Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will kick off the UN General Assembly’s session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and by the end of the day, the world’s leaders will have affirmed the 17 goals. This is a momentous occasion, worth celebrating, but the hard work begins Monday morning. That’s when the focus shifts from what to how.
The first 16 goals cover a range of critical development needs, expanding on the Millennium Development Goals that have guided development efforts since 2000. The final SDG is qualitatively different. Rather than expound on what we want to achieve, it addresses how we will achieve the goals. It focuses on the means of implementation.
By encouraging private investment in infrastructure, we can spur growth in the developing world
Later this month the United Nations is expected to finalize its Sustainable Development Goals, a global action plan designed to end poverty and support long-term growth. One of the goals states, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.”
In many parts of the developing world, from Asia to Latin America, a massive infrastructure shortfall may be the single most significant obstacle to human and economic development. Addressing it will underpin progress on many of the SDGs.
I have been fascinated by the concept of frontier all my life. What brought us here? What’s next? As a kid, my favorite book was “Ten Thousand Whys,” a pop-science series with all kinds of seemingly trivial questions like “Why are there fewer stars in the sky in winter?”
I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the Production Efficiency Frontier Theory — how to identify the most efficient units in a production network and measure the technical frontier. Later I became more of a macroeconomist and my interest expanded to identifying countries standing on the growth frontier. Subsequently, I began studying the deepest thinkers and became convinced that humanity is on an important new frontier of cosmic evolution.
For two decades, the world has made extraordinary progress in development — lifting nearly 700 million people out of extreme poverty and halving the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Now the work gets even harder: extending that progress will require us to focus on improving lives in some of the world’s most difficult corners.
Conflict and poverty are mutually reinforcing. Large numbers of the world’s poorest live in areas torn by conflict, instability, and violence — and the numbers are growing. Quite simply, we cannot end poverty and boost shared prosperity by 2030 unless we ramp up our work in these areas.
“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- East Asia and Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Private Sector Development
- gender eqaulity
- women business and the law
- banking on women
- Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Like many economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Morocco’s depends on the public sector, but with its economy expected to grow by only about 3 percent in 2014—having slipped from about 5 percent in 2011—it is clear that the public sector needs all the help it can get. The best way to help the public sector is to grow the private sector, and the International Finance Corporation believes the best way to grow the private sector is to provide advisory services and comprehensive investment solutions to attract foreign money, help local businesses help themselves, and create those desperately needed jobs.
A question dominated discussions ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8: How can we make it count?
Gender equality and empowerment are principles that have been widely adopted for some time; but for many women, particularly those in developing countries, action lags way behind the rhetoric. The same is true in business: Evidence abounds for the business case for investing in women, but the reality remains that for a lot of women, things at work haven’t progressed much beyond what their mothers experienced.
It makes sense then that the issues that came up time and again during a panel I participated in at the sixth annual meeting of the UN's Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) titled “Jobs, Gender and Development: Confronting the Global Challenge," mainly related to the enduring challenges women face at work. I had gone there thinking I had much to add to that topic, but I came away having learned more than I could share, about topics I hadn’t expected.
What generates 70 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted from cities like New York, Beijing, or New Delhi? Not long ago, I might have answered “cars.” But the real culprit is buildings – our homes, offices, schools, and hospitals. Many of which use electricity, water, and fuel extremely inefficiently because of the way they were initially designed.
In fact, about 40 percent of the world’s electricity is used to cool, light and ventilate buildings, even though much more efficient technology exists.
The longevity of buildings is why we need to think much more about them at the new construction phase. Decisions about building materials, insulation, and plumbing live on for decades or longer. That’s why IFC, the private sector-focused arm of the World Bank Group, is working to help builders and developers in emerging markets lock in climate-smart choices at the early design stage.
Our new certification tool EDGE, which stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, was designed specifically for emerging markets, where housing needs are set to grow exponentially as a result of urbanization pressures. It is Internet-based and easy to use, offering developers a range of inexpensive design choices that might otherwise be overlooked in the rush to build.
Buildings certified by EDGE use 20 percent less energy than their peers, offering long-term emissions savings and lower utility bills – a major benefit in affordable housing.