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On the importance of snow and joint climate action in Central Asia

Kulsum Ahmed's picture
Kyrgyz Republic / World Bank

If you think about it, snow is a pretty amazing thing. It is nature’s way of storing water in the winter, and then using it in the summer when it is needed, namely during the growing season. If it gets too warm, the water does not stay locked up as snow till the summer. Too much warmth also means that more snow and ice may melt than usual, resulting in floods. But at the same time, if the water comes down the mountain too abundantly and too early, there may not be enough water during the growing season, causing drought-like conditions.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the Europe and Central Asia Region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. In these five landlocked Central Asian countries, water resources depend on glaciers and snow pack. In this region, we have already seen average annual temperatures increase since the mid-20th century by 0.5°C in the south to 1.6°C in the north, and impacts are already being observed, from melting glaciers in upland areas (where glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since the 1900s), to droughts and floods in the lowlands (where weather-related disasters are estimated to cause economic losses from 0.4 to 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product per year for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyz Republic, for instance).
The future looks even more challenging. According to a World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal,” the region’s glaciers, which account today for 10 percent of the annual stream flow in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins, are projected to lose up to 50 percent in volume in a 2°C warmer world, and potentially up to 75 percent in a 4°C warmer world. Melting glaciers and a shift in the timing of rivers’ flow will result in a lot more water in the rivers but this excess availability will not be in sync with growing season’s water needs.  In the second half of the century, there would then be too little water flow in the rivers when the glacier volume is reduced.  The timing of peak flow of key rivers is projected to shift towards spring with a 25 percent reduction in flow during the critical crop growing season. The report also projects increased heat extremes which mean more of a reliance on irrigated agriculture (the report projects a 30 percent increase in irrigation demand) leading to an increase in water demand, exactly when water availability becomes more unpredictable. In this region, water is also connected to energy security, given the reliance on hydropower, creating further challenges.

Statement by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on Paris attacks

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | 中文

WASHINGTON, November 13, 2015—The World Bank Group today issued the following statement from World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the attacks in Paris.

"We condemn violence of all kinds and the attacks in Paris are an assault on collective humanity. We send our condolences to all the families of those who have died, to the people of France and its government. This kind of senseless attack is so difficult to comprehend, yet we must respond with unwavering commitment to what makes us human – coming to the aid of all around us, especially the most vulnerable."

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Reflections from the 2015 South-South Learning Forum – Part 2

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
Ministers, mayors, senior officials and experts from both the social protection and urban development spheres wrapped-up their intensive discussion at the 2015 South-South Learning Forum in Beijing, China. It was the first global event that looks at the emerging knowledge and practical innovations in the as-yet underexplored area of social protection in cities. Every single day, more than 180,000 people urbanize globally. Much of the world’s future depends on whether cities thrive or sink. Bank Group staff, who helped put together the Forum, share their reflections:

Reflections from the 2015 South-South Learning Forum – Part 1

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
Ministers, mayors, senior officials and experts from both the social protection and urban development spheres wrapped-up their intensive discussion at the 2015 South-South Learning Forum in Beijing, China. It was the first global event that looks at the emerging knowledge and practical innovations in the as-yet underexplored area of social protection in cities. Every single day, more than 180,000 people urbanize globally. Much of the world’s future depends on whether cities thrive or sink. Representatives of donor countries, who helped support the Forum, share their reflections:

How can the World Bank better support persons with disabilities? Send us your ideas

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
As part of the World Bank Group Annual Meetings that took place in Lima last October, we organized a Wikistage event to discuss the corrosive effects and the social and economic implications of exclusion. The World Bank Group has two corporate goals: to support developing countries in the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030, and the boosting of shared prosperity. The main message of the Wikistage event was simple: it is impossible to achieve these goals if countries and societies do not tackle the root causes of exclusion.

One of the statements that has stayed with me from the event was from Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled. He said: “Disability does not discriminate. Each and every one could, at any point, fall into disability. It’s the only minority group that everybody can join” We are an accident away to join a group that is commonly excluded by societies around the world.

Fortunately, the development community has begun to realize the critical role of exclusion, and in particular exclusion of people with disabilities. This has been a year of fundamental change for the recognition of peoples with disabilities in the development agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Post-2015 Development Agenda clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programs. The new framework is audacious. It unequivocally bolsters equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in access to education, vocational training, jobs, transportation, public spaces, human settlements, and political life.

The SDGs include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities; and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities.

These targets alongside the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, now ratified by 160 countries provide both the moral imperative and clear milestones to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from poverty reduction and development efforts.

Our research in the World Bank shows the many ways in which persons with disabilities are ignored, stereotyped, and stigmatized in the countries where we work. The rising attention to issues of social inclusion is based on the realization that, while great strides have been made in reducing extreme poverty, in country after country, entire groups remain excluded from development gains.

Our social inclusion flagship report – Inclusion Matters – highlights the importance of societies to provide the ability and the opportunity to excluded populations to access services, markets, and spaces. Furthermore, our research shows that without a sense of dignity, providing the ability and opportunity to excluded populations is not enough to achieve a transformation of their well-being.

Making the risky business of agriculture ‘climate-smart’

Vikas Choudhary's picture

Farmers harvest crops in Madagascar.

Agriculture is an inherently risky business.  From natural disasters and erratic rainfall to pests, few other sectors are as exposed or as vulnerable to shocks.
Climate change is a source of significant risks for agricultural and food systems: Climate projections suggest that average growing conditions will shift and there will be more uncertainty in predicting climate and weather conditions. More concretely, these impacts will translate into an overall warming trend, an increasingly erratic distribution of precipitation, more frequent and more devastating extreme weather events, and spatial shifts in the occurrence of pests and diseases. These impacts can cause production losses which lead to market volatility and in some cases, reactionary shifts in policies and regulations. 

Social protection challenges in an urbanizing world - part 2

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
With 54 percent of the world’s population now living in urban areas, central and local governments around the globe are faced with both opportunities and challenges. This week, policymakers from 75 countries are gathering in Beijing for the 2015 South-South Learning Forum to discuss social protection challenges in an urbanizing world. These senior officials share their view on how this Forum provides an opportunity to extract lessons, learn from the emerging knowledge and capture practical innovations on meeting these challenges. 

Why inclusion is morally right and economically smart

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | 中文 | Español
A slum, known as a 'favela,' rises on the outskirts of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. © Scott Wallace/World Bank

​When I was teaching at the University of Indonesia, my country was the poster child for economic development. Indonesia was growing robustly – as high as 9% in the 1990s. Poverty was falling. But Indonesia was rife with corruption, cronyism, nepotism and fear under President Suharto’s authoritarian rule. Parliament had no checks and balances. There was no accountability or transparency. A few powerful families controlled the economy. The financial crisis in 1998 triggered the nationwide student protests — known as the "reformasi" movement. I joined the students demanding change. We protested until Suharto resigned.

Natural Capital Accounting: Going beyond the numbers

Stig Johansson's picture
Guatemala. World Bank

Here are some facts that you might not know: Do these numbers just seem like bits of trivia? In fact, these are all important results that came out of natural capital accounting (NCA) – a system for generating data on natural resources, such as forests, energy and water, which are not included in traditional statistics. NCA follows standards approved by the United Nations to ensure trust, consistency and comparison across time and countries.
The results above are among the numerous NCA findings that are being generated every year, with support from a World Bank-led global partnership called Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES). In response to the growing appetite for information on NCA, WAVES has set up a new Knowledge Center bringing together resources on this topic.