Conversation active 28 Sep - 30 Nov 2015

In 2013, the World Bank Group announced two goals that would guide its development work worldwide. The first is the eradication of chronic extreme poverty. More formally, it is the target of bringing the number of extremely poor people, defined as those living on less than 1.25 ppp-adjusted dollars a day, to less than 3% of the world population by 2030. The second is the boosting of shared prosperity, defined as promoting the growth of per capita real income of the poorest 40% of the population in each country. While we have begun to track these indicators, in the light of the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and the changing landscape of the world, we are aware that there will be many new challenges that we will have to contend with over the next decade and a half. To help us deal with these better, I, in my capacity as Chief Economist of the World Bank, have just set up a Commission on Global Poverty chaired by Sir Anthony Atkinson and with an advisory board consisting of some of the world’s leading experts in the field. 

While the Commission’s report will be written by Professor Atkinson, advised by experts, we felt a need to crowd source ideas. If you have one or more ideas please write to us in the space provided below. This is not meant to be an interactive web page; and so you will not get any reply from us but if you give your email address and members of the Commission feel the need to contact you, they may do so. A new set of questions will be introduced every two weeks so please continue to check this site in order to contribute to the conversation.

Photo © Arne Hoel/World Bank
Conversation active 21 May - 5 Jun 2015

The idea of going “beyond GDP” is not new: For over 30 years, economists have been advancing methods for valuing natural capital. It gained new momentum when the methodology for calculating Natural Capital Accounts (NCA) became a standard with the UN Statistical Commission’s adoption of the System for Environmental and Economic Accounts (SEEA) in 2012.

There is growing consensus that GDP is not the best indicator of a country’s true economic status. One major limitation is the poor representation of natural capital. Important contributions to the economy made by forests, wetlands, and minerals are not fully captured in national accounts or may be hidden.

Join us to discuss the advantages of NCA in crafting policy, and possible strategies for promoting its use in making evidence-based decision-making in the public and private sectors, towards the goal of sustainable development.  

Conversation active 23 Mar - 8 Apr 2015

The World Health Organization estimates that each year, at least 2 billion people worldwide become ill as a result of food poisoning and contamination of the food supply chain. Poorly handled food and unsafe practices can also cause millions of people to die, including many children. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. As the world population is projected to climb to over 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food will continue to rise. Furthermore, higher incomes and increasing urbanization trends are likely to transform food consumption patterns, and increase demand for animal products and more readily accessible and processed food. However, food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. 

This conversation seeks to catalyze thoughtful discussion about global food safety, highlight best practices in food safety capacity building across the world, and seek new ways of ensuring that people all over the world have access to a safe food supply and are in a better position to address challenges.

Conversation active 23 Feb - 17 Mar 2015

Changes in a country’s demography – its population age structure or gender balance, for example – can have significant impact on the economy, demand for social services, and policy environment. Some countries have been able to harness the so-called “demographic dividend” – a term that describes the potential favorable interplay between changes in countries’ population age structure resulting from their demographic transition and economic growth. Decreases in fertility and mortality, and timely adoption of responsive socioeconomic policies, help a nation achieve the demographic dividend. 

This two-week conversation will address how demographic change can have a positive impact on health and nutrition outcomes. What kinds of socioeconomic policies should be put in place today to help countries take advantage of population changes as they go through their demographic transition?

Conversation active 09 Feb - 23 Feb 2015

Every year, air, water and land pollution cause roughly 8.9 million premature deaths worldwide, most of which occur in developing countries. This represents 13 percent of all deaths around the world. While pollution poisons our air, water and land, it is also toxic to our bodies and economies, exerting a high burden in health costs, lost productivity, degraded quality of life and missed opportunities.

Children exposed to unsafe levels of lead and mercury pollution, for example, face decreased cognitive abilities and workforce prospects. Indoor and outdoor air pollution is now the single highest environmental health risk, fueled both by rapid urbanization and by the pervasive use of dirty cooking fuels in low income countries. Although the vast majority of deaths happen in low and middle-income countries, pollution and its impact on health affect us all through global supply chains, water and air flows, and other natural processes.

Join the conversation with government, health and pollution experts to share your experience and explore solutions and technologies necessary for a healthier, cleaner and more productive world.

Conversation active 09 Feb - 23 Feb 2015

Floods are undoubtedly the most frequent type of natural disasters, especially in the last 20 years during which flood events have become more dangerous, particularly for coastal cities and in peripheral areas of sprawling cities. Yet, although climate change may contribute to weather extremes, many coastal cities are more exposed to flooding due to poor ground water management rather than from rising sea levels. More population density in urban areas also means that exposure of assets and settlements widens especially with poorly managed urbanization (clogged drains, unregulated spatial expansion, inadequate housing). At a household level, the impact of floods also exacerbates the hardships of the urban poor as it amplifies their vulnerability through water-borne diseases, lower nutrition, less education possibilities and disrupted sources of livelihoods.

Join development leaders, expert practitioners and policy-makers during this thought-provoking two-week online forum to discuss how we can better design, implement and integrate different approaches to urban flood risk management, and ensure that cities and towns in the future are more informed, better equipped and sufficiently prepared to face natural disasters such as floods.

Photo © Copyright World Bank
Conversation active 12 Jan - 27 Jan 2015

A child’s earliest years present a unique window of opportunity to ensure good outcomes later in life. Early childhood development programs that include education, health, nutrition and social protection components have proven to be effective in several countries, but despite this growing evidence, estimates show that more than 200 million children in developing countries under the age of 5 will not reach their development potential.

Early childhood is a critical time because the brain develops most rapidly in the first years of life and affects the lifelong capacity of each child to learn. Stable, caring, interactive relationships with adults are necessary to benefit the healthy development of young children, and high-quality early childhood care and education programs can improve children’s chances for success in later life. Early childhood development can also help level the playing field from the early stages of life. Interventions directed at the poorest children can offset negative trends, as well as promote quality learning and physical growth. In fact, investing in young children is one of the smartest investments a country can make. Examples of programs that work well include those that promote parenting education, preschool enrollment, children's educational media, and training for child care workers to improve quality in early child development programs. 

Join development leaders, expert practitioners, and policy-makers in this two-week online forum to discuss how to use technology and media to support early childhood development and ensure that all children thrive during their early years.

Photo © Copyright Curt Carnemark / World Bank
Conversation active 04 Nov - 21 Nov 2014

Sometimes, the best ideas in development are staring us in the face and involve the most basic of human functions. Take cooking. Changing the way nearly three billion people cook and warm their homes would have enormous health benefits, slow climate change, benefit gender equality, and reduce poverty. And there are compelling reasons why now is the time to move from traditional cooking methods — burning wood, dung, and coal in open fires or rudimentary cookstoves — to so-called clean cookstoves and fuels.

What new and concentrated efforts must be fast-tracked for more and faster adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels?  What is the role of public and private sector?  How can we overcome the affordability constraints? How can we maximize health, environmental, gender and poverty reduction benefits? And how do we make sure that cookstove and fuel adoption is sustainable, and that people do not revert to their old habits after a few months or a few years. Join us in this conversation to increase market linkages and exchange knowledge to promote the adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels around the world.


Photo © Copyright Dana Smillie / World Bank
Conversation active 15 Oct - 29 Oct 2014

With some 75 million young people in the developing world unemployed and hundreds of millions more underemployed, youth employment is one of this century’s most pressing problems. Every year, 20 million young people enter the labor force in Africa and Asia alone. In the Middle East and North Africa, 80 percent of young workers work in the informal sector. One in four young people globally cannot find work for more than US$1.25 a day. Yet global growth and poverty reduction over the next 15 years will be driven by today’s youth. 

So join us to discuss "what works," and what’s needed, to increase youth employability. Discuss what packages of interventions, public and private, are needed to make a dent in this issue. Let’s break down the elements of a successful skills development strategy and share examples of policies across sectors—and across countries and contexts. We look forward to discovering and discussing global innovations and new initiatives enabling youth to improve their own economic livelihoods.

Photo © Copyright Allison Kwesell / World Bank
Conversation active 22 Sep - 10 Oct 2014

Across the developing world, millions of people rely on the private sector for their daily water and sanitation needs. In the majority of cases, the providers of these essential services are not large multinational corporations, but local entrepreneurs operating on a small scale – businesses that see selling water and sanitation services to the poor as market opportunities like any other.

This conversation will look at the role of public-private partnerships in increasing access to affordable, reliable clean water and safe sanitation through small-scale providers. By sharing examples of what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s needed to scale up these innovative models of last-mile delivery of water and sanitation, we’re providing creative solutions with the potential to change people's lives.