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Governance

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

Higher revenue, easier filing for taxpayers in Armenia

Julia Oliver's picture


Photo credit: Dmitry Karyshev

Armenia was faced with a slowing economy, sinking remittances, and inefficient tax administration. At the same time, ordinary taxpayers had to navigate arduous processes when paying taxes. The Armenian government was eager to reform its tax administration. Below is a transcript of what we learned when we spoke to World Bank experts working with Armenian tax officials to make things better.
 
Julia: I’m Julia Oliver.
 
Maximilian: I’m Maximilian Mareis.
 
Julia: And we have been talking with tax experts around the World Bank to find out about what they do.
 
Maximilian: So, let’s start with this project in Armenia. Why did we get involved?

Julia: Well, the global financial crisis hit Armenia and its three million people pretty hard. In 2012, when the World Bank began working with policymakers to improve the country’s tax administration, the country faced a pretty bleak picture. Foreign remittances were low, and the domestic economy was slowing. In addition the country had high levels of informal employment.

What the New Urban Agenda tells us about building inclusive cities

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
 
Over a billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—have disabilities. Almost 80% of them live in the developing world, which is undergoing rapid urbanization.

While urbanization brings people closer to new economic and sociocultural opportunities, persons with disabilities still face a range of constraints in many cities, such as inaccessible buildings and public spaces, limited transportation options, inaccessible housing, and barriers in using technology-enabled virtual environments.

These urban constraints have a significant impact on those living with disabilities in terms of mobility, ability to engage in education and skills development, employability and income generation, and larger social and political participation.

Therefore, urban development must acknowledge and plan for the needs of a diverse population which includes persons with disabilities. And there is no better time than now to make that happen. 

Media, participation and social inclusion: what are the links?

BBC Media Action's picture

This blog was originally posted on the BBC Media Action Insight blog.

Reviewing the results of a survey of 23,000 people across seven countries, Chris Snow looks at the potential of media to engage even hard-to-reach groups in politics.


Around the world, people are disillusioned with their rulers. From South Africa to Brazil to South Korea, corruption scandals have helped fuel discontent with politicians. Young East Africans feel excluded from decision-making processes and blocked from having a say in how society is run. 61% of people in the Middle East are dissatisfied with how the political system works in their country.

Yet despite the global frustration with government, ordinary people persist in feeling they can make a difference and are still motivated to participate in politics. Seeking to understand how media affects participation, BBC Media Action surveyed over 23,000 people across seven African and Asian countries about their political activities, ranging from voting to protesting. We found that media, when rooted in a commitment to open and balanced discussion, can be an effective tool for engaging even hard-to-reach groups in politics.

Is public procurement a rich country’s policy?

Simeon Djankov's picture
Kazakhstan. Photo: Kubat Sydykov / World Bank

How large is the share of public procurement to GDP in middle-income and low-income countries and how it is evolving? If sizable, can public procurement be used as a policy tool to make markets more competitive, and thus improve the quality of government services? Can it be used to induce innovation in firms? Can it also be a significant way to reduce corruption?

Successful procurement is not just a set of activities, it is a strategy

Elmas Arisoy's picture
 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tran Viet Duc / World Bank


Many Bank-financed projects, especially those implementing large and complex contracts continually face high risk of implementation delays, and procurement is the most frequently used scapegoat.

What has gone wrong in those cases?

At the onset, borrowers are requested to prepare a detailed procurement plan for the first 18 months of project implementation, which is carefully reviewed and approved by the Bank before loan negotiations and the projects are then declared "good to go."
But the reality is almost never that rosy.

Speak up, citizens of La Paz! Barrios de Verdad is listening

Zoe Elena Trohanis's picture
Also available in: Spanish
Residents in La Paz use mobile phones to practice submitting feedback to their municipal government via the Barrio Digital tool.
Residents in La Paz use mobile phones to practice submitting feedback to their municipal government
via the Barrio Digital tool. (Photo: Barrios de Verdad team)
Information and communication technology (ICT) has expanded the frontiers of connectivity and communication. Nowadays, we don’t think twice before ordering an Uber or using Open 311 to report an issue to our municipality. In the developing world, the impact has been even greater. For example, in Latin America and the Caribbean, cellphone coverage increased from about 12 subscriptions per 100 people in 2000 to over 114 in 2014, and local governments are getting creative in using this technology to reach out to and engage with their citizens.

The city of La Paz in Bolivia is piloting a new tool called Barrio Digital—or Digital Neighborhood—to communicate more effectively and efficiently with citizens living in areas that fall within Barrios de Verdad, or PBCV, an urban upgrading program that provides better services and living conditions to people in poor neighborhoods.

The goals of Barrio Digital are to:
  1. Increase citizen participation for evidence-based decision-making,
  2. Reduce the cost of submitting a claim and shorten the amount of time it takes for the municipality to respond, and
  3. Strengthen the technical skills and capacity within the municipality to use ICT tools for citizen engagement. 

Employees and Government Ministry Win in Reform Project in Afghanistan

Shahenshah Sherzai's picture
Rumi Consultancy
Students studying at Dunya University, supported by the Public Financial Management Reform Program (PFMR). Rumi Consultancy/World Bank

Armed with only a high school certificate, Daoud Shah Noor, 42, started working at the Ministry of Finance in 2012. The sole supporter of his family, he was unable to attend university because of prohibitively high tuition prices. Just four years on, Daoud is studying for his Master’s degree at the Dunya University, where he had graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
 
“Before university I was not professional in my work. Now I am doing the job more professionally and in a better way,” says Daoud, who comes from Parwan Province. Daoud is a beneficiary of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFMR), a project that aims to strengthen public financial management through effective procurement, treasury and audit structures, and high standards of financial monitoring, reporting, and control.

Integrated Financial and Procurement Audits for Bank Financed Projects - The China Experience

Jingrong He's picture
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) for Bank financed projects have carried out financial and procurement audits. In Poland, this initially started more than a decade ago and there have been several other examples over the past years in other countries.

By the end of FY16, China National Audit Office (CNAO), the SAI in China, had successfully completed its third year of integrated financial and procurement audits for 27 Bank financed projects and accounting for 28% of the total active portfolio of China. This is a big leap from only 3 projects in the first year of FY14.

Rome was not built in a day. CNAO has been the external auditor of all Bank-financed projects in China since 1984. It conducts project audits in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards of the P.R. China and the International Standards on Auditing. The Foreign Funds Application Audit Department and the Audit Service Center of CNAO, and the Provincial Audit Institutions conduct audits on Bank financed projects and issue the audit reports in their names. There are about 120-130 financial audit reports submitted to the Bank every year. CNAO's audit reports not only include the auditor's opinion on project financial statements, they also include opinions on procurement compliance as this is an important aspect of the review of the eligibility of expenditures. This procedure is in full compliance with the Audit Law of P. R. China, which requires auditing of authenticity, legality and beneficial results of the budgetary revenues and expenditures or financial revenues and expenditures of public funds. It was under this context that in FY 14, we started piloting the use of CNAO for integrated financial and procurement audits in some Bank-financed projects.


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