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East Asia and Pacific

Let’s work together to prevent violence and protect the vulnerable against fragility

Franck Bousquet's picture
Participants from 90 countries and 400 organizations joined the 2018 Fragility Forum to explore development, humanitarian and security approaches to fostering global peace and stability. © World Bank
Participants from 90 countries and 400 organizations joined the 2018 Fragility Forum to explore development, humanitarian and security approaches to fostering global peace and stability. © World Bank

Last week, in a gathering of governments and organizations at the World Bank-hosted 2018 Fragility Forum, the international community took an important step forward in fighting fragility by sharpening our understanding of it, hearing directly from those affected by it and thinking collectively through what we must do to overcome it.

We all agreed, acting on a renewed understanding of fragility and what it means to vulnerable communities represents an urgent and collective responsibility. We’ve all seen the suffering. In places like Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and South Sudan, the loss of life, dignity and economic prosperity is rife. With more than half of the world’s poor expected to live in fragile settings by 2030, we can’t end poverty unless we promote stability, prosperity, and peace in these places ravaged by conflict and crisis.

To unlock student potential in East Asia Pacific, be demanding and supportive of teachers

Michael Crawford's picture

Among the 29 countries and economies of the East Asia and Pacific region, one finds some of the world’s most successful education systems. Seven out of the top 10 highest average scorers on internationally comparable tests such as PISA and TIMSS are from the region, with Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (China) consistently among the best. 

But, more significantly, one also finds that great performance is not limited to school systems in the region’s high-income countries. School systems in middle-income Vietnam and China (specifically the provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong) score better than the average OECD country, despite having much lower GDP per capita. What is more, scores from both China and Vietnam show that poor students are not being left behind. Students from the second-lowest income quintile score better than the average OECD student, and even the very poorest test takers outscore students from some wealthy countries. As the graph below shows, however, other countries in the region have yet to achieve similar results.

It takes a village to tackle Indonesia’s early childhood development challenges

Thomas Brown's picture

“Indonesia’s future is at stake”, states Camilla Holmemo in her opening address at the Early Childhood Development Policy Conference, held in July 2017 in Jakarta. The program leader for human development, poverty and social development of the World Bank in Indonesia rallies the audience by highlighting the lack of access to early childhood education and development (ECED) services and the high incidence of child stunting in Indonesia.
Despite the country’s middle-income status, one in three children under five are stunted, the fifth highest rate in the world. For these children, the likelihood of becoming productive citizens is significantly hampered  – unless we do something about it now. 

Sustainable mobility and citizen engagement: Korea shows the way

Julie Babinard's picture
Suwon's EcoMobility Festival. Photo: Carlos Felipe Pardo
The discussion on climate change often tends to ignore one critical factor: people’s own habits and preferences. In urban transport, the issue of behavior change is particularly important, as the transition to low-carbon mobility relies in large part on commuters’ willingness to leave their cars at home and turn to greener modes such as public transit, cycling, or walking.
Getting people to make the switch is easier said than done: decades of car-centric development, combined with the persistence of the private car as a status symbol, have made it hard for policymakers to take residents out of their vehicles.
Against this backdrop, I was inspired to learn about the example of Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, a city of 1.2 million some 45km south of Seoul I visited on my last trip to the Republic of Korea.
Officials in Suwon have realized that, although awareness of climate change is becoming widespread, behavioral engagement hasn’t quite caught up. To overcome this challenge, the city decided to make sure residents could be directly involved in the design and implementation of its urban transport strategy.

Artificial intelligence for smart cities: insights from Ho Chi Minh City’s spatial development

Ran Goldblatt's picture
Zoning by Land Parcel (Source:

It’s amazing to see what technology can do these days! Satellites provide daily images of almost every location on earth, and computers can be trained to process massive amounts of data generated from them to produce insightful analysis/information. This is just one of the demonstrations of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can go beyond just reading images captured from space, it can help improve lives overall.

For urban governance, machine learning and AI are increasingly used to provide near real-time analysis of how cities change in practice – for example, through the conversion of green areas into built-up structures. By teaching computers what to look for in satellite images, rapidly expanding sources of satellite data (public and commercial), together with machine learning algorithms, can be leveraged to quickly reveal how actual city development aligns with planning and zoning or which communities are most prone to flooding. This provides insights beyond the basic satellite snapshots and time-lapse visualizations that can now be readily generated for any areas of interest.

But the barriers to applying these technologies can still seem daunting for many cities around the world. It’s not always clear how exactly to analyze this massive amount of satellite data, nor how to get access to it.

Getting to equal in Mongolia’s labor market (and leadership market)

Jim Anderson's picture
Photo: © World Bank

Yesterday morning I participated in the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event at the opening of the Mongolian Stock Exchange. A global event sponsored by the IFC and other partners*, the event highlights how economies and individual companies benefit from efforts to close gender gaps in their operations and governing structures.

Earlier I had dug out my notes from a survey of listed companies conducted in 1996.  Only 25 of the 249 companies we surveyed counted women as general directors. Today, women lead around six percent of the top 100 listed firms – that is, fewer than 20 years ago.  This does not mean that there has not been progress. The last time the World Bank Group enterprises surveys were done, Mongolia had a similar or larger share of firms with women in top management. This number is higher than the region’s average, but such leadership roles were more heavily weighted to smaller firms.  Whereas 31 percent of medium-sized firms – that is, those with 20-99 employees – had female top managers, only 17 percent of firms with over 100 employees had women in senior management.

Getting to equal at the top requires more systematic scrutiny of the factors that support or hinder women’s economic empowerment throughout their lives. No one is born a CEO.

So, where are the gender gaps?

How many companies are run by women, and why does it matter?

Masako Hiraga's picture

Happy International Women’s Day! This is an important year to celebrate – from global politics to the Oscars last weekend, gender equality and inclusion are firmly on the agenda.

But outside movies and matters of government, we see the effects on gender equality every day, in how we live and work. One area we have data on comes from companies: what share of firms have a female CEO or top manager?

Only 1 in 5 firms worldwide have a female CEO or top manager, and it is more common among the smaller firms. While this does vary by around the world – Thailand and Cambodia are the only two countries where the data show more women running companies than men.

Better representation of women in business is important. It ensures a variety of views and ideas are represented, and when the top manager of a firm is woman, that firm is likely to have a larger share of permanent female workers.

Why we must engage women and children in disaster risk management

Monica Vidili's picture

students in Bislig Elementary School in Leyte Province, Philippines

Disasters hit the poorest the hardest. Poor people are not only more vulnerable to climate-related shocks, but they also have fewer resources to prevent, cope with, and adapt to disasters. The poor tend to receive less support from family, community and financial systems, and even have less access to social safety nets, as a recent World Bank report explains.

So, yes, disasters can discriminate on the same lines that societies discriminate against people.

Disasters tend to discriminate along generational and gender lines, as well. Several studies analyzing the impact of disasters have revealed that women and children have greater risks to their survival and recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters. The vulnerability of women and children to natural disasters can be further aggravated by other elements of discrimination such as race, poverty, and disability.

During the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in the U.S., many women—especially women of color—decided to not evacuate risk areas despite all the warnings. Why? All over the world, women and girls are overwhelmingly tasked, personally and professionally, with caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. So, simple life-saving decisions, like discerning whether to evacuate a disaster area, can become a difficult choice.

Poverty and gender norms shape basic survival capabilities as well. For example, according to an Oxfam survey, four times as many women than men were killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the 2004 tsunami, because men were taught how to swim and climb trees at young ages, while women were not.

Access to food and nutritional conditions also determine people’s capacities to cope with disasters. Mercy Corps reports that women and men tend to adopt different resilience strategies during droughts in the Sahel region of Africa—and reducing food intake is one of them. In South and Southeast Asia, 45% to 60% of women of reproductive age are below their normal weight, and 80% of pregnant women have iron deficiencies. During food shortages, women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition because they have specific nutritional needs while pregnant or breast feeding. Women also sometimes consume fewer calories to give priority to men and children.

Disability inclusion - ensuring equal access to urban opportunities for all

Sameh Wahba's picture

What will the world look like in 2050?

What we know is that nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.
What we want, as envisioned through Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11), is that future cities are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable for all – including over one billion persons with disabilities.
In keeping with SDG11, the New Urban Agenda is striving to ensure that future cities, towns and basic urban infrastructures and services are more environmentally accessible, user-friendly, and inclusive of all people’s needs, including persons with disabilities.
[Immersive story: 3 Big Ideas to Achieve Sustainable Cities and Communities]
Cities need to be designed in a way that facilitates access for persons with disabilities to buildings and services, and increases their opportunities for economic participation and activity.

The need for disability-inclusive urban development cities was emphasized at the Ninth World Urban Forum (WUF9), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2018. Throughout the seven-day conference, participants from around the world highlighted, among other themes, the importance of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in urban development.
In this video, Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo (@McNhlapo), the World Bank’s Global Advisor for Disability Inclusion, interviews World Bank Director for Urban and Territorial Development and Disaster Risk Management, Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) on his reflections on the outcomes of WUF9.
In the interview, Sameh emphasizes the importance of “ensuring access for all, not just in the sense of access to transport and infrastructure, but also in the sense of creating opportunities for all, in particular for persons with disabilities.” 

Big challenges for big cats: Supporting wildlife law enforcement in Lao PDR

George Stirrett's picture
A clouded leopard in the Nam-Et Phou Louey National Protected Area, taken with a camera trap.
Photo: ©Wildlife Conservation Society

Lao PDR is rich with biodiversity. The country is home to emblematic animals such as Asian Elephants, Gaur, Green Peafowls, Asiatic Black Bears, and northern White-Cheeked Gibbons. Mountainous topography and low human density have allowed the country to preserve its endemic flora and fauna for centuries, to the extent that some species are still being identified like the Saola, one of the world’s rarest large mammals, only discovered in Laos in 1992.

But recent economic growth coupled with an exploding demand for wildlife and wildlife products have fueled increased pressure on Lao PDR’s native species. Forest encroachment, illegal logging and wildlife poaching have eroded biodiversity. Forest cover has declined dramatically since 1992, the number of wildlife species listed as endangered has increased, and some iconic species like tigers have not been sighted for years. At the same time, Lao PDR has become a gateway for international wildlife trafficking: illegal trafficking of ivory, pangolins and other CITES-listed items have transited through the country due to limited enforcement capacity.