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Europe and Central Asia

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.

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. 

I am a migrant

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

​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.

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Economists weigh in on oil prices and an uneven global recovery

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 中文
World Bank chief economists, clockwise from upper left: Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, Augusto de la Torre (Latin America and the Caribbean), Shanta Devarajan (Middle East and North Africa), Francisco Ferreira (Sub-Saharan Africa), Sudhir Shetty (East Asia and Pacific), Hans Timmer (Europe and Central Asia), Martin Rama (South Asia).

​Lower oil prices are a boon for oil importers around the world. But how well are oil-producing countries adapting to the apparent end of a decades-long “commodity supercycle” and lower revenues? And what does this mean for the global economy?

World Bank economists provided insights on the situation in six developing regions at a webcast event April 15 ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. The discussion focused on the challenge of creating sustainable global growth in an environment of slowing growth.

World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu said the global economy is growing at 2.9% and is “in a state of calm, but a slightly threatening kind of calm. … Just beneath the surface, there’s a lot happening, and that leads to some disquiet, concern – and the possibilities of a major turnaround and improvement.”

Transforming Primary Health Care in Tajikistan through Performance-Based Financing

Sarvinoz Barfieva's picture
Also available in: Русский

In Tajikistan, primary health care (PHC) accounts for just 27 percent of public health spending and yet PHC accounts for over 70 percent of all referrals and health visits across the country.

Given this imbalance, in April 2014 the country launched the pre-pilot of a new PHC financing mechanism, using a Performance-Based Financing (PBF) approach, which should significantly improve the quality and coverage of PHC services. The pre-pilot phase focuses primarily on the prevention and early detection of maternal and child health (MCH) related diseases and non-communicable diseases.

Tajik women and a child

Beauty and the beast: Comparing the law on the books with the law in practice

Klaus Decker's picture

Who has not faced a situation wherein the law on the books in a particular country looks just beautiful but things seem to be going horribly wrong in practice?

Whatever the gap between the law on the books and the law in practice, how does one even go about assessing it in the first place before starting to bridge it? What is feasible, given the budgets that we are likely to work with when carrying out these diagnostics?

Process maps may be just what you are looking for. As part of a Judicial Functional Review in Serbia, our team was tasked with assessing the implementation gap between the provisions in the codes and the practice in the courts. Time was limited and resources scarce.

So what did we do?

Protecting Armenia’s future: Let’s make it great to be a girl!

Laura Bailey's picture
One of the most striking things I first noticed after moving to Armenia was the importance of strong extended family networks – and the extent to which this aspect of Armenian social structure has evolved over time, transcending distance and getting ever-stronger through adversity.

This solid social network is an essential element in understanding and responding to the challenges that Armenia faces – and it can, if well-mobilized, help boost the country’s ability to reduce poverty and ensure that economic growth and prosperity are shared among all.

Women – Pillars of Armenia’s economy and society

Laura Bailey's picture
On Sunday, March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day. In Armenia, the date is also a national holiday and, coincidentally, this year it marks exactly six months since I arrived in Yerevan to lead the World Bank team here.

So, for me this is an opportune moment to pause and reflect on some of the gender realities that I am learning about in Armenia, including their influence on socio-economic dynamics.

When less is more: How Serbia could deliver better justice with fewer judges

Georgia Harley's picture
When less is more: How Serbia could deliver better justice with fewer judges
In courts across Europe, there is a common refrain: “we need more judges!” Your court has a backlog? Many hands will make light work. Your courts are out of touch? Let’s bring in some new blood.
Serbia, however, has the opposite problem. Serbia has too many judges. And the implications for system performance, service delivery, and justice reform are significant.
How many is too many?