Syndicate content

November 2017

Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
Women collecting water in  Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

Measuring youth employment projects: What can we learn from each other?

Jose Manuel Romero's picture
When it comes to youth employment projects, there is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. (Photo:  Flore de Préneuf / World Bank)

Youth employment projects face varying contextual realities and constraints that often result in generating innovations when adapting and customizing their monitoring and evaluation system. There is a lag in the spread of innovations due to the various contexts, funders, and organizations often operating independently. Project teams find their own solutions to similar rising challenges, which in some instances lead to a medley of methods and conventions in monitoring and evaluation that lack a uniform standard.

To capture some of the main innovations and challenges in monitoring and evaluation, we held our first Virtual Workshop with Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio, which is a group of 19 promising and innovative youth employment projects. This brought together 30 participants from locations spanning across regions. As our new report highlights, challenges include: measuring job creation; consistently measuring important outcomes such as the financial behaviors of entrepreneurs; and tracking beneficiaries after graduating from youth employment programs to measure labor market outcomes.

We covered two new frameworks varying in scope, from a broad overarching framework to track jobs-related outcomes of projects to a newly developed metric focused on cost-effectiveness.

In Bulgaria, giving Roma children equal opportunity starts with free preschool

Daphna Berman's picture
Eugenia enjoying a music lesson together with preschool children in the Bulgarian village of Litakovo. (Photo: Daniel Lekov / World Bank)

In Bulgaria, where just 15 percent of Roma children complete secondary school, Eugenia Volen, 42, knows only too well how hard her job is.  

What kind of evidence might persuade people to change their minds on refugees?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.

Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the  ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.

When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, had drowned.  Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon.  Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.

The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.

Cairns 2

Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK.  It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue.  Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.

Urgency and unity central at Fiji-led climate conference

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture

The inspiring slogan of the UN Climate Change conference COP23 “Uniting for Climate Action – Further Faster Together” still reverberates in my daily thoughts. The World Bank Group partnered with the Fijian Presidency, the German hosts and numerous partners to spread the message of unity, and the urgent need to increase ambition and action.

Attention or information? Why telling Nina’s parents she missed school makes her a better student -- Guest post by Nina Cunha

This is the second in this year’s series of posts by PhD students on the job market. Reminder that submissions close tomorrow at noon.

When I was in school, I used to skip some classes; my parents probably never learned about it (at least until this blog post). Now imagine there was a system in place to tell my parents how often I skipped classes in the previous weeks. When Nina’s parents get a message pointing out that she missed school yesterday, while they learn at no cost that her behavior was not in line with their expectations, they may also realize that attendance is an important dimension of their daughter’s behavior to which they should attend moving forward. Therefore, informing parents about their child’s attendance, for instance, might also draw their attention to the importance of attending class, increasing their awareness about monitoring benefits. This is particularly relevant in face of the evidence on how poverty captures attention (Mani et al., 2013), and on how, given limited attention, individuals may fail to learn from dimensions they do not notice (Hanna et al., 2014). Therefore, while informing parents lowers monitoring costs – alleviating moral hazard and inducing better school outcomes, in line with parent’s objectives –, communication may also increase the salience of monitoring benefits. My job market paper investigates the mechanisms behind the effects of communication with parents.

The Advisor’s Creed: 20 years with IFC Advisory Services distilled into 10 simple lessons

Brian Samuel's picture

Photo: Diana Susselman | Flickr Creative Commons

I worked with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for exactly 20 years, all of which was in advisory work. I spent five years in Barbados, five in Washington, five in Zimbabwe and five in South Africa: perfect symmetry. On my 20th anniversary, I took a package and returned home, to the beautiful Caribbean. IFC was a great place to work, where we were challenged every day to come up with innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Some of our deals were truly groundbreaking and lived up to IFC’s motto to improve people’s lives. That’s the kind of job satisfaction that money can’t buy.

After 76 countries, millions of air miles, and some pretty forgettable airport hotels, sometimes I look back and think: what was it all about?

Philippines: Keeping in step with what employers want

Pablo Acosta's picture
Step up to the Jobs Challenge

It is said that some employees are hired because of their technical skills, but fired due to their behaviors or attitudes, such as arriving late or showing a lack of commitment to achieve the firms’ goals. This complaint seems to be frequently mentioned during our many discussions with Filipino employers.
But what does the hard evidence show, beyond anecdotal remarks? Do Filipino employers have difficulty finding workers with the right “soft skills” (socio-emotional skills, right attitudes and behaviors)? And if so, do we have evidence that it leads to better pay? And how are employers, employees and government responding to these labor market signals?

Natural disasters are in 3D – and the rights that protect against them should be as well

Luis Triveno's picture
Photo credit: studiovin/Shutterstock

The recent series of devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean has reminded the world, once again, that natural disasters are not equal-opportunity destroyers. The economically marginalized and those lacking secure land and property rights are often disproportionately affected for at least three reasons:

  • First, without secure property rights, they typically lack the long-term incentive and access to credit to build safe, resilient houses
  • Second, they can be reluctant to flee their homes to safe areas, fearing they won’t be allowed to return. 
  • Finally, they are less likely to be the recipients of government risk mitigation or recovery efforts.  Government recovery efforts – no matter how well intentioned – rarely reach those most in need.  After the floods and landslides in Nepal in 2011, for example, only 6% of the poorest received government support – compared to almost 90% of the well off.  

The increasing frequency of natural disasters with tragic human consequences should also serve as reminders that resources spent on disaster risk reduction (DRR) are much more effective at saving lives and property loss. Yes, despite substantial evidence that reducing disaster risk is more cost-effective than responding to disasters, expenditures for disaster response and reconstruction exceed spending on disaster risk reduction and preparedness at a rate of about 20 to 1.

To overcome that spending gap will require innovative thinking on a time-tested idea. Governments, the World Bank, and other donors are doing the right thing when trying to devote more resources to disaster risk reduction – and to make land and property rights reforms part of a multi-faceted DRR strategy. In doing so, they would do even better by recognizing that those rights exist in three dimensions, encompassing not just the ground beneath our feet but to the space above (and below) it.

The Canadian forest fire danger rating system

Brian Simpson's picture
On November 1-3, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the World Bank organized a workshop in Delhi to discuss forest fire prevention and management.  The workshop brought together fire experts and practitioners from eight countries along with Indian government officials from the ministry and the state forest departments, as well as representatives from academia and civil society. Brian Simpson, an analyst with the Canadian Forest Service, shares his perspective on how Canada developed its national fire danger rating system and how this system has helped in preventing, detecting and suppressing forest fires in that country. Canada's experience may serve as an inspiration as India continues to develop its own fire danger rating system, adapting it to local conditions and management needs.
Canada is a big country, with a lot of forest and a lot of water. Fires are common, and are concentrated in the boreal forest region, a band of forest that stretches around the whole northern hemisphere. On average, out of around 400 million ha of forest, about 8,000 fires and 2.5 million ha burn per year. And dozens of communities and tens of thousands of people need to be evacuated each year.
People are mostly concentrated along the southern border with the United States, where it’s warmer. A lot of the northern communities are actually indigenous, and many of them are only accessible by air or water. If there is a road, it’s the only road. These communities are often threatened by wildfires, and are frequently evacuated due to this threat.
Ultimately, Canada has three main problems with respect to wildland fire - prevention, detection, and suppression.  The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS) helps with each, though it’s only part of the solution. It helps with prevention by allowing fire managers to know where the risk of fires is higher. It helps with detection by giving fire managers a place and time to look for new fires. And it helps with suppression by providing some guidance about how the fire will behave. Beyond fire prevention, detection and suppression, CFFDRS helps with planning, response, risk assessment, smoke modelling, and even carbon emissions from these fires.
Photo Credit: Gts/

With respect to wildland fire, the Government of Canada has a mandate to provide for the safety and security of Canadians, to protect critical infrastructure, to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to aid the implementation of other Sustainable Development Goals like reducing poverty and improving health. All are aided by the CFFDRS.