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.
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?
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.
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.
Heavy smog compelled New Delhi to declare a pollution emergency last week. As air pollution soared to hazardous levels and residents donned masks, India’s capital took a series of measures, such as banning most commercial trucks from entering the city and closing all schools, in response to the air quality crisis. Many residents complained of headaches, coughs and other health concerns, and poor visibility caused major traffic accidents.
Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series. You can read part-one here. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the World Bank Group, its Board of Directors or the governments they represent.
The Word Development Report 2017 on Governance and the Law rightly frames law in social terms – “but one of many rule systems” – and instrumental terms – “an important tool in the policy arena… in shaping behavior, in ordering power, and in providing a tool for contestation.”
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a two-part series. You can read part-two here. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the World Bank Group, its Board of Directors or the governments they represent.
To invest or not to invest? When determining whether to enter a new market, businesses must fully understand the potential risks and opportunities. To do so, they need access to information on relevant market players, such as potential suppliers, customers or competitors. While governments require businesses to supply data when registering as well as throughout their operation, these repositories of data held by business registries, tax authorities, statistical offices and other registries are often not updated properly nor are they made available to the general public in a comprehensive way.
Van Gogh’s famous painting of Potato Eatersdepicts a family of poor peasants seated around a dinner table eating their staple fare. The artist confessed that this work is deeply reflective of the hard work that Dutch peasants have to do to earn a bare meal. Van Gogh frequently painted the harvest and often compared the season to his own art, and how he would someday reap all that he had put into it.
Since those difficult times in the late 1800s, the tiny country of the Netherlands (pop: 17 mill; about the size of Haryana state in India) has come a long way. Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Indeed, this small nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products including vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meat, milk and eggs; some 6% of world trade in fruits and 16% in vegetables comes from the Netherlands.
But how exactly did they do this? In October 2017, we went to find out. Our team - of World Bank and Indian government officials working on agribusiness, rural transformation and watershed development projects – sought to learn from Dutch experience and identify opportunities for future collaboration. We met farmer cooperatives, private companies, growers’ associations, academia, social enterprises, and government agencies, and gained fascinating insights.
Primarily, we found that a convenient location, a conducive climate, investments in high-quality infrastructure, high-caliber human capital, an enabling business environment and professionally-run private companies have provided the Netherlands with that unmistakable competitive edge:
Maximizing agricultural output with minimum land and labor
Located conveniently as a gateway to Europe, the Netherlands acts as a transit hub for agricultural produce, importing Euro 4.6 billion worth of produce from 107 countries, adding value to these products through collection, re(packaging) and processing, and exporting almost double that value - Euro 7.9 billion - to more than 150 nations. In 2014, Dutch growers had a turn-over of euro 2.9 billion in fruit and vegetables, produced with a minimum of land and labor - only 55,000 hectares and just 40,000 people - indicating a heavy reliance on automation.
In high-income countries, entrepreneurs routinely accept electronic payments from customers and make electronic payments to suppliers, tax authorities and others. But in developing countries, where more than a third of adults report being self-employed, digital payments are an underdeveloped business tool – one that can provide significant benefits to both entrepreneurs as well as society by bringing more people into the formal financial system. With the rapid growth of mobile phone ownership to facilitate digital payments in the developing world, shifting from cash to digital payments offers high potential payoffs for entrepreneurs worldwide. A new report shows how digital payments can benefit entrepreneurs.