More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. If that number seems daunting, then consider this: 1.1 billion people – more than three times the population of the United States – live without electricity.
So it goes without saying that ending energy poverty is a key step in ending poverty itself. And world leaders agree – a sustainable development goal just for energy was adopted last month. It emphasizes the role of renewable energy in getting us to the finish line of reaching sustainable energy for all by 2030. What will give us a big boost in that race? Private financing.
Can we end extreme poverty in a world with extreme inequality? That question inspired a spirited debate in English and Spanish on Oct. 7, just ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, addressing corruption, taxation, discrimination against women, and the need to even the playing field for the younger generation.
Latin America’s experience with inequality was front and center at the live-streamed event, Inequality, Opportunity, and Prosperity, featuring World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Ibero-American Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan, Oxfam International Chair Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, and moderated by CNN Español news anchor Patricia Janiot.
In 1964, I came to the United States from South Korea, then an extremely poor developing country that most experts, including those at the World Bank, had written off as having little hope for economic growth.
My family moved to Texas, and later to Iowa. I was just 5 years old when we arrived, and my brother, sister, and I spoke no English. Most of our neighbors and classmates had never seen an Asian before. I felt like a resident alien in every sense of the term.
The economic slowdown in Latin America and the Caribbean is putting pressure on workers and wages and forcing some people out of the labor force, according to a new report released during a live-streamed event of the same name, “Jobs, Wages, and the Latin American Slowdown,” in the lead-up to the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Peru.
“A lot of women joined the labor force in the good times. Now, in the slowdown, people are exiting the labor force — men and youth with little education. This is good news if they’re going to university, but bad if they’re going to live with their parents and be idle,” said Augusto de la Torre, the World Bank’s chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Moreover, the “exit of youth from the labor force will affect poor families more than wealthier ones – inequality could become greater,” said de la Torre.
More than 25 million people are displaced every year by natural disasters, and millions more due to conflict. How can we help? Patrick Meier, director of social innovation at Qatar Computing Research Institute, has written a timely book on the subject. In "Digital Humanitarians," Meier argues that we must realize the potential of the digital revolution to address the most pressing humanitarian needs—from earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal to the refugee crisis in Europe.
The “digital humanitarian” movement took off in 2010, when thousands of volunteers used social media, text messages, and satellite imagery to support search-and-rescue efforts and human relief operations in Haiti. The data they gathered was used to create unique digital crisis maps that reflected the situation on the ground in near real-time. Their efforts motivated additional crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.
Rabies is a serious public health problem in Haiti. Although human rabies in the Americas has declined by more than 95% since 1980, Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Haiti continue to experience cases. The problem is most acute in Haiti, which accounts for 70% of all deaths caused by rabies in the region.
This is the main reason behind the Haitian Government's campaign to vaccinate over 500,000 dogs and reduce the incidence of rabies on the island. Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti, has repeatedly said that dogs are responsible for more than 99% of all cases of human rabies on the island. Not to mention the fact that human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies are known to be underreported, and estimated to be up to 200 per year.
The festival criteria read that “by screening a diverse selection of high quality films that deal with pressing issues, and by organizing discussion panels with environmental experts, filmmakers and other stakeholders, the Festival seeks to promote dialogue and inspire Dominican viewers to adopt practices that will ensure the country’s environmental sustainability and health.” For a small Caribbean nation to take these issues seriously and attempt to educate its people using cinema was indeed commendable.
What I witnessed on landing in Santo Domingo was truly remarkable. There were filmmakers from all over the world, but also organizers of similar festivals from other countries. That is when I realized that environmental film festivals have now become a global movement with the intention of informing, influencing, and galvanizing people on critical environmental issues. While the first “environmental” films were produced back in the 1960s when the global environmental movement was in its infancy, there are now 30 or more international environmental film festivals held all over the world attracting hundreds of films and thousands of people. They cover issues such as clean water, sanitation, forests, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and climate change. Even more remarkable, most of these short films or documentaries are often produced on a shoe-string budget, but with an enormous degree of passion and perseverance to get the message across. What really impressed me was that although they dealt with critical issues facing us today, in most cases the messages were of hope and optimism!
I want to share with you some of the films that I watched:
Last Thursday, over 140 faith-based organization and religious leaders, World Bank and UN officials, and UN ambassadors filled the chapel of the UN Church Center. At an unusual but moving side event for the UN General Assembly, participants celebrated progress that has been achieved through the Millennium Development Goals and highlighted the critical role that faith organizations will play working alongside other development partners to help end extreme poverty and realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The event included remarks by Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, and Ambassador David Donoghue, who had the daunting role of co-chairing the process of negotiations around the SDGs. Part of what made the event so meaningful was the spirit of collaboration between the World Bank, the United Nations, and a broad coalition of faith-based and religious organizations who organized the event. The event’s timing following Yom Kippur and on Eid-al-Alha provided deep religious context.