Bangladesh Collaborates with China in Strengthening the Skills of its Youth

With its youthful workforce and the aspiration to be a developed country by 2041, Bangladesh emphasizes skills development to provide its people the ability to transform the country into a high productivity economy. To accelerate progress in this area, the government has been actively tapping into greater South-South cooperation, especially with other Asian countries.

Bangladesh and the China’s Yunnan Province’s partnership on the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) is one example. Following the International Skills Conference held in Dhaka held in March 2018, a  Bangladesh delegation, led by Mr. Md. Alamgir, Secretary of the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education, visited technical education institutions in Yunnan that are expected to receive students from Bangladesh.

Expert trainers in China will help their Bangladesh counterparts improve in the areas of student exchange, teachers’ professional development, and knowledge sharing among others. The agreement will mean that that the first cohort of 85 Bangladeshi students will be enrolled in the partnered Yunnan institutions with scholarships by September 2018.

It was also discussed that a national level agreement will be formulated between the two ministries of education to reflect the high level of cooperation, facilitated by the Embassy of China in Dhaka under the country level cooperation framework and Belt and Road initiative of China.

Bangladesh’s Skills and Training Enhancement Project, and China’s Yunnan Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project, were instrumental for the collaboration. Mr. Md Alamgir, stated that the government of Bangladesh is highly appreciative of the educational cooperation between China and Bangladesh and thanked the Yunnan delegation for extending the cooperation. The Yunnan delegation expressed interest to further this newly strengthened partnership.

The World Bank education team in Dhaka and Beijing have been working closely for strengthening and expanding the cooperation between Bangladesh and China. It is a wonderful example of cross-border collaboration in helping the clients with specific focus on south-south cooperation.

Stayed tuned for updates on the student experiences from China. We’re also looking for more education partnerships from Asia and around the world so please contact me at if you are interested in potentially partnering.

Your summer reading list: PPPs, human capital, and lessons from Iceland’s national soccer coach

It’s hard to believe summer is already half over. I am sure many of you, like me, have been stuck at your desks for most of July, but here’s hoping we all get out in the sun in August. But before you go, make note of these really interesting articles that have come out over the last few months that might just make the perfect porch reading for those looking to tune out, but still stay engaged.

The Road
The Globe & Mail

Highway BR-163 cuts a rough path through Brazil’s conflicting ambitions: to transform itself into an economic powerhouse and to preserve the Amazon as a bulwark against climate change. This beautifully presented story takes you along the 2,000-kilometer BR-163 corridor in Brazil’s Amazon region to look at the competing needs of those living along this important national artery. It’s not just about a road, but about development itself, and why balancing the economic and social needs of a nation and its people is no simple task.

The magic number of people needed to create social change
Fast Company

Your voice is louder and more meaningful than you think. That is the finding of a University of Pennsylvania study that tried to quantify how many people are needed to reach a tipping point in social norms (spoiler alert—it’s less than you might think!) So what does this have to do with PPPs? Well, despite delivering significant improvements to the quality of economic and social infrastructure, PPPs can lead to concern among stakeholders about a shift from public to private provision.  This places greater importance on communicating with different stakeholders to ensure information is shared, concerns are addressed, and to gain wider acceptance through genuine engagement versus a project having to confront a tipping point of opposition.

Iceland’s World Cup saga holds surprising lessons for policymakers
Opinion: Long-term thinking, cross-sector collaboration and trips to the pub played a role

This one’s just for fun, but there are also some interesting lessons about how Iceland implemented a clear strategy to make it more competitive on the global stage. Plus, the national coach holds “stakeholder consultations” with fans at the pub! That could help if you’re planning any social mobilization after reading the previous article!

The Human Capital Gap: Getting Governments to Invest in People
Foreign Affairs

 “Governments in pursuit of economic growth love to invest in physical capital—new roads, beautiful bridges, gleaming airports, and other infrastructure. But they are typically far less interested in investing in human capital, which is the sum total of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits.” 

This is the opening paragraph in an article written by World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, introducing the new human capital index being developed by the World Bank. Ensuring greater and more sustained investment in human capital will require concerted efforts to deliver vital social services and infrastructure. But unlike the upfront capex needed for “new roads and gleaming airports”, social infrastructure succeeds because of continual investment in the staffing, equipment, and medicines needed to deliver quality servicesInvesting in human capital could be the most important factor in attaining the SDGs, but it will need greater coordination among public, private, and non-profit service providers to ensure public goals are met. This is especially true for PPPs, where the private sector partners with governments to deliver public services. The key to success will be integrated and well-managed sectors that enable these different providers to maximize their comparative advantages to ensure all sectors of society have access to quality services.

Mapped: the childcare deserts where nearly half of Canada’s young kids live

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), an independent and non-partisan policy research institute, recently issued a report looking at childcare in Canada. CCPA mapped every licensed childcare facility in the country, comparing them against the number of children in a given postal code. The study found that roughly half of all pre-school aged children live in an area without enough childcare facilities to meet demographic demands. This highlights an important issue when it comes to delivering services—public and private provision tends to be concentrated in urban areas, while rural and remote areas have less access. Meeting the SDGs and the new human capital initiative will require policy makers to work in a coordinated manner with public, non-profit, and private service providers to maximize their areas of expertise and resources to ensure everyone has access. Sounds easy, but putting this into practice can be much harder. Can this kind of mapping exercise help by identifying shortfalls and opportunities?

Official Statistics in a Post-Truth World
The Data Blog (World Bank Group)

Speaking of data and its importance for informed policymaking, I found this article about the need for statisticians to do a better job of communicating data to policymakers and the public quite interesting. While it is written in the context of the global debate around “fake news” and our social media echo chamber, it is relevant for all of us working in development. I’ve worked as a Communication Officer in international development for nearly two decades. How we communicate about our work and the impact we have varies greatly across (and within) organizations. We issue dense reports, press releases, human interest stories, factsheets, and more reports(!), but often struggle to bring the data, expertise, and human insights together in an effective way. For me, data is not numbers. It is a story waiting to be told. A data set reflects thousands, if not millions, of people’s lives, their triumphs and struggles. This article is not about people or development, but about transparency and trust. For governments, development institutions, non-profits, or the private sector, trust is critical to the success of any project, and making sure facts are shared and communicated effectively will lead to better engagement and more successful and sustainable projects.

Investing in prevention: A new World Bank Group approach to crisis

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  This was his message to Philadelphians on how to avoid house fires, at a time when they were causing widespread damage to the city and its people.

His words ring true today, as we face global crises – natural disasters, pandemics, violent conflicts, financial crises, and more – that hit rich and poor countries alike, and have lasting consequences especially for the world’s most vulnerable people. They can take the lives of millions of people and cost the world trillions of dollars in damages and lost potential.

When crisis hits, it makes headlines. Recall the 2013-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which took 11,000 lives and cost $2.2 billion in economic damage.  Or the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which pushed an estimated 64 million people into poverty.

Fragile countries feel the impacts even more acutely—with limited institutional capacity and resources, a single catastrophe can make the effects of others significantly worse. The world simply cannot afford to continue down this road.

When crisis is averted, it rarely makes headlines. Yet research tells us that preparing for and preventing crisis is the best investment the international community can make. In fact, for each $1 invested in prevention, about $16 is saved down the road. 

What if we could better forecast risks and prevent crises in more countries? What if we could help countries avert crises altogether? We have been asking ourselves these questions for some time, and last week, with the launch of the World Bank Group’s Global Crisis Risk Platform, our member countries endorsed our strategy to do better to prevent catastrophes before they unfold.

For years, our humanitarian partners have been at the forefront of responding quickly and efficiently to global crises. They feed the hungry, clothe and shelter the homeless, heal the sick and much more. In my previous role as the EU’s Humanitarian Commissioner, I saw first-hand the sheer magnitude of need in the aftermath of crises, and the critical importance of swift response.

At the same time, the World Bank has decades of experience supporting countries on risk prevention and preparedness, response, and recovery and reconstruction, with an eye toward long-term development. We have complemented the work of humanitarian agencies by providing advice, analysis, and financing, and by bringing all the necessary voices around the table to help countries in crisis forge ahead.

When humanitarian and development agencies work together and act quickly, we can prevent crises, lessen their impacts, and save lives.

Take the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo this past May. When the outbreak came to light, the government responded immediately, working with international partners like the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Days later, the government announced that it needed about $56 million to fully finance three months of outbreak response. Within two days, the plan was fully financed, with the World Bank contributing $27 million – including through a $12 million grant from the newly-created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. Instead of developing into a full-blown pandemic, I’m thrilled to say that as of July 25, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been declared Ebola-free.

And last spring and summer, famine threatened people in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and in Yemen. We worked alongside front-line humanitarian partners like UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and others to rally the $1.8 billion in funds needed to feed and protect those at risk. Today, millions of children are alive and fed instead of suffering from a prolonged famine.

Our aim with the Global Crisis Risk Platform is to make prevention everyone’s business. We will of course continue to respond to serious crises, but at the same time we will use our expertise to help countries identify and reduce risks and be resilient, and strengthen our ability to mitigate multidimensional risks before they turn into full-blown crises.

What does this mean in action? It means that we are gathering new and more useful evidence, including using artificial intelligence, geo-spatial monitoring and other technology, to identify countries facing the greatest risks. We are mitigating risks through our operations, and incorporating prevention and preparedness into our clients’ development strategies. We are developing and using innovative financing mechanisms to prevent and respond swiftly to global crises. And we are collaborating across our institution and with partners, including the UN, humanitarian partners, and the private sector, to ensure that the solutions we offer are making a difference for those most vulnerable, especially the poorest.

This is mission critical for the World Bank. We must and we will do better for people living in the world’s most perilous environments, and that starts with crisis prevention.

The potential of the Blue Economy

While working in the Galápagos Islands in the late 1980s, I saw the interplay between the many interests on the islands: local fishermen taking advantage of the rich waters around in the archipelago; the research community building on the evolutionary theories discovered by Charles Darwin; the tourism sector responding to an ever-growing interest in the accessible and unique wildlife and fauna; and the rights of the Ecuadorian state to benefit from this national asset. Finding a way to balance these – sometimes conflicting – interests in a manner that allows for sustainable and equitable growth is what we today call the Blue Economy.

The blue economy provides food, jobs, water, and is a source of economic growth. It provides the livelihood for hundreds of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. By one estimate, it generates USD 3-6 trillion to the world economy. If it were a country, the oceanic economy would be the seventh largest in the world.

But oceans face major challenges. Almost a third of the global fish stock are overfished. Climate change is impacting ecosystems in both the oceans and along the coast line. Unbridled development in sensitive coastal areas create irreparable erosion. Pollution and marine litter from both land and marine sources threaten the health of our oceans – including its biodiversity – which may have large implications on food supply and pose potential risks to human health through the food chain, albeit not yet well understood.

The good news is that the global community is responding. The first ever United Nations Ocean Conferencein 2017, the G7-meeting in Canada in June this year and the upcoming Blue Economy Conference in Kenya are but a few indications that we are collectively taking the challenge seriously. And when the international community agreed on a joint roadmap for global development – the Sustainable Development Goals – the ocean got its own goal (SDG 14) with clear targets and indicators. Countries such as Canada, Fiji, Germany, Grenada, Kenya, Norway, Portugal, Sweden are showing the way through national and global leadership.

To help guide these efforts, the UN, the World Bank and 15 other global stakeholders agreed on a way to frame the Blue Economy concept, to create common language that facilitates action. In The Potential of the Blue Economy, the report identified five types of activities: harvesting and trade of marine living resources; extraction and use of marine non-living resources; use of renewable non-exhaustible natural forces (blue energy); commerce and trade in and around the oceans; and those activities that indirectly contribute to the economy, such as carbon sequestration, coastal protection, waste disposal and biodiversity.

The way forward is an economic development of the oceans that is both inclusive and environmentally sound: it should be undertaken in a manner that does not deplete the natural resources that societies – including local communities – depend on in the long term. To balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in relation to oceans are the driving considerations behind Blue Economy.

We need to break with “business as usual” and think differently. We need to take advantage of new technologies that can offer new solutions, such as mobile technology that allows for better data on fish landings and fish stock health. We need to integrate long-term thinking into financial decisions by using tools such as marine spatial planning and natural capital accounting. International finance should be offered products that allow them to contribute, e.g. through blue bonds, as is being done by the Seychelles. Efforts to strengthen fishing sectors in poor and vulnerable countries should be encouraged to ensure sustainable and legal fishing practices as well as greater local value creation, such as in the Solomon Islands. And ambitious waste and water treatment investments – such as Indonesia’s USD 1 billion program affecting some 50 million people – should be supported and celebrated.

The World Bank is deeply committed to supporting the blue economy, with a blue portfolio of USD 2.6 billion in investments, through important knowledge work such as the Sunken Billions reports, as well as by supporting improved governance, fiscal and financial reforms at local, national and global levels.

Together with the United Nations and other partners, we are looking forward to working with member states and other stakeholders to respond to existing challenges and to design a way forward that allow for sustainable economic growth making the most from the oceans – building on the experience with green growth – including in unique areas such as the Galápagos Islands.