Europe and Central Asia
A massive storm system brought historic flooding across South Eastern Europe in 2014, causing more than $2 billion in damages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and shrinking Serbia’s economy by nearly a full percent. Two years later, in August 2016, thunderstorms in the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia dropped 93 liters of precipitation per square meter in just a few hours, sparking flash floods in the capital, Skopje, that killed at least 21 people.
In both cases, some of these impacts could have been reduced by improving cross-border monitoring and forecasting while strengthening early warning services at a national level. Fortunately, governments are now working together to improve information exchanges across boundaries and strengthening regional early warning systems through the South-East European Multi-Hazard Early Warning Advisory System.
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.
Young people struggle to find jobs. Landing that first job is particularly challenging even for youth with quality education. In 2016, 100 young women under 25 in the Gjakova and Lipjan municipalities in Kosovo were seeking their first opportunity after completing university-level education. They enrolled in the World Bank’s Women in Online Work (WoW) pilot, a training program that aims to equip beneficiaries with the skills they need to find work in the online freelancing market. Within three months of graduation, WoW’s online workers were earning twice the average national hourly wage in Kosovo. Some graduates even went on start their own ventures and hire other young women to work with them.
The social, political, and economic transition of countries across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia over the last three decades has been a long and arduous process, and many challenges remain. Among them, an imminent concern is the seismic threat faced by certain housing typologies that are believed to have outlived their design lifespan, and suffer from serious deterioration and disinvestment.
Within a century, Japan would become the world’s second largest economy. Its growth has been fueled by cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kobe. Japanese cities can offer a myriad of lessons to their counterparts in developing countries.
Japanese cities are also at the forefront of dealing with some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For example, cities like Osaka and Toyama have developed a number of tools to address the social issues caused by rapid aging. Most developed and developing cities in the world will face similar challenges in the years to come. Providing a platform where these cities can learn from the experience of Japanese cities may lead to significant development impact.
Supported by a partnership between the World Bank and Japan, the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) does just that.
A young man sitting next to me on a recent flight from Almaty to Dushanbe told me, “I regret that I did not get a better education. I could have had a better job.” He is one of many Central Asian labor migrants doing low-skilled work in neighboring countries. He continued, “I’m telling my brothers and sisters to study hard if they want to have a better life.”
It was an important reminder about the responsibility we have as a society to ensure that young people like him get the education they deserve.
In light of the technological revolution we are witnessing today, the promise of education is becoming even more important. Emergence of robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning will transform the way we live, the way we work, and the skills we will need for work. Some jobs will disappear and some that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that education will be critical to succeed in the new reality.
While Central Asian countries inherited high-levels of adult literacy and education attainment from the Soviet period, the region has since experienced a visible decline in the quality of learning. Students here often lag behind in such basic skills as critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.
The Picard leather goods factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh produces bags, purses and wallets that are sold in upmarket stores throughout the developed world under various well-known brand names, and in their own chain of stores in Germany. The factory is clean, efficient and goods are produced under all the relevant international standards.
But Picard are a rarity, and most Bangladeshi manufacturing looks just like it did 50 years ago. They produce cheap goods for the local market, but are a huge distance from producing at global standards. Unfortunately, this is also the case with most manufacturers in emerging economies. And all manufacturing is being changed by a range of new technologies known as Industry 4.0, with manufacturing becoming more global, more automated, more highly skilled, more infused with technology and more integrated with services. Whole manufacturing sectors, but in particular Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face real challenges if they are to adapt rather than be left behind.
Even by international standards, Belarusian women seem to live well. In the latest Global Gender Gap Index, Belarus was ranked 26th out of 144 countries — higher than Australia or the Netherlands. The statistics certainly indicate a high-level of gender equality in Belarus.
But what do the numbers really mean in reality?