Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.
One of the early, decidedly modest goals for this event was simply to bring together key decisionmakers from across Asia (and a few other parts of the world -- it would become more global with each passing year) in an attempt to help figure out what was actually going on with technology use in education in a cross-section of middle and low income countries, and to help policymakers make personal, working level connections with leading practitioners -- and with each other. Many countries were announcing ambitious new technology-related education initiatives, but it was often difficult to separate hope from hype, as well as to figure out how lofty policy pronouncements might actually translate to things happening at the level of teachers and learners 'on-the-ground'.
As the first country to move from being a recipient of World Bank donor assistance to become a full-fledged donor itself, Korea presented in many ways an ideal host for the event. (Still is!) The Korean story of economic development over the past half century has been the envy of policymakers in many other places, who see in that country's recent past many similarities to their own current situations. Known for its technological prowess (home to Samsung and many other high tech companies) and famous in education circles for the performance of its students on international assessments like PISA, educational technology issues could be found at the intersection of two important components in a Venn diagram of 'Brand Korea'.
Since that first global symposium, over 1400 policymakers from (at least by my quick count) 65 countries have visited Korea annually as part of the global symposium to see and learn first hand from Korean experiences with the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, to be exposed to some of the latest related research around the world, to share information with each other about what was working -- and what wasn't -- and what might be worth trying in the future (and what to avoid). Along the way, Korea has come to be seen as a global hub for related information and knowledge, and KERIS itself increasingly is regarded by many countries as a useful organizational model to help guide their own efforts to help implement large scale educational technology initiatives.
While international events bringing together policymakers to discuss policy issues related to the use of new technologies in education are increasingly common these days, across Asia and around the world, back in 2007 the Global Symposium on ICT Use in Education represented the first regularly scheduled annual event of its type (at least to my knowledge; there were many one-off regional events, of course, many of the good ones organized by UNESCO) bringing together policymakers from highly developed, middle and low income countries.
Participating in the event for each of the past ten years has offered me a front row seat to observe how comparative policy discussions have evolved over the past decade in a way that is, I think, somewhat unique. What follows is a quick attempt to descibe some of what has changed over the years. (The indefatigable Jongwon Seo at KERIS is, I think, the only other person to have participated in all ten global symposia. As such, he is a sort of spiritual co-author of these reflections -- or at least the ones which may offer any useful insights. I'm solely responsible for any of the banal, boring or inaccurate comments that follow.)
Amidst a cacophony of vuvuzelas, expectations for the African teams in this World Cup had never been higher. For the first time the tournament was held on African soil and many African teams had famous coaches - Sven Goran Erikson for Cote d’Iviore being one example. Most importantly, there have never been so many African players signed to the top European clubs in the world; perhaps none more famously so than Samuel Eto’o of Inter Milan or Didier Drogba of Chelsea. And yet, the African teams were knocked out of the competition in the group stages, one by one. That is, all except Ghana, the team on which all African hopes now rested.
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.
Jordan is my second home, as I have worked there, off and on, since the late 1990s. I have watched Amman grow from a relaxed city into a hustling, bustling regional business and financial hub. Even though my Arabic is still rusty, there is no shortage of development partners and government officials ready to talk in our common language — the vocabulary of public investment management (PIM) and public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Recently I was invited to speak at Public Investment Management (PIM): Best Practices Workshop hosted in Amman, Jordan by the World Bank Group’s regional Governance team, led by Emmanuel Cuvillier. My job there was to show the linkages between public investment planning (PIP) and PPPs. As I prepped for my speaking engagement, I realized how little progress we, the global PPP community, have made in developing an integrated approach for undertaking investment projects.
One obvious reason for this is that PIMs are not fully integrated in the planning functions by most governments. And PPP projects that follow privatization programs have adopted many of the habits of the privatization programs — for example, only work on a list of selected entities, and establish an ad-hoc commission/committee tasked to undertake evaluation and tendering — with the ultimate aim of obtaining private investment.
But there’s an important difference in the case of PPPs. We are not selling assets, we are creating assets. The project does not end when the public and private parties sign the contract, as is the case in privatization; in fact; the project begins at that point, and has to be monitored over many years for performance and delivery. Typically, the project reverts back to the public sector at the end of the PPP agreement term. And finally, unlike the case with privatization, the public sector almost always commits to various kinds of fiscal commitments (real or contingent) in PPPs.
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.
Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.
The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.
And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.
But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.
Thirty years ago, toxic gas leaking from Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal claimed more than 5,000 lives and exposed more than half a million people to harmful toxins. The negligence and human tragedy made Bhopal synonymous with industrial disaster and showed just how harmful chemical pollution is to health and well-being. The enormous human loss calls for remembering the victims and stronger engagement on a wide range of pollution management and environmental health issues to prevent similar tragedies.
What Happened Then?
A chemical gas spilled from a pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide. More than 40 tons of gas created a dense cloud over more than half a million people and killed thousands. None of the six safety systems at the plant worked to prevent the disaster. The company’s own documents prove the plant was designed with “untested” technology, and that it cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money.
The State of Bhopal Today
Today, clean-up of the site is still pending, those who survived the disaster don’t have alternate livelihood opportunities and victims are still suffering.
On my first project visit since joining the World Bank, I had a chance to accompany the Productive Social Safety Nets project team across the country to the Fouta Djallon region, in the northern part of Guinea, for the launch of their Labor Intensive Public Works (THIMO) activities. This trip allowed me to see firsthand what extreme poverty is. You hear and read about it, but I had the opportunity to meet people who experience it every day. I say opportunity, because going through this further humbled me, gave me more determination, and added purpose to the need to tell their stories—stories of their struggles and their achievements.
Poverty affected about 55% of Guinea’s population in 2012, but this percentage is likely to have increased as a result of the Ebola crisis and economic stagnation in 2014 and 2015. Poverty in Guinea is highly concentrated in the rural areas, where the poverty headcount rate remains far higher (65% in 2012) than in urban centers (35%). The lack of infrastructure, and limited economic opportunities and access to education all create a major development issue for these areas.