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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.

Madagascar: Expanding the bandwidth of the extreme poor

Andrea Vermehren's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español
​Photo: Laura B. Rawlings / World Bank

It is 8 AM. The winter sun begins to appear over the gray-green mass of trees above the village of Tritriva in Madagascar’s central highlands. The courtyard of a stone church is already filled with women, many holding still-sleeping children in their arms. They have assembled for the first time in two months to receive a cash payment from the Malagasy state.

The women are poor and all live on less than $2 per day. The money they receive from the government amounts to about a third of their cash income for the two months in between each payment: it will go a long way in helping them support their families for the rest of the winter.
Initiated by the Madagascar government,  with support from the World Bank, the payments are part of a new program implemented by the Fonds d'Intervention pour le Développement (FID) to combat poverty in rural Madagascar and provide sustainable pathways to human development.

Pilot programs in Central, South America find new ways to reduce extreme poverty

Ana Revenga's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Pilot Programs in Central, South America Find New Ways To Reduce Extreme Poverty

This fall is a pivotal time for the international development community. We are shifting from a Millennium Development Goal that challenged the world to halve the global extreme poverty rate, to a Sustainable Development Goal that asks us to build on that momentum and work toward a true end to extreme poverty.

Make no mistake; this will not be easy. We will need sustained, shared growth, with a special emphasis on agricultural growth in the poorest countries. We will need programs and policies that are equitable, ensuring that every child has the same opportunities to succeed in life, and that all citizens are able to benefit from fiscal and social systems and representative institutions. And we will need to ensure that those who live in extreme poverty, and those who are vulnerable to falling back in, are protected when global or local markets fail, and when disease and drought persist in their communities.

Supporting Entrepreneurs: Breaking Down Barriers for Access to Finance

Irene Arias's picture
Also available in: Español

​Small and medium sized companies are the backbone of Latin America’s economy. They represent more than 90 percent of all enterprises in the region, generating over half of all jobs and a quarter of the region’s gross domestic product. They are essential to economic growth, yet their success is often blocked by one key obstacle: lack of credit. Nearly a third of companies in the region identified lack of credit as a major constraint, according to recent surveys.

Take the case of Sonia Arias, who owns a small textile business in Medellin, Colombia. When she opened her business seven years ago, she took an informal loan that left her with sky-high interest rates and little cash to reinvest. “When I was paying these loans,” she said, “it felt like we were being hit with a stick.”

How Can Innovative Financing Solutions Help Build Resilience to Natural Disasters?

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
Resilience Dialogue 2014

By Francis Ghesquiere and Olivier Mahul

This week, the Resilience Dialogue, bringing together representatives from developing countries, donor agencies and multilateral development banks, will focus on financing to build resilience to natural disasters. 

There is growing recognition that resilience is critical to preserving hard won development gains. The share of development assistance supporting resilience has grown dramatically in recent years. New instruments have emerged in particular to help client countries deal with the economic shock of natural disasters. In this context, an important question is which financial instruments best serve the needs of vulnerable countries? Only by customizing instruments and tools to the unique circumstances of our clients, will we maximize development return on investments. Clearly, low-income countries with limited capacity may not be able to use financial instruments the same way middle-income countries can. Small island developing states subject to financial shocks where loss can exceed their annual GDP face vastly different challenges than large middle-income countries trying to smooth public expenditures over time or safeguard low-income populations against disasters.

Measuring Development Success in Difficult Environments

Laura Ralston's picture

The challenge of moving from conflict and fragility to resilience and growth is immense. More than half of the countries counted as low income have experienced conflict in the last decade. Twenty per cent of countries emerging from civil conflict return to violence in one year and 40% in five years.

While the use and production of reliable evidence has become more common in much of the international development debate and in many developing countries, these inroads are less prevalent in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). Programming and policy making in countries affected by conflict and prone to conflict is often void of rigorous evidence or reliable data. It is easy to argue, and many do, that it is impossible to conduct rigorous evaluations of programs in conflict-affected states. However, in spite of the very real challenges in these environments, such evaluations have been conducted and have contributed valuable evidence for future programming, for example in Afghanistan, the DRC, Colombia, northern Nigeria and Liberia.

My unit Center for Conflict Security and Development, (CCSD) is teaming up with the Department of Impact Evaluation (DIME), as well as the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), in a series of activities to enhance the evidence base on development approaches to peace- and state-building challenges. A first goal is to scope out where our evidence base is thinnest: what are the programs and interventions that remain least tested, but have theories of change suggesting great potential? We are hoping to take stock of what we and other donor institutions have been doing in this area of development, and map this into what we have learnt and what we most need to learn more about. USIP, USAID, IRC as well as leading academics in this field and IEG, are kindly helping in this endeavor, and we hope to be able to share some initial findings at our fragility forum later this year.

A Coalition of the Working – That’s What the Oceans Need

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Los océanos nos necesitan

​What is it about oceans? Ocean events seem to be getting bigger and broader in their participation. No matter whether the people in the room are representing government, seafood companies, private foundations, or conservation groups, they are unified by one thing: the need for serious action and soon.

Why I’m More Optimistic than Ever about Biodiversity Conservation

Valerie Hickey's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
Conservation biology was baptized as an interdisciplinary problem science in 1978 at a University of California San Diego conference. But the conservation movement precedes this conference by at least a century, when the first national park was established in Yellowstone in 1872 and signed into law by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. Both the academic discipline and the practice of conservation have had two things in common for a long time: they remained steadfast to their original mission to protect nature and their proponents were largely American and European and mostly middle class. 
But nothing stays the same forever.

An Accounting System Worthy of Earth Day: Natural Capital Accounting

Rachel Kyte's picture
When presidents, prime ministers, and government ministers of more than 60 nations put their countries’ names behind natural capital accounting last year at Rio+20, something shifted. Countries wanted a better way of measuring progress that went beyond GDP and factored in nature and its services.

Clearly that was no flash in the pan. Last week, I chaired a high-level ministerial dialogue on the margins of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings where government ministers and senior representatives of more than 40 countries came together to compare notes on how natural capital accounting is working for them.

Country after country – represented by finance, development, or environment ministers – talked about how natural capital accounting fit their countries’ priorities and how it could be a tool to address some of their key policy challenges. With each statement from the floor, it was clear that natural capital accounting is no longer an academic concept. It is alive and well and being utilized across the world in developing, middle, and high-income countries.

At IFC-Gates Foundation Event, A Call to Deepen Private Sector’s Impact on Poverty

Donna Barne's picture

Available in: Español, عربي 

April 15, 2013--The private sector could play a key role in ending extreme poverty by 2030 by gathering high quality data and evidence of entrepreneurial impact in developing countries, speakers said at a conference organized by IFC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ahead of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings.


World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IFC CEO Jin-Yong Cai of the Bank Group’s private sector  arm called the private sector an invaluable ally in a plan to reduce global extreme poverty to 3% by 2030, and foster income growth of the bottom 40% of the population in every country. Those targets will be proposed to the World Bank’s Board of Governors this weekend.


“There is no way that we’ll get there without a robust private sector that is creating the jobs that are critical to lifting people out of poverty,” said Dr. Kim at The Private Sector and Ending Poverty conference.


“The extent to which we commit to working with the private sector to foster growth will determine how ambitious we can be for the poorest people in the world.”


The event, attended by a cross-section of private sector companies, academics, think tanks, and foundations, was watched in Pakistan, Ghana, Albania, Venezuela and Colombia, among other countries, and followed on Twitter with #Results4Impact and #wblive.