I get stirred up by all types of governance data, so in honor of the International Day for Universal Access to Information, I though I’d highlight a few efforts to measure access to information. Information on access to information, if you will.
For several years during my childhood, I helped my mother plant vegetables and harvest crops on an urban farm in the distant suburbs of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Growing up working on the farm with my siblings and observing my mother work diligently towards the goal of full harvest made me realize what a challenging yet fulfilling journey it is to be a female farmer in a developing country. My mother refused to yield when confronted with adversity--Mongolia’s harsh climate, crop theft, as well as a lack of necessary inputs, labor, and agricultural services- all while taking care of her four children and handling chores.
With only 2 people per square kilometer, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. While that can make public service delivery daunting, improving health and education outcomes is possible if we include citizens in the decision-making process.
The country is taking steps to ensure this: Its second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan outlines specific measures to improve transparency, public accountability and citizen participation. With the World Bank and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the government is also working to mainstream social accountability to empower the poor and vulnerable segments of Mongolian society.
Yesterday morning I participated in the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event at the opening of the Mongolian Stock Exchange. A global event sponsored by the IFC and other partners*, the event highlights how economies and individual companies benefit from efforts to close gender gaps in their operations and governing structures.
Earlier I had dug out my notes from a survey of listed companies conducted in 1996. Only 25 of the 249 companies we surveyed counted women as general directors. Today, women lead around six percent of the top 100 listed firms – that is, fewer than 20 years ago. This does not mean that there has not been progress. The last time the World Bank Group enterprises surveys were done, Mongolia had a similar or larger share of firms with women in top management. This number is higher than the region’s average, but such leadership roles were more heavily weighted to smaller firms. Whereas 31 percent of medium-sized firms – that is, those with 20-99 employees – had female top managers, only 17 percent of firms with over 100 employees had women in senior management.
Getting to equal at the top requires more systematic scrutiny of the factors that support or hinder women’s economic empowerment throughout their lives. No one is born a CEO.
So, where are the gender gaps?
The Asia-Pacific region, comprised of 58 economies, is geographically expansive and a picture of diversity. The trends for sustainable energy in Asia-Pacific, which mirror the region’s economic and resource diversity, are underscored by the fact that . The region’s sustainable energy picture is captured in a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), entitled “Asia-Pacific Progress in Sustainable Energy: A Global Tracking Framework 2017 Regional Assessment Report.” The report is based on the World Bank and International Energy Agency’s Global Tracking Framework (GTF), which tracks the progress of countries on energy access, energy efficiency, and renewable energy under Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7).
Four overarching sustainable energy themes emerge from the report:
With the right kind of reforms, public employment services can do a better job of matching job seekers from poor households. In low and middle-income countries, individuals from poor households find jobs through informal contacts; for example asking friends and family and other members of their limited network. But this type of informal job search tends to channel high concentrations of the poor individuals into informal, low-paid work.
Job seekers especially from poor households need bigger, more formal networks to go beyond the limited opportunities offered by the informal sector in their local communities. This is where public employment services can help, but in developing countries many of these services just simply do not work well: they suffer from limited financing and poor connections to employers, and governments are looking for ways to reform and modernize them to today’s job challenges.
There are lots of cases where developing countries have improved their public employment services and these can serve as models. The lessons from these successful reforms can be distilled and replicated. Based on our recent publication, here are three case-tested strategies that improved the performance, relevance and image of public employment services.
International Children’s Day is celebrated in Mongolia as an official holiday. I could see that it provided an opportunity to reflect on the country’s commitment to create opportunities for its children to thrive and realize their full potential in school and adult life. Nowhere is this commitment more evident than in the education sector. With near-universal access to basic education achieved, legislation and government policy now calls for the expansion of early childhood education (ECE) services to cover every child in the country.
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.