By Julie Snyder
2016 is shaping up to be the year of the woman across the globe. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, gender equality has been pushed to the top of the 2030 agenda. Evidence suggests countries that support gender equality and women’s rights are more stable and more prosperous.
At the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos this January, the topic of gender inequality arose repeatedly, becoming the third most tweeted topic, following refugees and climate change. Globally, gender inequality remains an enormous challenge; according to the World Bank, only two countries out of 130 have reached gender parity at all levels of education, and women hold only 16.2 percent of ministerial-level positions globally.
These problems persist because gender is a highly complex socio-economic variable. Because gender intersects with many other variables, including class, education, and political systems, addressing the challenges associated with gender inequality requires coherent, deliberate solutions. Improving gender equality is key not only to enforcing and upholding human rights, but also to enabling economic development across the globe. Integrated development – intentional approaches to connect multi-sectoral, cross-disciplinary programs at each stage to magnify the intended effect – could be one answer to the multifaceted challenge of gender inequality.
While traditional development often manifests as discrete projects with a singular focus and funder, integrated development encourages collaboration and coordination across funders and sectors to address the complex, multivariable challenges inherent in many developing countries. In particular, integrated development has shown to be particularly useful for evolving ingrained behaviors associated with established gender roles. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has already incorporated integrated development approaches into its policy on gender equality and female empowerment. In Nepal, USAID’s Suaahara Project combines female empowerment, nutrition, and maternal health as its focus areas to counteract rampant malnutrition and constraining gender norms.
Nepalese women participating in the USAID Suaahara project shown with their young children. Suaahara, which takes an integrate development approach, has provided nutrition, hygiene, and maternal health training to Nepalese women since 2012. Photo by Valerie Caldas, USAID Suaahara Project.
By Moises Rendon
It’s no coincidence that Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Dubai have been beacons of economic progress. These areas have attracted the most important high-technology firms and received vast influxes of foreign direct investment (FDI) in recent years. The three share a successful history of operating as what is known as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a unique regulatory status which has facilitated rapid economic development. While China, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries have reaped the benefits of SEZs, South American countries have yet to realize the potential benefits SEZs might offer their economies.
An SEZ is a demarcated geographic area within a country’s national boundaries where the rules of business are different from those that prevail in the surrounding territory. Compared to the economic regulations of the host countries, these zones typically include more friendly investment conditions, such as tax and customs exemptions. The goal is to create a globally competitive economic area that, through cost reductions and administrative simplification, attracts corporate investments to encourage new economic activity.
Shenzhen was the first SEZ in China, and remains an economic hub.
By Miguel E. Eusse Bencardino
Water scarcity in the Middle East has long been an issue due to the area’s desert climate and lack of freshwater resources. While water access is a humanitarian issue, in this region it also carries enormous political importance. Despite efforts in previous peace negotiations to bring water security, more technical, institutional and political cooperation is needed. A new World Bank initiative aims to help spur this type of cooperation, with Israel at the helm.
Israel is internationally recognized for its ability to manage and deliver scarce water resources. Israel has built four desalination plants since 2005, and five more are expected to begin operations soon. Additionally, cooperation agreements with Jordan have improved the region’s water distribution infrastructure. Through desalinization of Mediterranean and Red Sea water (which accounts for 80% of Israel’s total water today), Israel has reached water stability.
Nitzana Desalinization Plant in Israel courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On June 17 Israel’s Ministry of Economy signed a $500,000 agreement with the World Bank to promote knowledge sharing on water issues through technical assistance, capacity building, and knowledge dissemination. Every World Bank Group member country aiming to improve its water resilience is eligible to participate; countries facing water stress are highly encouraged to take part.
By Ali Reza Sarwar
On June 22, the World Bank reported that Tunisia is losing at least US$1.2 billion due to tax evasion by enterprises belonging to well-connected elites. The report comes after the Tunisian government conducted a number of policy reviews to improve the tax collection system and stop further fraud.
The World Bank’s Development Policy Review explains that Tunisia’s tax collection system is fraught with complexity and under reports exports and imports. Furthermore, the system fails to capture revenue from the massive informal businesses sector, which has grown larger in recent years. Currently, tax revenues contribute to 20 percent of GDP and 80 percent of corporate taxation is made by only 1 percent of firms. This means that many corporations receive some form of political treatment or simply manage to operate outside of tax collection regulations.
Tunisians protest elite capture of the government during the Arab Spring. Photo courtesy of the World Bank.
This update on tax fraud comes at a time when Tunisia, once the region’s most thriving economy, is grappling with slow economic growth, rising unemployment, and frequent interruptions in overseas export markets. This includes Libya, Tunisia’s second economic partner after the European Union. Libya committed to supplying 25 percent of Tunisia’s fuel needs at a subsidized price, but cannot honor this agreement now. Additionally, a spate of recent terrorist attacks against tourists will serve as a blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, which accounted for 15.2 percent of GDP in 2014.
By Elizabeth Melampy
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was coined the “rape capital of the world” by UN Special Representative of Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom after her 2010 visit. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, 48 women are raped per hour in the DRC. This statistic, as well as public outcry to news coverage of a 2012 mass rape in Minova, DRC, led to the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).
As part of PSVI the UK organized a 2014 summit aimed at combatting sexual violence in conflict areas. Angelina Jolie, the special envoy for UNHRC and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague co-chaired the “Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Over 120 countries, more than 100 NGOs and other international partners, and nearly 900 experts from various fields attended the summit in London.
Thousands of Congolese live near Goma, DRC, where rape rates are still high. Photo courtesy of Marie Cacace/Oxfam 2012
According to the summit report, there were four major areas of focus: strengthening accountability, providing support for victims (especially children), integrating and promoting gender equality, and improving strategic international cooperation. These topics provided the framework for recommendations, which were general in nature due to the global focus of the summit. The summit ended with a vague Statement of Action.