Women’s responsibility for family care and household chores, which is necessary for social reproduction, restricts the time they can spend on paid work and disadvantages men.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 seeks to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” and represents an opportunity to tackle structural constraints and shift social norms, which would potentially enable permanent pathways out of poverty and achieve the gender equality targets of the 2030 agenda.

Shifting entrenched norms isn’t easy. A key step in this process is to create an enabling environment by changing legal frameworks. Countries have taken important steps in enacting laws to protect women from harmful practices: In 2016, 137 countries have laws on domestic violence and 149 countries prohibit or void child marriage. On the other hand, many economies still have legal differences affecting women’s economic opportunities. Almost 60 percent of the 188 countries for which data are available lack legal frameworks that mandate equal opportunities in hiring practices, equal pay for equal work, or allow women to perform the same jobs as men.

Ending a 20-year water crisis in a remote village in Solomon Islands

Evan Wasuka's picture
Surrounded by water, Nanngu’s taps have been without drinking water for the past 20 years.

With the throttle at full tilt, the boat cut through the surf, spraying salt water into the air. 
Around me, the unfolding scenery is breathtaking. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, swaying coconut palms – the textbook image of paradise in the South Pacific.
 
What more could one ask for in paradise?  

Water, is what they will tell you. “They” are the people of Nanngu Village on the island of Santa Cruz in the far east of Solomon Islands. 
 
Out here, water to drink, cook food with, wash and keep clean is hard to come by.
 
The last time they had proper running water was 20 years ago. That came to an end at the hands of a Category Three cyclone, Nina, which hit the islands in 1993.
 
As I write this, we’re on our way to Nanngu to see a new World Bank-supported project bringing water to the village.

Universal financial access by 2020? Look to Africa for inspiration

Irina Asktrakhan's picture

The World Bank (WB) has set an ambitious goal of securing universal access to formal financial services by 2020. Although 700 million people have signed up for a bank account since 2011, about two billion worldwide remain unbanked. As the WB seeks to expand worldwide financial inclusion, it should look to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for inspiration.

Public-private partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Krishnan Sharma's picture

The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals presents an immediate challenge. In particular, the financing required for new infrastructure (including clean water, healthcare, and access to energy for all) is huge--amounting to about $5 trillion per year globally.  Given limited government resources, a considerable amount of private finance will be required to fill this gap, and public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been seen as a possible modality through which to attract these additional resources.

Is piracy democratizing entertainment or destroying it?

Davinia Levy's picture

In many places in the world, there is easy access to pirated movies. You can either buy them in CD or DVD format from street vendors, or, increasingly, download them directly into your computer from online sites.  This form of consuming entertainment content is not only harmful to the movie industry but to culture in a broader sense.

Some may say that piracy is allowing more people access content that otherwise would not be available to them because of price. “Democratizing” entertainment, if you will. Movie tickets are not cheap, and for many, it can be a luxury treat to go watch a movie in the theater or buy the original DVD from a legitimate distributor. Furthermore, some may argue that if someone is pirating material because the price of the original is too high, that act of piracy cannot be considered a “loss sale” when calculating the economic damage of piracy, since that person would not have purchased the original material anyway (because it being too expensive). In that sense, piracy can make movies reach more people, beyond those wealthy enough to have the extra spendable income to go watch a movie in a cinema.

The real economic impact of piracy is hard to calculate in certain terms. However, many authors agree that movie studios lose a lot of revenue to piracy. This has a great impact on the kinds of movies that the studios will decide to invest in and produce. Faced with low box office and sales revenues, the movie industry will be more inclined to produce movies that will draw people to the cinemas and guarantee box office returns (such as big franchise sequels or blockbusters) rather than bet on a production that is considered less mainstream or invest in a new concept from an independent filmmaker. In Trevor Norkey’s words: Due to the increase in film piracy, production companies and movie studios are now much less likely to loan money out to an independent filmmaker with an idea than they are to a team of writers and producers working on a Harry Potter spin-off.

And, to me, that is the worst part.

Protecting life on land to protect the poor

Mahyar Eshragh Tabary's picture


This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.
 

Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth's land but around 13 million hectares vanish each year, despite efforts to protect them. Between 1990 and 2015 the world lost more than 129 million hectares—over 3 percent of its forest area. Despite efforts to protect forests, natural habitats and biodiversity, the impact of of human activity on the environment continues to affect the world’s poorest communities and deforestation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity all pose major challenges. Sustainable Development Goal 15 looks to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss".

The way out of poverty and corruption is paved with good governance

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

Woman speaks to World Bank MD and COO Sri Mulyani Indrawati in the Nyabithu District of Rwanda. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.


Twenty years ago, the World Bank took up the fight against corruption as an integral part of reducing poverty, hunger, and disease. The decision was groundbreaking then and remains valid today. Corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, leads to a culture of bribes, and distorts public expenditures, deterring foreign investors and hampering economic growth.

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? The developing world has bigger problems
Prospect
Few challenges in international development ignite as much passion as corruption. Perhaps ironically given the recent Panama Papers scandal, the UK government has encouraged the “zero tolerance” approach to corruption in international development. This approach may be the ideal, but an effective strategy for tackling corruption must acknowledge that it is a social and political problem, rather than purely a moral one.  In March, we contributed to the UK parliament’s International Development Committee inquiry on tackling corruption overseas. In our evidence, we argued that corruption in the developing world is not the worst of all evils—and that it cannot be wiped out without collateral damage.

Time to let go: remaking humanitarian action for the modern era
ODI
The humanitarian sector is suffering a crisis of legitimacy. Despite a decade of system-wide reforms, the sector is failing to adapt to meet the needs of people in crises. As humanitarian emergencies become more frequent, more complex and last longer, the need for radical change is ever growing. Drawing on four years of research, this report argues that the humanitarian system needs to let go of some fundamental – but outdated – assumptions, structures and behaviours to respond effectively to modern day crises. It argues for a new model of humanitarian action, one that requires letting go of the current paradigm.
 


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