With a population of 355 million and the vast majority of people living in middle-income countries, the MENA region came into the Arab Spring with multiple strengths, including a young and educated population, strong resource base, and economic resilience that helped it weather the 2008/9 global financial crisis.
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Pakistan encapsulates the renewable energy challenge faced by many developing and emerging countries. Despite abundant renewable resources – including solar, wind, hydropower and biomass – very ... Show More +little of this potential has been utilized. At the same time, about a third of the country’s people do not have access to electricity.Pakistan has ambitious plans for solar and wind projects, and has developed a comprehensive policy framework for renewable energy, but projects on the ground remain few and far between. What accounts for this gap? “One major reason is a lack of credible resource data,” says Arif Alauddin, the former CEO of Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board, and now Managing Director of the National Energy Conservation Center. While high-level solar and wind maps are widely available, these do not contain the granular data required by governments to understand the country’s full resource potential and needed by the private sector to identify specific sites for development. To address this challenge, Pakistan and eight other countries are joining with the World Bank in a new Renewable Energy Mapping Program to carry out mapping of renewable energy resources that will for the first time produce rich, nationwide data for each country. Coordinated and financed by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), the initiative will cover mapping of solar, wind, biomass, and small hydropower potential. “The importance of this resource mapping [for Pakistan] cannot be overstated,” says Arif Alauddin. “The country’s energy shortage is unprecedented, tariffs are going up, and petroleum imports are eating up a large share of export earnings. There is a need to shift to domestic renewable energy resources.” Show Less -
Around three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone and the mobile communications story is moving to a new level, which is not so much about the phone but how it is used... Show More +, says a new report by the World Bank and infoDev, its technology entrepreneurship and innovation program.The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries. Ownership of multiple subscriptions is becoming increasingly common, suggesting that their number will soon exceed that of the human population.The report, Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, says more than 30 billion mobile applications, or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 – software that extends the capabilities of phones, for instance to become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools.This trend is also benefiting developing countries where people are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms."Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development – from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” says World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.She adds that the challenge now is “to enable people, businesses, and governments in developing countries to develop their own locally-relevant mobile applications so they can take full advantage of these opportunities.” 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 -
February 12, 2009—In a small village in the Philippines, Marciel Tuayon proudly shows off her children’s new schoolbags to visitors from the World Bank. With money coming in from a government cash tra... Show More +nsfer program, she is able, for the first time, to send all five of her young children to school.“I am thankful for the money,” said this 34-year-old mother, who was happy to accept a number of conditions—including regular schooling for her children—in order to receive the cash. “I am now able to buy school supplies. ”Maria Elena Saga, principal of the nearby Esperanza Elementary School where Marciel sends her children, has seen change come to the village with help from the program. “There was a big drop-out rate before because of child labor and children having to take care of other children,” she said, “Now there is a big increase in attendance.”A new World Bank report, “Conditional Cash Transfers: Reducing Present and Future Poverty,” takes stock of programs that give poor families cash to keep children in school or take them to health clinics, noting that they work well to help reduce poverty and invest in tomorrow’s adults.“We are increasing support to conditional cash transfer programs because they stand out as an example of how to use resources effectively—especially during this period of multiple crises and uncertain foreign aid,” said Justin Lin, World Bank chief economist.Cash or Tortillas?By providing steady cash, “CCT” programs shield poor families from the worst effects of unemployment, catastrophic illness, and other shocks to household income. There is less risk of children going hungry or being pulled out of school, while human capital is built for the future.“We could instead transfer income to the poor by subsidizing tortillas, but that would just promote consumption of tortillas,” said Santiago Levy, Vice President, Inter-American Development Bank and main architect of Mexico’s Progresa/Oportunidades, a pioneering CCT program in Latin America. “If you are going to transfer income, do it in a smart way, so that one day poverty is reduced to the extent that you won’t have to do it anymore.”Indeed, CCTs can be an efficient part of 21st-century social protection strategies, as governments try to replace less effective income transfers such as badly targeted, market-distorting subsidies.The CCTs explosionIn 1997, three developing countries had CCT programs: Bangladesh, Brazil, and Mexico. Over the next decade, these programs spread across the world to cover over two dozen countries by 2008. There are now CCT programs on every continent, in both rich and poor countries, from Mexico’s Oportunidades to New York City’s Opportunity NYC.CCTs have also grown tremendously within countries. Mexico’s Progresa began in 1997 with 300,000 households; its successor Oportunidades now reaches 5 million households.“A part of the reason these programs are getting popular is support from institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank,” said Tina Rosenberg, a Pulitzer-winning writer for the New York Times, during a discussion at the World Bank. “But there’s also been an ideological shift in how people think about social welfare.”Rosenberg, who has written extensively on Latin America, also noted that CCTs are relatively easy to do well, and that the basics of these programs are much easier to export to low-capacity countries than any other social program.Breaking the poverty cycle“The opportunity that CCTs offer—to break the poverty cycle from parents to children—is very compelling,” said Norbert Schady, co-author of the report and senior economist at the World Bank. “There’s solid evidence that CCTs boost consumption and reduce poverty.”As might be expected, the effect on poverty reduction is greatest when the size of the cash transfer is generous. In Mexico, the poverty gap—or shortfall from the poverty line—among CCT beneficiaries in rural areas was reduced by 19 percent.Household consumption patterns have changed among CCT beneficiary households, in part because cash transfers are made to women. The evidence shows that women spend more than men do on food, high-quality nutrition, and other things that benefit children.CCTs have been so successful against poverty because they largely target poor households. Also, they have not, as some feared, led to adults reducing their work outputs in response to the steady income supplement.“The old thinking was that if you gave poor people cash, they might spend it on alcohol,” commented Levy, “But if you treat people from poor households like adults, they behave like adults, and I think that’s good news.”More children in schoolCCTs have clearly increased the use of education services in country after country. In Pakistan, for instance, a CCT program increased the school enrollment of 10-14 year-old girls by 11 percentage points. And in Mexico, the Oportunidades program decreased dropout rates between the 6th and 7th grade by 9 percentage points.“I've met kids from the poorest families in Mexico who have finished secondary school and are aspiring to go to university,” said Axel van Trotsenberg, World Bank country director for Colombia and Mexico. “That you didn't see 20 years ago—but now, it’s a real possibility.”In Latin America, CCTs have also increased the use of preventive health services. In Honduras, a CCT program increased the proportion of children who had at least one preventive health visit by 20 percentage points.Are CCTs a silver bullet?The new World Bank report on CCTs cautions that they are not a panacea for all ills. In fact, these programs need plenty of complementary services and support.“The use of services doesn't automatically translate into improved outcomes,” said Ariel Fiszbein, co-author of the report and Chief Economist for Human Development at the World Bank. “We find that when children go to school more, it doesn't necessarily mean they are learning more.”To actually reduce child mortality or improve learning, CCTs need to be complemented by higher-quality education and health services and a strong focus on giving children a head start, such as via better nutrition or preschool programs.Fiszbein noted that CCTs need to be complemented by actions to improve the coverage and quality of public services. He saw this as “the other side of the CCT coin,” where service providers like nurses and teachers are given incentives to influence their behavior.Notably, CCTs are not the only means of social protection. They are intended to support poor households with children, and should be supplemented by other transfer programs such as social pensions or workfare to reach all vulnerable groups.A focus on resultsOne of the important features of CCT programs is that many have advanced monitoring components that allow an objective evaluation of their results. For example, Colombia’s Familias en Acción systematically monitors the program’s impact on its beneficiaries.“We have been strongly supporting the Colombia program financially, with a big loan approved in December 2008,” said Trotsenberg, “But most importantly, we are involved in the program’s design, monitoring and evaluation; this helps the program work better.”“CCT programs have helped modernize social sector management since they require coordination across many agencies,” concluded Fiszbein. “Their careful monitoring and evaluation is invaluable in assessing results objectively and helping design better programs going forward.” Show Less -