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Middle East and North Africa

Reforms that Kuwaiti and DC schools have in common

Simon Thacker's picture
 Maryam Abdullah/World Bank

Garfield Elementary School is in one of Washington, DC’s, poorest neighborhoods and, four years ago, it ranked as one of the least effective schools in the city. “It was a noisy place, more like a summer camp,” explains the current principal, Kennard Branch, “the kids went out on a field trip almost every other day.”

Unlocking innovation in the Middle East through financial inclusion

Simon Bell's picture


I recently attended an SME Conference in Jordan around SME Finance and Employment – extremely important issues in a troubled region.  All participants agree that much more needs to be done to address the lack of jobs in the region and to increase financial access at all levels, to individuals, households and small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

The Middle East remains the most financially excluded region in the world despite being a middle income region.

Only 4% of unbanked adults in the Middle East say that they don’t have an account because they don't need one. In other words, it is clear there is widespread unmet demand for financial services.

A person living in the Middle East is less likely to have a bank account than is a low-income person living in Africa or South Asia, and significantly less likely than a person living in Latin America, Eastern Europe or East Asia from comparable middle income country or region. This poses a dilemma – why?

Young Tunisian entrepreneurs push to change attitudes to jobs

Christine Petré's picture
Young entrepreneurs - Courtesy of Christine Petre

“There’s no weekend for an entrepreneur,” said 24-year-old Hamdy Ben Salah with a smile, when we met on a sunny Saturday morning at his home-based office, where Elyes Labidi and Boulabiar Marwen—two of his five colleagues—were already sitting in front of their computers. The small room they sit in used to be kept for household garbage. But, with furniture and some paint, today it is the base of AlphaLab.

Tunisia and Italy shine light on how regional electricity trade can help stabilize the region

Sameh Mobarek's picture
 Anton Balazh l Shutterstock/NASA

The Middle East and North Africa region has never faced such significant stress on its ageing infrastructure like it does today, with one of the most telling being the substantial increase in the need for electricity.  It is estimated that electricity demand in the MENA region will increase by 84% by 2020, requiring an additional 135 GW of generation capacity and an investment of US$450 billion.  The quest for new approaches to ensure adequate and reliable supply of electricity in the region is more urgent than ever before.

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

Bassam Sebti's picture

He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
 

 Shutterstock

A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
 

Piloting results-based financing for disaster risk and climate resilience in Morocco

Axel Baeumler's picture
Rain over Djemaa El Fna Square, Marrakech, Morocco - Shanti Hesse l Shutterstock.com

Can results-based financing help countries better prepare for natural disasters? Can we use financial incentives to promote disaster prevention instead of disaster response? And how can insurance programs mitigate the financial fallout that often accompanies disasters? In Morocco, we’ve been working with the government to pilot the World Bank’s first Program-for-Results (PforR) loan in disaster risk management and resilience.

Jordan’s queen and high-level officials urge rapid solutions to refugee crisis

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Queen Rania of Jordan. © Grant Ellis/World Bank

Jordan’s Queen Rania and other high-ranking officials said Friday that the world needs a new approach to deal with historically high numbers of forcibly displaced people.

“This is a global crisis, and we’re deluding ourselves if we think it can be contained,” the queen said at the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings, where forced displacement is a top issue on the agenda amid a refugee crisis that has spread from the Middle East into Europe over the last year. 

Queen Rania said Jordan has received 1.3 million Syrian refugees over the past five years. The influx has been a “demographic shock that is exhausting our social and physical infrastructure to its absolute limits,” she said. International contributions have made up less than a third of Jordan’s expenses.

Join the discussion on forced displacement at the IMF-WBG Spring Meetings 2016

Saroj Kumar Jha's picture

With the war in Syria in its sixth year, concerns over the plight of Syrian refugees continue to capture the world’s attention. In addition to this great tragedy, their hosts in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are also struggling to accommodate the needs of so many people.

How we help the forcibly displaced people of the world – not just from Syria, but from Somalia, Afghanistan, and many other countries – is high on the agenda this week, at the IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings here in Washington DC.

Among the many events that focus on today’s toughest development challenges, we are looking forward to welcoming global leaders for a discussion on addressing the challenge of forced displacement.

How the Middle East and North Africa can benefit from low oil prices

Shanta Devarajan's picture
AlexLMX l Shutterstock

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a region of extremes. It has the highest unemployment rate in the developing world, with the rate for women and young people double the average. MENA economies are among the least diversified, with the Herfindahl index—a measure of the concentration of exports in a few commodities—ranging between 0.6 and 1 for most countries. The region had the highest number of electricity cuts per month. The ratio of public- to private-sector workers is the highest in the world.  While, until recently, the region had been averaging 4-5 percent GDP growth, that average masked a highly volatile growth path.

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