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Can the rubble of history help shape today’s resilient cities?

David Sislen's picture

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Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)



Did you know that, in 1755, Portugal suffered a catastrophic disaster so severe that it cast a long shadow over politics, religion, philosophy, and science?

During an All Saints’ Day mass in Lisbon in that fateful year, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake collapsed cathedrals, triggered a 20-foot tsunami, and sparked devastating fires that destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s 23,000 buildings.

The death toll was estimated between 10,000-50,000, leaving the center of a global empire in ruins, with losses equivalent to 32%-48% of Portugal's GDP at the time.

Never in the European history had a natural disaster received such international attention.

The “Great Lisbon Earthquake” had a resounding impact across Europe: Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature – the equivalent of today’s mass media – were reproduced for centuries and across several countries. Rousseau, influenced by the devastation, argued against large and dense cities in the wake of the disaster, while Immanuel Kant published three separate texts on the disaster, becoming one of the first thinkers to attempt to explain earthquakes by natural, rather than supernatural, causes.

In the years to follow, careful studies of the event would give rise to modern seismology.

How do taxes and transfers impact poverty and inequality in developing countries?

Gabriela Inchauste's picture

We know that fiscal policy can be harnessed to reduce inequality in low- and middle-income countries, but until now, we knew less about its ability to reduce poverty. Our recent volume looks at the revenue and spending of governments across eight low and middle income countries (Armenia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Russia, South Africa and Sri Lanka), and it reveals that fiscal systems, while nearly always reducing inequality, can often worsen poverty.   

How much bang for how many bucks?

Jim Brumby's picture
Rubens Donizeti Valeriano - Panamericano de MTB XCO 2014 - Barbacena - MG - Brasil. Photo: Daniela Luna
Evidence-based rule-making for private sector development and service delivery

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE GLOBAL RIA AWARD 2017


Any visitor to Armenia can testify that the country has delicious food. But diners need to be assured that the khorovats, dolma, or basturma on their plates will not make them sick. How can this be assured?

Some 65 percent of the 320,000 inhabitants of the Brazilian city of Rio Branco use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, and the popularity of biking is increasing across the country. But Brazil’s 40,000 annual traffic related fatalities makes protective gear a necessity. What is appropriate protection?

Join now! Everything you ever wanted to know about student assessments

Marguerite Clarke's picture


Assessments make a lot of people nervous, and I’m not just talking about the students who have to take them. As a psychometrician (assessment expert) and World Bank staffer, I’ve worked on assessment projects in more than 30 countries around the world over the past 10 years. Time and again, I’ve found great interest in student assessment as a tool for monitoring and supporting student learning coupled with great unease over how exactly to go about ‘doing’ an assessment.

Armenia’s future – imagined in drawings and words

Vigen Sargsyan's picture


As the Armenian-American writer and humanitarian William Saroyan (1908-81) once said, children are “the only race of the earth, the race of man.” Indeed, young children exude a sincerity and innocence when expressing themselves – often captured so well in their drawings and paintings. They can be extremely creative – whether at painting, drawing, music, or performance – and especially before the age of 10 to 11 years, according to tutors.
 
Therefore, as part of our broad public consultations in designing the World Bank’s upcoming Systemic Country Diagnostic for Armenia, we decided to hold a creative contest for young Armenians.
 
First, we went to Yerevan’s School No. 19 and asked fourth and fifth graders to describe for us how they envisioned their “future Armenia”. To our great delight, the kids submitted over 100 drawings for consideration by a jury composed of their tutors.

It’s no surprise that kids’ drawings are often used in psychology as a tool to measure such things as emotional intelligence, confidence, and identity. Indeed, their drawings can be candid reflections of life as they see it, incorporating their unique observations of the world around them. Each drawing, it seems, is like a snowflake – no two are alike.

Confessions of an Armenian (aspirational former) smoker

Vigen Sargsyan's picture
no smoking Armenia
First confession: I am a seasoned smoker.

Next confession: I have long dreamed of adding “former” to that status. From time to time, my inner struggle reaches a crescendo, but then the momentum vanishes until the next wave of self-examination.
 
Smoking is the worst, if not the most stupid habit I have. I definitely understand that the damage caused to my health from smoking cannot be undone. I suspect my habit is a bit generational: my father was a smoker – until the doctors came up with a verdict – and the smell of smoke has been at home since my childhood. My son picked it up too, unfortunately. The only change between the generations is that my dad smoked at the table; these days we lean on the balcony.

Armenia can reach for the stars – with the right skills!

Laura Bailey's picture
STEM


























April 7th is an Armenian national holiday celebrating motherhood and beauty. And it may not surprise you that, since it comes one short month after International Women’s Day, we tend to combine the two events into a 30-day celebration of opportunity.

We get a lot of oversees movies here in Armenia – conveniently located at geographic and cultural crossroads – so l discovered a charming film called Hidden Figures which has captured a lot of interest in this very scientifically-minded country. It is an inspiring story with a lesson that translates easily here – that if all Armenian students and workers are empowered with skills, opportunity, and family and community support, they too could reach for the stars!

Women count: Turning demographic challenge into opportunty in Armenia

Laura Bailey's picture


“You can’t hold back time,” goes the saying (and the song). Indeed, the Laws of Nature dictate that people and societies get older and older, whether we like it or not.

But let me pose a question: are aging societies doomed to experience stagnation or a decline in living standards? Some might believe so, but I would argue that it is possible to address the realities of changing demographics that come from aging – through bold adaptive action!

Beyond celebrating – Removing barriers for women in the South Caucasus

Mercy Tembon's picture
Georgia kindergarten
























After seventeen months in the South Caucasus, I have learnt a lot from colleagues in the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia about this day, March 8th. It is considered one of the most grandiose days of the calendar – when women and girls of all ages are acknowledged and showered with flowers and gifts of various kinds. Gifts range from a handmade card or a trinket to a bunch of violets or mimosa flowers. Older women might receive a bottle of French perfume, cosmetics, cutlery, crockery or other household items.

On March 8th, it is a common occurrence to see street vendors selling flowers in abundance, and shops are mainly full of male customers. The most important gift is that, on this day, men are also supposed to do all the house chores, so that on this day at least, women can forget about dishes, cooking and childcare, and enjoy some well-deserved time off! In a nutshell, it is a day of paying tribute to women everywhere – in homes, classrooms, and workplaces.

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