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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.

Eight steps to brightening Bhubaneswar

Sumeet Shukla's picture



No one in the municipal authority of Bhubaneswar, the capital of the Indian state of Odisha, was in the dark about its street lighting problem – though as years went by and the issue worsened, more and more people were literally in the dark. In this busy city, the main roads were well lit, but smaller streets and residential areas were lit with only dim patchy light or had no lights at all, which threatened residents’ safety, curtailed evening transportation and activities, and led to constant complaints from the public. Moreover, energy consumption for street lighting was extremely high, straining the city’s finances.

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. 

More bank competition in Gulf countries could be a boon for small businesses

Pietro Calice's picture


Against the backdrop of low oil and gas prices and fiscal consolidation, economic diversification and private sector development is a top policy priority for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

 
Supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is central to this agenda.
 
Formal SMEs in GCC countries account for 25% of jobs, which is significantly below the global average where SMEs account for 40% of employment.

Inadequate access to finance, especially bank lending, is constraining SMEs in GCC countries. Only 11% of SMEs have access to credit and some 40% of SMEs cite a lack of financial access as a major constraint.
 

Bank competition in the GCC is among the lowest in the world. Strict entry requirements, restrictions on bank activities, relatively weak credit information systems, and a lack of competition from foreign banks and nonbank financial institutions all contribute to weak competition in the banking sector.
 
By conducting fieldwork and reviewing available literature, we have analyzed what rules and regulations may be impeding bank competition in the GCC SME lending markets as well as the institutional framework for competition policy underpinning those rules and regulations.

Cash for peace? How sharing natural resource revenues can prevent conflicts

Tito Cordella's picture

Some countries are blessed with natural resources, others are cursed. It’s been said that all the blessed ones are alike, they put the resources to good use, improving the people’s welfare in a sustainable manner. And for the cursed? More often than not, they struggle with political violence, especially when ethnic or religious fragmentation and weak institutions are a concern. Not surprisingly, it was Venezuela’s former Development Minister and OPEC Founder Perez Alfonso who christened oil the “Devil’s excrement.” 

If natural resources could be the source of such evil, are there ways of “exorcising” them? Perhaps policymakers could try to prevent or resolve resource-related conflicts by sharing natural resource wealth with opposition groups or directly with the people. Would such a counter spell work?

How level is the playing field between countries in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Oscar Calvo-González's picture

In less than a generation the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region has made great progress in expanding the basic public services that are necessary for children to succeed later in life. The skills, knowledge and health accumulated by individuals by the time they reach adulthood are essential to get jobs, accelerate economic mobility, and reduce inequality in the long-run. The progress observed in LAC ranges from increased access to healthcare and schools to running water and electricity. But progress has also been uneven, both across countries and for different types of basic services.

Today, the playing field in Latin America is most level in access to electricity, where we have seen gaps in coverage narrow the most. Figure 1 below shows how the typical performance in the region (the median) compares with the country in the region with the highest level of coverage (labeled “best in class”) in three basic services for children. The focus on children makes it possible to determine that any difference in access would be mostly due to circumstances out of their control. In the case of access to electricity the regional median has not only converged towards the best performing country but it has now reached a coverage of 99 percent.

Bill Gates did it, will.i.am did it, Mayor Bloomberg did it and even the POTUS did it. Shouldn't you? An hour of Code for *you* the Busy Development Professionals

Tanya Gupta's picture

Computer Science Education Week has already kicked off (December 5 - 11, 2016) and it is a pretty big deal. One hour of code for everyone (no experience needed) is a part of that. The focus is on getting children involved. But what about busy professionals? Can it be useful for them, too? We think the answer to that is yes. This blog will teach you to code in Google Apps Script (GAS for short) in sixty minutes or less. There are two main reasons we chose GAS.

One, GAS is an easy to use scripting language that can help you write programs to solve common coding problems. We chose GAS because it is very easy to get started and offers some great features for saving your files in the cloud and working with different kinds of files. You need to be able to use Google Drive to write basic scripts in GAS.

Secondly, as our regular readers may know, this is the seventh blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. So far in this series, we have focused on the tools and techniques of a just-in-time learning strategy, and how to use TAG checks to make conclusions about data. In this blog we wanted to focus on some basic programming that will help illustrate how powerful (and easy!) just a little code education can be. GAS is perfect for this purpose.

N.B. You can do some pretty nifty stuff in GAS and here is the result of more professional code we have written entirely in GAS. This is an Add-On for Google Docs to create word clouds

Now -- all you need is a gmail account to get started.

(͡• ͜ʖ ͡•) GET SET AND START YOUR CLOCK
MINUTE TO MINUTE
While logged into Gmail, go to https://drive.google.com/. If this is your first time, you will see something like this:


 

Agriculture holds the key to tackling water scarcity

Rimma Dankova's picture

Agriculture is both a victim and a cause of water scarcity. Water of appropriate quality and quantity is essential for the production of crops, livestock, and fisheries, as well as for the processing and preparation of these foods and products. Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems, including forests, lakes, and wetlands, on which the food and nutritional security of present and future generations depends. At the same time, agriculture is the largest water user globally, and a major source of water pollution. Unsustainable agricultural water use practices threatens the sustainability of livelihoods dependent on water and agriculture.

Additionally, climate change will have significant impacts on agriculture by increasing water demand, limiting crop productivity, and reducing water availability in areas where irrigation is most needed or has a comparative advantage. A growing number of regions will face increasing water scarcity. Climate change will bring greater variation in weather events, more frequent weather extremes, and new challenges requiring the sector to take mitigation and adaptation actions.

Traveling with ease, carrying disease? Using mobile phone data to reduce malaria: Guest post by Sveta Milusheva

This is the eighth in our series of job market posts this year
The Global Fund has disbursed nearly $28.4 billion in the last decade to reduce the disease burden from malaria, TB and HIV (Global Fund 2016). However, travelers can reverse the progress from campaigns that have decreased infectious disease prevalence (Cohen 2012 et al, Lu et al 2014), or can rapidly spread emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika (Tam et al 2016, Bogoch et al 2016). While policymakers have largely targeted environmental drivers of malaria, this research provides evidence that human movement can play an important role in spreading disease in areas where incidence has been reduced.  Given that migration has numerous economic and social benefits, policymakers face important trade-offs in designing policies to reduce travel-linked malaria cases.  This paper provides a useful framework for identifying high-risk populations in order to reduce malaria incidence with minimal interference to movement patterns.


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