I’m on my way to the 7th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) in New Delhi, India. The summit* brings together leading analysts, academics, policymakers, the private sector and civil society from across the region and beyond, who meet to suggest solutions to South Asia’s economic issues and learn from each other’s experiences.
This year’s SAES takes place at a very opportune time. Regional cooperation momentum has been on an upswing. The theme of the summit, “Towards South Asian Economic Union” captures the renewed optimism of moving forward on the regional agenda and generating shared prosperity. Apart from that, the SAES is held between November 7 – 8, only two weeks before the 18th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit, where heads of state from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka will meet in Kathmandu, Nepal.
A number of incidents this year have highlighted the challenging circumstances in which girls attend school in developing countries. Nearly 300 adolescent school girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria by the Boko Haram group. Frequent attacks on schools have forced many parents to withdraw girls from education.
Development practitioners and donors are more convinced than ever that increasing opportunities, skills and resources for women and girls will lead to measurable improvements across a wide range of development indicators for all people, irrespective of their gender. The running assumption is that supporting adolescent girls is one of the most effective strategies available to achieve wider developmental outcomes.
The World Bank’s report, Voice and Agency: Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity launched two weeks ago, highlighted the close relation between female education and child marriage, noting, in particular, that girls with no education were six times more likely to enter into a child marriage compared to girls with high school education in 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriages. However, the case of Bangladesh shows that improvements in female education are not a sufficient condition for reducing child marriage among women: two out of every three girls marry before age 18 in spite of a big jump in secondary school enrollment and a sharp decline in fertility rate in the last twenty years.
In the days following the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the World Bank disaster risk management (DRM) community worked to assess the damage, and support the Haitian government plan and enact what would become a massive and protracted recovery from this profound disaster. Accurate and up to date maps of the country were an important component of these planning efforts. These maps came from an unexpected source, a global community of volunteer mappers, who, using their internet connections and access to satellite imagery, were able to contribute to mapping Haiti from their own homes.
Following the Haiti earthquake, the World Bank, Google, and several other entities made high-resolution imagery of the affected area available to the public. Over 600 individuals from the global OpenStreetMap (OSM) community began digitizing the imagery, tracing roads, building outlines, and other infrastructure, creating what quickly became the most detailed map of Port au Prince that had ever existed. Volunteers from 29 countries made about 1.2 million edits to the map, performing an estimated year of cartographic work in about 20 days. This effort catalyzed a rethinking of community mapping and open data within the World Bank and other international institutions.
Faced with pressure of an increasing number of students, education quality has been a central concern for the universities and society at large in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been a shining example in increase access and quality to primary and secondary education, but similar progress has not yet been seen at the tertiary level. Educationists are concerned that higher education, in its current form, may not be able to supply sufficient numbers of highly trained and motivated individuals to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Such worries are not completely groundless. At many universities, facilities and equipment such as laboratories, libraries, equipment, journals etc. were often in short supply or outdated.
The Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) initiative under Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP), is helping universities to overcome such challenges. A number of faculties have already taken advantage of the opportunity to bring about improvements in teaching, learning, and facilities.
If the deluge of trend pieces tell us anything, it’s that the millennials are the most fussed over demographic in history. But behind the hype, there is real a tectonic shift. We are now witnessing the largest youth bulge in history. Over half the world’s population is now under thirty, with the majority living in developing and middle-income countries.
A youthful population can be source of creativity, innovation and growth –but only if employed and engaged in their societies. Unfortunately, for much of the world’s young people, reality is very different.
A number of hurdles prevent young people from contributing as productive, socially responsible citizens. As Emma Murphy of Durham University notes, “Poor education limits their skills, poor employment limits their transition to adulthood and political obstacles limit their voice and participation.”
The longer young people are excluded from participating in their economic and political systems, the further we are from realizing the ‘demographic dividend’.
It’s a no-brainer. A youth agenda, focusing on the issues that affect young people, must be a critical piece of any post-2015 framework. Where do we start?
Promoting career opportunities through industry linkages for those who complete technical and vocational education is now a reality in Bangladesh. The local shipbuilding industry is thriving with strong growth potential. Currently, the demand for technically skilled workers in Shipbuilding industry is high. The industry is likely to become a major employment provider for the technically skilled workers in Bangladesh. Not surprising, that 55 of the 72 welders who had completed their training from Khulna Shipyard Technical Training Centre (KSYTTC) were absorbed by a private shipbuilding and light engineering firm, Khulna Shipyard Limited (KSY) in August 2014. The same company will hire 30 more in the coming month.
Water is an essential part of life and roughly one in ten of the world’s population—748 million people—do not have access to safe water. In South Asia, about 1.5 billion people are affected by water stress and scarcity, due to increasing demand for water resources; as the climate changes, this may worsen the situation.
Treating water as a precious natural resource important for all, brings new perspective to sustainable water resource management and long-term sustainable growth in the Ganges-Brahmaputra river basin both upstream in India and downstream in Bangladesh. A World Bank initiative serves as a linchpin for developing an inclusive analytical framework that promotes access to water, improved efficiency, climate resilience and poverty alleviation in South Asia. So, the question arises: Is this too ambitious and is it achievable?