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Governance

Public spaces - not a “nice to have” but a basic need for cities

Sangmoo Kim's picture
The benefits of public spaces in the poorest parts of the world
Source: World Bank Staff

We often think of amenities such as quality streets, squares, waterfronts, public buildings, and other well-designed public spaces as luxury amenities for affluent communities. However, research increasingly suggests that they are even more critical to well-being of the poor and the development of their communities, who often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to.

Living in a confined room without adequate space and sunlight increases the likelihood of health problems, restricts interaction and other productive activities. Public spaces are the living rooms, gardens and corridors of urban areas. They serve to extend small living spaces and providing areas for social interaction and economic activities, which improves the development and desirability of a community. This increases productivity and attracts human capital while providing an improved quality of life as highlighted in the upcoming Urbanization in South Asia report.

Despite their importance, public spaces are often poorly integrated or neglected in planning and urban development. However, more and more research suggests that investing in them can create prosperous, livable, and equitable cities in developing countries. UN-Habitat has studied the contribution of streets as public spaces on the prosperity of cities, which finds a correlation between expansive street grids and prosperity as well as developing a public space toolkit.

Six reasons to do Citizen Engagement

Mario Marcel's picture
 Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank
Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia. Photo: Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank


Two weeks ago, we launched an exciting new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Citizen Engagement hosted on Coursera and in partnership with the London School of Economics, the Overseas Development Institute, Participedia, and CIVICUS.

To date, over 15,000 people from 192 countries (45% women) have enrolled in the course and our digital footprint continues to be strong:  the launch event page has had over 2,500 unique visitors while many continue to use the hashtag #CitizensEngage on Twitter.
 
These healthy metrics are a strong indication of just how timely and significant this issue has become and is the latest reason why I firmly believe in the power of engaging citizens to build good governance. This MOOC therefore is a key component of the World Bank Group’s commitment to develop a citizen perspective on governance to improve the contribution of institutions to development.
 
Too often citizen engagement is seen with suspicion, skepticism or fear by policymakers. Yet let me offer six compelling reasons why it is necessary, feasible and useful to do it:

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

How democratic institutions are making dictatorships more durable
Washington Post
Voters in Uzbekistan, Sudan, Togo, and Kazakhstan will go to the polls in the coming weeks. Freedom House and others classify these countries as authoritarian and the elections are widely expected to fall short of being “free and fair.” How should we think about these elections — and the presence of other seemingly democratic institutions like political parties and legislatures — in non-democratic regimes? Why do leaders of authoritarian countries allow pseudo-democratic institutions? In a recent article in the Washington Quarterly, we use data on autocracies worldwide from 1946 to 2012 to show that authoritarian regimes use pseudo-democratic institutions to enhance the durability of their regimes.

Information Economy Report 2015 - Unlocking the Potential of E-commerce for Developing Countries
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD )
The 2015 edition of UNCTAD’s  Information Economy Report examines electronic commerce, and shows in detail how information and communications technologies can be harnessed to support economic growth and sustainable development. Electronic commerce continues to grow both in volume and geographic reach, and is increasingly featured in the international development agenda, including in the World Summit on the Information Society outcome documents and in the outcome of the ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. The Information Economy Report 2015 highlights how some of the greatest dynamism in electronic commerce can be found in developing countries, but that potential is far from fully realized.  The report examines opportunities and challenges faced by enterprises in developing countries that wish to access and use e-commerce. 
 

Busting 5 myths on political-economy analysis

Stefan Kossoff's picture
A young Egyptian protester holding an Egyptian flag, Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Kim Eun Yeul / World Bank


“There has been a broad recognition amongst economists that “institutions matter”: poor countries are not poor because they lack resources, but because they lack effective political institutions”. Francis Fukuyama, the Origins of Political Order, Vol 1 (2009) 
 
For development professionals, there is no getting away from the fact that politics shapes the environments in which we work—that our programs can and do fail when we don’t take politics into account. But despite growing evidence that political economy analysis (PEA)  can contribute to new ways of working and ultimately better results, the politics agenda remains what Thomas Carothers calls an “almost revolution” in mainstream development practice.
 
There are many factors at play: limited staff capacity to engage with politics, bureaucratic incentives to meet lending targets, a preference for best practice solutions and institutional blueprints. Many continue to argue that it is not the business of development banks or aid agencies to analyse politics, let alone act on key findings. This resistance is posited on several arguments—or myths—which I address below.

How long is too long? When justice delayed is justice denied

Georgia Harley's picture
As the saying goes, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Yet, across the world, court users complain that the courts take too long. For your regular court user facing endless talk from lawyers, reams of paper, and mounting legal bills, a court case can feel like it goes on…FOR….EV….ER.
 
But how long is too long? The question has arisen on each of my last four missions in as many months – from Kenya to Croatia to Serbia and back.
 
And it’s not a rhetorical question. Answers can assist client countries in analyzing their efficiency and devising reforms that improve both timeliness and user satisfaction. It also enables potential court users to better estimate how long it might take to resolve their dispute – allowing them to then adjust their expectations accordingly.
 
After all, better enabling people and businesses to resolve their disputes contributes to poverty reduction and shared prosperity.
 

What influences journalists’ attitudes toward freedom of information?

Jing Guo's picture

The Government of Iraq recently withdrew lawsuits against news media and journalists nationwide and adopted an access to information law in the Kurdish region. Jing Guo explores the range of opinions journalists have regarding freedom of information in a country experiencing political transition.

In December of last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the withdrawal of all government lawsuits against news media and journalists under the previous administration, signaling a departure from the media policies of his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki. This announcement, in addition to the adoption of an access to information law in the Iraqi Kurdistan region a year ago, marked a positive step toward freedom of expression and information in the post-authoritarian country.
 
In Iraq, a functioning national freedom of information law is long overdue for supporting an independent media sector and the public’s right to know, both of which are among the fundamental pillars of democracy.  With open access to government meetings and records, journalists can serve as conduits of information between the governing and the governed.  At the same time, citizens and journalists can help strengthen democratic governance by holding those in power accountable.
 
Today, more than a decade after the end of full state control, Iraqi journalists are still largely “in transition.” As proponents and users of the legislation, their views of freedom of information are important in the passing and implementation of the law. What do journalists think about accessing government information in their country? What factors shape their views?

Newest private participation in infrastructure update shows growth and challenges

Clive Harris's picture



In 2013, investment commitments to infrastructure projects with private participation declined by 24 percent from the previous year.  It should be welcome news that the first half of 2014 (H1) data – just released from the World Bank Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) database, covering energy, water and sanitation and transport – shows a 23 percent increase compared to the first half of 2013, with total investments reaching US$51.2 billion.

closer look shows, however, that this growth is largely due to commitments in Latin America and the Caribbean, and more specifically in Brazil. In fact, without Brazil, total private infrastructure investment falls to $21.9 billion – 32 percent lower than the first half of 2013. During H1, Brazil dominated the investment landscape, commanding $29.2 billion, or 57 percent of the global total.

Four out of six regions reported declining investment levels: East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Fewer projects precipitated the decrease in many cases. Specifically, India has experienced rapidly falling investment, with only $3.6 billion in H1, compared to a peak of $23.8 billion in H1 of 2012. That amount was still enough to keep India in the top five countries for private infrastructure investment. In order of significance, those countries are:  Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, India, and China.

Sector investments were paced by transport and energy, which together accounted for nearly all private infrastructure projects that were collected in this update. The energy sector captured high investment levels primarily due to renewable energy projects, which totaled 59 percent of overall energy investments, and it is poised to continue growth due to its increasing role in global energy generation.

The energy sector also had the biggest number of new projects (70), followed by transport (28), then water and sewerage (12). However, transport claimed the greatest overall investment, at $36 billion, or 71 percent of the global total.

While we need to see what the data for the second half of 2014 show, what we have to date suggests that infrastructure gaps may continue to grow as the private sector contributes less. It also suggests that, in many emerging-market economies, there is much work to be done to bring projects to the market that will attract private investment and represent a good deal for the governments concerned. 
 

A strategy to rebalance implementation support, institutional development and capacity building

Yolanda Tayler's picture



In August 2014 the Public Integrity and Openness Department (PIO) of the Governance Global Practice (GGP) established a Task Force to design a comprehensive and actionable strategy to rebalance implementation support and institutional development and capacity building. The Transition Strategy is a culmination of dialogues, contributions, and advice from World Bank colleagues.

It is bold and ambitious while remaining grounded in reality and what is feasibly possible. It seeks to demonstrate that procurement is a powerful tool that, when executed well, can have profound, positive repercussions for governance and inclusive economic growth in countries. The Transition Strategy envisions that this will be realized through mainstreaming four Transformational Engagements and creating Global Talent Pools (GTPs).
 
The ideas set forth in the Transition Strategy are under the backdrop of the four trends at the World Bank: the new twin goals, the new structure which allows for a global approach, the emphasis on output and results-based aid, and the new Procurement Policy Framework. This is an opportune time to implement the Transition Strategy!

Contract management for more effective development in Vietnam

Kien Trung Tran's picture


 
Managing large civil works contracts can be a challenge.

In Vietnam, while most large infrastructure projects are financed by multilateral and bilateral development partners under the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA), their implementation is contracted out and often delayed by cost overruns and quality concerns.

Citizens + engagement: moving beyond slogans

Alina Rocha Menocal's picture



Give people the ability to engage, and they will change the world. Or will they?

The massive expansion of political voice and social activism over the past several decades -- ranging from the mushrooming of citizen-led initiatives for transparency and accountability, to the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and the eruption of protest movements in countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Turkey and Mexico – has generated great enthusiasm about the transformational potential of popular participation.

The reality, however, is more complex than that.

Think back to the Arab Spring and the extraordinary mobilization of so many people who managed to topple one authoritarian regime after another. The streets were theirs, but in most of these countries ousting dictators has turned out to be much easier than building political systems that are more  democratic and open for citizens to engage. While much in demand, genuine spaces for political participation that can bring citizens and states closer together have remained extremely limited.

I recently prepared a module on Citizen Engagement and Development Outcomes for a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on “Engaging Citizens: A Game Changer for Development?”, just launched by the World Bank Group and partner organizations in both Washington, DC and London.


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