East Asia and Pacific remains the world’s growth engine despite a challenging external environment, with developing economies growing by 7.2% in 2013. The proportion of people living in poverty in the region has steadily declined—less than 10% of the population lives on $1.25 a day—but much more needs to be done as there are still close to half a billion people living on $2 a day.
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Countries keep a close watch on their national income accounts to evaluate economic performance. But traditional indicators like GDP (gross domestic product) say nothing about the longer term economic... Show More +, social, or environmental sustainability of current growth patterns. A World Bank–led partnership Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) is helping countries move beyond traditional GDP focus to start incorporating wealth, including natural capital, into their national accounts.The message on the opening day of the Fourth Annual WAVES Partnership Meeting is that natural capital accounting (NCA) is informing new policy and long-term development planning, and that finance and planning ministers are listening. WAVES works to implement NCA, create a global community of practice for sharing lessons learned and promote a better understanding of NCA.The partnership meeting, held May 14–15, 2014 at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., was attended by over 160 people from 22 countries, and included representatives from dozens of international organizations, technical experts, donors, UN agencies, civil society, and think tanks. A globally-webcast discussion titled “Going #BeyondGDP: Making Natural Capital Count for Development” kicked off the meeting and engaged over 1.2 million people on social media. Several countries highlighted how they are implementing NCA in their countries to gather evidence for designing policies. Show Less -
In the construction industry, cost and time overruns are pervasive, both in routine maintenance and new or "greenfield" construction. The rising expense can be crippling for governments, par... Show More +ticularly in developing countries as they try to improve basic services. One study conducted in 10 developing countries found construction costs increased by an average of 64 percent from the initial plan to the final bill.The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), a World Bank-supported partnership among participating countries and international stakeholders, was created to tackle these problems by promoting open contracting in public construction projects. The initiative provides technical and financial support to increase the amount and rate of accurate project and contract information disclosed by government. Importantly, this is done by engaging local stakeholders from business, government and civil society to coordinate and lead a country’s CoST program.CoST has now launched a global program, building on a three-year pilot implemented in eight countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Malawi, the Philippines, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Zambia. In addition to deepening its impact in the pilot countries, CoST plans to welcome several new partners to the initiative, including Mexico and South Africa.“The time is ripe for more countries and organizations to support this important initiative,” says Christiaan Poortman, chairman of CoST’s Interim Board. “Together we can make sure that CoST reaches its true international potential, resulting in genuine, measurable change.” Show Less -
Rapid urbanization and climate change are reshaping and exacerbating disaster risk. Together, they have added urgency to the task of building resilience in communities and countries around the world.C... Show More +limate extremes that we could hardly imagine and cope with every 20 years are going to happen every two years in this century. This is the message of a sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the dramatic climate extremes that are expected to increase around the world.Meeting on the margins of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings on April 20 to discuss the implications of the report for their work on building resilience, donors, developing countries and international organizations reaffirmed their commitment to making disaster resilience a priority in development planning. The group of leading officials also agreed that integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into the development agenda is critical to building resilience in communities and countries."We have too often witnessed how disasters can roll back years of development progress," said World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin. "On top of that, we now need to prepare for a changing world—rapid urbanization and a changing climate are reshaping and exacerbating disaster risks.""But as we discussed today, geography need not be destiny, and the future—however uncertain and unpredictable when we factor in the impact of climate change—need not be feared if correct preventive policies are taken today.”Convened by the European Union, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank/GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), the Resilience Dialogue was informed by last month’s IPCC report Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.Christopher Field, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group ll, warned the group: “The risk profiles are changing—several kinds of climate and weather extremes are increasing and are projected to increase in the future. In the second half of the century, we are looking at a ten-fold increase in the frequency of severe heat events. The most extreme heat waves that we currently experience only once a decade will become annual events.”Field pointed out that we are, in many places, already seeing increases in extremes in heavy precipitation and in the length and severity of droughts. For many poor communities living in areas already exposed to even moderate climate events, such as floods, this is indeed bad news. The people most impacted are those most vulnerable in the developing world—in 2010, the Pakistan floods alone left six million people homeless.Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters. A recent World Bank paper on cities and flooding estimates that flooding in 2010 affected 178 million people. Unprecedented―and often unregulated and unplanned―urbanization in the developing world, a large part of which is in fertile floodplains and/or coastal regions, is a key cause of increased exposure to flooding. In China, 100 million people have moved from inland to coastal areas in the last 20 years. Globally 600 million people will occupy coastal floodplain land below flood level by 2100.Indonesia knows too well the horrendous impact that disasters can have―the cost in lives and GDP. The 2004 tsunami took more than 200,000 lives. But Indonesia has learned from its disasters.“Indonesia faces more than 100 disasters a year,” said Armida Alisjahbana Minister of National Development Planning, Indonesia. “In 2004, the tsunami cost about 45 percent of Aceh's regional economy. We have tried since to prepare for disasters in a more systematic way—early warning systems in disaster-prone areas, more coordinated efforts, money in our budget to anticipate disasters, a five-year blueprint to prepare for disasters. The key to make coordination work, the key thing is to have a single institution dealing with these issues. We don’t have institutions duplicating work.”The key message from this IPCC report is the need for climate change adaptation, disaster risk management and sustainable development to be integrated into the same agenda in order to help build resilience. But the numbers tell us that we’re not there yet. The world is still spending more on humanitarian aid after a disaster than investing in prevention. According to Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development, European Union, global disaster losses amounted to US$264 billion in 2011. That amount was twice the official development aid in 2011.The World Bank, as a development institution, has been focusing more and more on building resilience. It established disaster risk reduction as a practice group, staffed up, and invested US$6 billion in the last six years in disaster risk reduction to support countries to integrate resilience into their development strategies.“Over the last three years, two-thirds of our country assistance strategies have started to build in disaster risk management. The aim is to get to 100 percent," said Kyte. "We have to change the way we think about infrastructure, agriculture, transportation, water, energy, how communities become resilient, what kind of information we share. We have to help people make infrastructure decisions that will prove resilient far into the future. But we know, too, that we are in an 'adaptation' institution. Climate change adaptation has to be integrated in all we do.”Working Together and Next StepsGFDRR, as the disaster risk reduction (DRR) focal point in the World Bank, is leading assistance to the Government of Mexico to develop DRR as a priority topic for Mexico’s G20 presidency in 2012.Dario Luna, who leads the Insurance, Pensions and Social Security unit in Mexico's Ministry of Finance, is coordinating this initiative for the Mexican government.“We in Mexico give a lot of importance to disaster risk reduction because we are a country that is prone to disasters,” Luna said. “As presidency of the G20, we wanted to put this topic on the agenda―emphasizing the reduction of both human and economic cost. One of the key aspects of our changing world is the increased exposure to natural disasters. We believe that this effort will help DRR gain more prominence in G20 countries and with finance ministers.”A key challenge in the development of risk management strategies based on robust risk information, analysis, and modeling is the lack of systematic tools and methodologies to collect data, assess risk and vulnerability, and inform decision making. A joint Mexico and World Bank public policy publication will be produced on Improving the Assessment of Natural Disaster Risks to Strengthen Financial Resilience, and presented to the G20 summit on 18-19 June in Los Cabos.Naoko Ishii, deputy vice minister of finance for International Affairs in Japan, closed the Resilience Dialogue by announcing that the next high level meeting will be held during the October 2012 IMF-World Bank Annual meetings. The event will be in Sendai, a city in the Tohoku prefecture that bore the brunt of the tsunami last year, and its objective will be to develop a global consensus among the international community to advance the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as a development priority.“The very timely IPCC Report makes clear that disaster risk management and climate change adaptation measures are essentially two sides of the same coin," Ishii said. "These measures need to be incorporated across various sectors as a key component of development policy."The participants in the Resilience Dialogue talked about how they would meet that challenge―through coordination, bridging humanitarian and development efforts, integrated approaches and by working together to turn the reaction versus prevention paradigm on its head. Show Less -
December 9, 2011 - More than a dozen firms vied for contracts on a World Bank-financed transportation project. But that bidding competition largely turned out to be a sham. A Bank investigation reveal... Show More +ed evidence the contracts were steered to particular vendors in exchange for bribes, kickbacks and payments to designated losing bidders. Ultimately the case was escalated to an independent appeals body – the World Bank Group Sanctions Board. The result: seven firms and one individual were barred from World Bank contracts, two permanently – the strongest possible action.While a press release announced the debarments, virtually nothing was published then about the evidence or deliberations in the case – one of the most egregious that have come before the Sanctions Board – or in similar cases involving errant contractors. As the World Bank marks Anti-corruption Day on December 9, that’s about to change.Under new procedures promoting greater transparency and accountability, the Sanctions Board will begin publishing the full text of new legal opinions in cases concerning contractor corruption, fraud and collusion. The opinions will be posted on the World Bank website at www.worldbank.org/sanctions.The Sanctions Board has also released a new Law Digest that describes all cases appealed to the Sanctions Board since its inception in 2007, and the legal principles that have guided the Board’s decision-making."The Bank Group has taken a major step toward greater transparency and accountability by authorizing the publication of decisions in new sanctions cases," says World Bank President Robert Zoellick. "The release of the Sanctions Board's inaugural Law Digest is another milestone demonstrating the Bank Group's commitment to a fair and accountable sanctions process."By opening up more information, the Board hopes to build a body of knowledge about fraud and corruption cases and show that all parties are treated equally under the process. "To be transparent, you need to publish decisions – good legal material showing we take each case on its merits and decide based on the evidence presented and our impartial application of relevant legal principles," says Sanctions Board Chair Dr. Fathi Kemicha, a Tunisian attorney and international arbitrator who has served as chair since 2009. "Each party is treated equally, whether from the Bank or outside the Bank. This is what our decisions reflect. This makes the system credible."Part of Broader Transparency EffortThe move contributes to the World Bank’s efforts to open data and increase access to information. The Bank was recently ranked first among donors on transparency. Publishing Sanctions Board cases will allow the public to "hold us accountable in terms of whether we apply the same yardstick in an objective, transparent and fair way," says Sanctions Board member Hartwig Schafer, director of strategy and operations in the Bank’s Sustainable Development Network."Clarity and transparency about these cases are a huge plus, not only for the World Bank and the development community, but for the taxpayer, in the final analysis," says Sanctions Board Member Hassane Cissé, deputy general counsel for knowledge and research at the Bank.The Sanctions Board—an independent body comprising four internationally recognized legal experts from outside the World Bank and three Bank officials—hears appeals on corruption and fraud cases that have been investigated by the Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) and undergone a first level of review by the Bank’s Evaluation Officer (EO).To date, the Bank has sanctioned some 456 firms and individuals, and temporarily suspended another 150 contractors. Of all contractors who have appealed to the Sanctions Board for a second, final tier of review, about 70% have received sanctions up to indefinite debarment. About 30% ultimately received no sanction, usually due to insufficient evidence in the record.Under a 2010 cross-debarment agreement, contractors debarred by the World Bank may also be debarred by other multilateral development banks.The seven-member Board is meeting in Washington this week to review new cases alleging fraud and corruption; the decisions will be among the first to be made public."We hope the publication of both the Law Digest and Sanctions Board decisions will make a significant contribution to the development of public international law and bolster antifraud and anticorruption efforts," says Kemicha, the Sanctions Board Chair.Law Digest, Decisions to Show Full Range of Legal AnalysisPreviously, the Bank published only the identity of the firm or individual, category of offense, and sanction applied in cases where the contractor was found to have engaged in fraud, corruption, or collusion. Cases in which contractors received no sanctions were not disclosed at all.Now, decisions will provide factual background and legal analysis, give everyone the same access to the body of case law, and explain what offenders did wrong – a change that may particularly benefit companies and individuals operating in a culture where corruption is pervasive, says Kemicha."We hope opening up this information will help educate the public about our fraud and corruption standards, enhance our credibility and accountability by showing how we approach each case on its merits, and add an extra level of deterrence against wrongdoing," says Sanctions Board Secretary Elizabeth Lin Forder.The increased transparency of Bank Group corruption-case rulings is also expected to influence other multilateral development banks seeking to strengthen their administrative-sanctions systems, she adds."Openness creates opportunities for the public to know more, for journalists to dig deeper because they have more information, for academicians who are looking at longer-term issues regarding fraud and corruption to also look into these matters, and for civil society groups to do the same," says Cissé. "So I think it’s going to make a difference." Show Less -
Washington, Nov. 23, 2011 - How much will temperatures rise in 30, 40, or 50 years? How could changing weather affect rain-fed crops in the Horn of Africa, or winter flooding and summer droughts in Uz... Show More +bekistan? And what should countries do to prepare for more intense droughts and storms?These are the kinds of questions the World Bank hopes to answer with a new initiative to expand access to climate data and spark innovation in the fight against climate change around the world.A new Climate Change Knowledge Portal, launched today, includes visualization tools depicting temperature and rainfall scenarios to the year 2100. It links users to more than 250 climate indicators, and includes risk profiles for 31 countries where climate open data websites may launch in the next year.In addition, a three-month competition – Apps for Climate – will kick off in December at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Modeled after the Bank’s 2010 Apps for Development challenge, the competition will encourage scientists, software developers, and others to create applications that use the wealth of climate data being made available to help solve the development problems that climate change poses.The portal, competition, and data are the latest additions to the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative. They’re part of a new effort to make climate data more accessible and useful, and also complement a push for the practical application of climate change research driven by the Green Growth Knowledge Platform, a global network of researchers and development experts."Development solutions have their foundation in access to data, analysis and knowledge," said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. "This new initiative will put critical climate facts at the fingertips of policy makers, researchers, and development practitioners so the public and governments can debate and determine policies with better information about climate effects." Show Less -
July 9, 2009 – Regular doctor visits, sonograms and various tests constitute routine prenatal care for pregnant women in developed countries. But for Adwoa, an expectant mother in Ghana, access to suc... Show More +h health care is unavailable.Instead, for too many other women in sub-Saharan Africa, pregnancy often can lead to painful long-term disability or death for the woman or her children.This wide discrepancy on maternal health is the unfortunate message on the 20th anniversary of World Population Day, July 11.Reducing maternal mortality by three quarters, and achieving universal access to reproductive health services is one of the Millennium Development Goals the international community set to achieve by 2015 to improve the lives of poor people. But the world is showing the least progress on this goal, according to the latest Global Monitoring Report.“One of the best guarantees for getting countries on the faster track to less poverty and more opportunity is investing in maternal health and reproductive health programs,” says Joy Phumaphi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development, Chair of the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health and former health minister in Botswana.But support for population and reproductive health programs has significantly declined as a percentage of overall global health aid, from about 30 percent in 1994 to 12 percent in 2008.Every minute, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth from mostly preventable and treatable medical problems, which adds up to more than 500,000 women each year, according to UNFPA.For every woman who dies, another 20 suffer injuries and disabilities that can last a lifetime, robbing them of livelihoods and physical well-being. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 2,800 in the industrialized world. And 1 in 11 children in Africa is likely to die before reaching his or her first birthday.Also, fertility rates continue to be high—more than five live births per woman--in 35 poor countries in the world, mostly in Africa.Progress So FarIn recent decades, many countries have made progress in reducing maternal mortality and lowering fertility rates. For example, maternal mortality rate in Egypt fell from 174 to 84 per 100,000 live births through better access to family planning and births in health facilities supervised by trained birth attendants. Bangladesh reduced fertility rates from over 7 children per woman in 1970 to about 2.7 children per woman today, while infant mortality fell from 105 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 47 in 2007.Also, national public information campaigns have galvanized support to reduce maternal-related disabilities such as fistula, a painful rupture in the birth canal that occurs during prolonged, obstructed labor, which leaves women incontinent, isolated and ashamed.But huge challenges remain as aid for family planning and reproductive health programs has not kept pace with demand.Fertility Rates Impact Economic GrowthHigh fertility rates, along with inadequate health care, impede development and economic growth.Investing in family planning and reproductive health programs is not only vital to saving women’s lives, but also to boosting women’s economic and social well-being, improving the lives of their children and families, and reducing endemic poverty.“The longer it takes for countries to move to a low-fertility, low-mortality pattern, the greater the danger that high-birth rate countries will continue to experience greater inequalities in education, jobs, life expectancy, and adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS, than their wealthier counterparts,” says Phumaphi.Family size can also greatly affect women’s jobs in the workplace, according to a recent World Bank report, Population Issues in the 21st Century: The Role of the World Bank. One cross-national survey suggests that the percentage of women in the labor force is directly related to national birth rates. In Bolivia, there were strong links between women using contraception and having jobs outside of the home. In the Philippines, the average income growth for women with 1-3 pregnancies was twice that of women who had been pregnant more than 7 times.Ensuring Health Systems Can DeliverThe World Bank and several of its international development partners —including UNFPA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO)—have pledged to work together over the next five years to help countries strengthen their health systems, from rural clinics to major urban hospitals -- to achieve the MDG5 targets.For its part, the Bank has provided about $950 million in loans and grants for maternal and reproductive health programs, with another nearly $350 million in the pipeline. This financial support is provides an array of vital services to poor women and their families, including access to contraception information and services, health insurance, improved pre-natal care, provision of skilled birth attendants, access to insurance and emergency obstetric services, and post-natal care.Population and Reproductive Health Facts:More than 500,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth – mostly in developing countries and mostly from preventable and treatable medical problems.1 in 16 women is likely to die from pregnancy-related causes in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality — at least 100 times those in developed countries.35 countries, also mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, continue to have a total fertility rate of more than 5 live births per woman -- adversely affecting progress in reducing poverty.Access to voluntary family planning could reduce maternal deaths by 25 to 40 percent, and child deaths by as much as 20 percent.Maternal and newborn mortality costs an annual $15 billion in lost productivity. 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