Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.
By Michael Carter of the University of California-Davis and the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Sarah Janzen of Montana State University
Recent climate-related natural disasters, including droughts, floods and wildfires, have revealed widespread vulnerability of poor populations. Climate-related hazards not only take lives, they destroy homes, compromise livelihoods, reduce crop yields, increase food price volatility, and spawn food insecurity. The inability of poor households to sustain critical investments in child health and nutrition during and after such shocks unfortunately means climate-related hazards are likely to result in permanent deleterious consequences for the next generation.
Contingent social protection measures—which release transfers in the wake of a shock—may improve resilience among the poorest, but the situation is more complex than might first meet the eye. It is not only the poorest who may merit inclusion in contingent social protection schemes. Several recent analyses of droughts show that it is not only the destitute who severely restrict consumption (and undercut investments in child health and nutrition), but also a group of households who hold modest asset stocks. These households, whom we might label the vulnerable, (because they are not destitute, but face the risk of becoming so), face an unpleasant choice. They can sell scarce assets in order to sustain consumption in the face of drought-induced income declines, or they can hold on to their productive assets to avoid being locked into a poverty trap. While their logic of holding on to remaining assets (often called asset smoothing) is unassailable, it induces the kinds of consumption declines that compromise the human capital of the next generation.
Last month, in Mauritania, I stopped by a village just north of the Senegal river. As we drank tea under a patchy old tent, an old man pointed to the surrounding savannah – grassland with the odd acacia tree.
When we go to the supermarket, our decision-making is considerably aided by having the price, ingredients and source of goods clearly labeled. This allows us to rapidly compare the characteristics, perceived benefits, and price of different products to make what is usually an informed and instantaneous purchase decision.
When it comes to making investment choices for public programs, we do not traditionally have the same luxury of information. The full benefits and costs of those interventions, including the long-term costs to maintain and operate a service, are rarely understood or taken into account in the decision. As a result, public decisions are usually made based on the most visible costs (capital investment required from the public budget), historical choices and the political process.
This is Davos week, and over on the Oxfam Research team’s excellent new Mind the Gap blog, Deborah Hardoon has an update on the mind-boggling maths of global inequality.
Wealth data from Credit Suisse, finds that the 99% have been getting less and less of the economic pie over the past few years as the 1% get more. By next year, if the 2010-2014 trend for the growing concentration of global wealth is to continue, the richest 1% of people in the world will have more wealth than the rest of the world put together.
Measurements of wealth capture financial assets (including money in the bank) as well as non financial assets such as property. It is not just inefficient to concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of a few, but also unjust. Just think of all the empty properties bought by wealthy people as investments rather than providing housing for those in need of a home. Think of the billionaire chugging out carbon emissions flying around in a private jet, whilst the poorest countries suffer most from the impacts of climate change and the poorest individuals living want for a decent bicycle to get to school or work.
Today marks the second annual UN World Toilet Day, an important opportunity to promote global efforts to achieve universal access to sanitation by 2030. With a focus on equality and dignity, this year, World Toilet Day aims to highlight sanitation as a global development priority, especially for women and girls who must compromise their dignity and put their safety at risk when lack of access to sanitation forces them to defecate in the open.
Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Group Senior Director for Water, and Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender, wrote a blog for Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of World Toilet Day. Read the blog below, which originally appeared in Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Advancing equality for women in developing countries is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense.
Gender equality enhances productivity, improves well-being, and renders governing bodies more representative. And yet around the world, discriminatory laws, preferences, and social norms ensure that girls and women learn less, earn less, own less, enjoy far fewer opportunities to achieve their potential, and suffer disproportionately in times of scarcity or shock.