After more than two hours stranded at a small town train station near Tokyo, Japan, with record snowfall and freezing temperatures outside our windows, the train driver addressed us for the third time – no new updates. “Our personnel are working to fix the problem,” the voice said. At that moment, an older man seated next to me leaned over and told me, “We have to do our part; the people working in the snow are trying their best to fix the system, so we can move. We should remain calm and wait - we cannot be part of the problem.” I was starting to understand why Japanese are so resilient.
This adventure began last February, following my participation in the launch of the new, $100 million joint program between Japan and the World Bank for disaster risk reduction. This program, implemented by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), will benefit a large number of especially vulnerable countries around the world. As part of this new initiative, the World Bank also launched the Disaster Risk Management Tokyo Hub.
The launch for the Tokyo Hub was held at a high level symposium at the Japan Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on February 3, which attracted more than 400 people and had substantial media coverage. The Senior Vice-Minister for Finance/Senior Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Jiro Aichi (a native of Sendai) spoke of Japan's commitment to disaster risk management (DRM) and thanked the World Bank for its strong support, before kicking off an intense program of inter-agency meetings to better utilize Japanese expertise in DRM practices.
My experience with Japanese solidarity and resilience, however, was best highlighted the day I was returning home. On February 9, as I was trying to get to Narita airport, more than 27 centimeters of snow fell on Tokyo and other areas of Japan, the heaviest of 40 years. Many buildings in the city collapsed, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country.
Two days before the world observes International School Meals Day, I’m here sitting in the U.K. Houses of Parliament thinking about the unexpected evolution of school meals programs in recent years.
It was only three years ago that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan. I still remember vividly the horror of watching in disbelief as live television footage captured the tsunami rapidly moving inland. I was living abroad at the time, and tried frantically to get through to my family in Tokyo, not knowing the extent of the damage there.
YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, blogs… This list could easily go on and on for paragraphs. Today, we are so immersed in social media that we can hardly go a day without reading or watching user-generated online content. Videos like “Charlie Bit My Finger” make us laugh. Free lessons on Khan Academy, which were originally started by a hedge fund analyst at home, help us learn.
But user-generated online content is not all about entertainment and free classes. Crisis maps on crowd-sourcing platforms like OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi have demonstrated a less expected yet significant capacity of user-led content creation online: it saves lives in disasters.
If you follow trade negotiations, then you know there are few more contentious than those for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
On February 4, the World Bank’s International Trade Unit hosted Phil Levy, a senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, who has been following both negotiations closely. Levy spoke with World Bank staff about the potential implications for developing countries as negotiations move forward in what he calls “bargaining among behemoths.”
At this point in the negotiations, one thing is clear: there are still more questions than answers.
When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the results from the most recent assessment of mathematics, reading, and science competencies of 15 year-olds (the Program for international Student Assessment, PISA) last December, it held encouraging news for the European Union’s newest members. Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic scored above the OECD average and ahead of many richer European Union neighbors. Compared to previous assessments, the 2012 scores of most countries in Central Europe and the Baltics were up (as they were in Turkey, as Wiseman et al highlighted in this blog recently). Improvements were particularly marked in Bulgaria and Romania, traditionally the weakest PISA achievers in the EU, as well as well-performing Poland and Estonia. Only Slovakia and Hungary saw declines (see chart with PISA mathematics scores).
The global economy looks poised to display better growth performance in 2014. Leading indicators are pointing upward – or at least to stability – in major growth poles. However, for this to translate into reality policymakers will need to be nimble enough to calibrate responses to idiosyncratic challenges.
Editor's Note: This blog draws on the forthcoming article “New Trade Regionalism in Asia: Looking Past the Sino-American Great Game," written by Swarnim Wagle, to be published in the Global Emerging Voices 2013 Working Papers.
Negotiations over one of history’s most ambitious trade deals have taken another step towards defining the future of Trans-Pacific trade.
The latest round of discussions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wrapped up this past weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. Negotiators are believed to have made headway on a number of thorny issues, clearing the way for ministerial talks to be held in Singapore, Dec. 7-10.
The TPP will draw together 12 countries dotting the perimeter of the Pacific—Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. But it’s the United States’ efforts to spearhead the talks that have attracted the most attention. Concerns over a lack of transparency and the intrusive scope of the agreements’ provisions into national policymaking have led many to question its objective.
- Brunei Darussalam
- New Zealand
- United States
- East Asia and Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- The World Region
- Global Economy
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Law and Regulation
- TTIP. Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Agricultural Subsidies
- Free Trade
Happy International Day of Older Persons! The United Nations established this day of observance in 1990 as a way to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. If we are not there already, we will all eventually be joining the growing global population of elders. According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and up will double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050.
The World Bank Social Develpment department’s upcoming report. Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, details the impacts of social exclusion on people’s well-being and on society overall. Unfortunately, aging is typically viewed as decline, and our elders are often marginalized both socially and physically (in nursing homes or other institutions).
My own eyes were opened to this about a year ago, when I met Emi Kiyota, founder and president of Ibasho, an NGO that develops simple and low-cost solutions to integrate elders into their communities. Having worked on disasters and resilience for some time, I have always advocated for empowering women and marginalized groups to drive their recovery process. But I had to admit that I still listed older people as a “vulnerable group” to be cared for. After learning about Ibasho’s work, I invited Emi to share her experience with World Bank staff. She provided a beautiful example of the benefits of providing opportunities for older people to actively take part in disaster recovery and community development.