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  • Author: Matthew Eldridge
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Even as many developing countries are confronting the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are already bracing for the widespread, global recession that will follow. These countries already struggle to provide many services and supports to their citizens, and although the emergency assistance packages of international financial institutions are a start, they alone won’t be enough to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 and enable a strong recovery. Although most developing countries escaped the 2007–08 financial crisis with limited damage, for many, this economic downturn is expected to be much worse because of the direct health effects, the sharp decline in global economic activity, the structural composition of their economies, and constrained policy options.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: H. Elizabeth Peters, Shirley Adelstein, Robert Abare
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Women around the world face barriers to participating in the labor force, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Addressing these barriers in low-income countries can improve both women’s well-being and the countries’ entire economies (PDF). Building on Urban’s prior research, we recently completed a systematic review (PDF) of qualitative studies of women’s labor force participation and upward mobility. We focused on studies of the higher-productivity, male-dominated sectors of commercial agriculture, mining, and trade and found studies from 18 low-income countries, mostly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America. Barriers to economic empowerment observed by the studies were far ranging, including gender-related laws, violence and sexual harassment, and limited access to land, technology, technology skills, credit and capital, and social and business networks. But one of the strongest and most consistent findings from our review was the influence of social norms about gender.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Women, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Matthew Eldridge
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The United Nations projects that by 2050, urban areas will swell in size by 2.5 billion people, with 90 percent of that growth occurring in Asia and Africa. Urbanization presents significant development benefits—boosting innovation, human capital accumulation, and access to opportunities—but it also strains existing physical infrastructure, social services, and public health systems. To manage the challenges and maximize the benefits of rapid growth, national and municipal governments, civil society, and development partners (among others) must weigh interrelated financial, political, cultural, economic, and technical considerations. For many, the big question is whether cities should build anew in urban peripheries or retrofit and reinvest in urban cores. At a recent event hosted by the Urban Institute, in partnership with the World Bank, experts considered this question through the lens of one rapidly growing city: Dhaka, Bangladesh, examined in a new World Bank report, Toward Greater Dhaka.
  • Topic: Development, Economic Growth, Urban
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Global Focus
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Over the next decade, cities in developing markets will drive global economic expansion. McKinsey predicts that 440 cities in emerging markets will generate half of all growth through 2025. To realize the potential of urbanization, developing cities need to become denser, easier to navigate, and more adept at using data to deliver public services. Inefficient public transit has posed a significant challenge to urban areas around the world. 1.2 billion trips are made using public transit every day, but the share of trips via public transit has declined in developing cities from 35.5 percent in 1995 to 23.7 percent in 2012.
  • Topic: Development, Economic Growth, Cities, Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Janet Malzahn
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: As the global refugee crisis persists, refugees continue to leave war-ravaged countries and increase the strain on the world’s philanthropic sector. Conflicts and instability have expelled more than 68 million men, women, and children from their homes. With widening funding gaps and no resolution in sight, the international humanitarian system must tap into new sources of funding, resources, and expertise to care for the expanding population of displaced people. The private sector can, and should, help address this crisis. By partnering with humanitarian organizations, for-profit companies offer a unique perspective and wealth of resources to help refugees. These socially responsible partnerships, which we've documented and cataloged, engage the private sector in humanitarian efforts by giving them the opportunity to generate gains for their business while also producing value for refugees by joining with mission-driven non-profits. These partnerships are more likely to provide meaningful and ongoing help to refugees if they are profitable for businesses.
  • Topic: Development, Humanitarian Aid, Refugee Crisis, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Matthew Eldridge, Chloe Hauenstein
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. At the current pace, the world will fall short of meeting one of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs): to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Accelerating to meet the SDGs for water and sanitation will cost as much as $166 billion a year for capital expenditures alone. Although critical to global efforts, utilities and municipalities serving the poorest households face three large hurdles, resulting in a funding gap that prevents them from meeting customers’ demand for clean water: They often cannot cover their operational and maintenance costs through existing tariffs and transfers alone. Higher tariffs, without improved service, would create an unsustainable burden for the poorest households, who may prefer not to connect to piped services at all. Operating at a loss, these utilities are not creditworthy and cannot tap private finance to make needed investments.
  • Topic: Poverty, World Health Organization, Water, Funding
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret, Harsh Parikh, Rachel Wilder
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The United Nations designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and for good reason. The tourism industry generates 10.2 percent of global GDP and employs 1 in 10 workers. Women make up more than half of the tourism workforce, which makes the industry’s growth a unique opportunity to empower women across the world. But we need additional data to better understand how women intersect with this burgeoning industry.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Tourism, Women, Partnerships, International Development
  • Political Geography: Africa, Botswana, Global Focus
  • Author: G. Thomas Kingsley
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Cities in developing countries are growing massively and at a pace that would not have been thought possible a few decades ago. Accommodating the new, largely poor, urban dwellers may be one of the greatest challenges of human history. A data revolution could support new ways of addressing this challenge. But United Nations agencies are so far just thinking about using data to track progress. In 2015, the United Nations adopted an ambitious new agenda for global development, and its proponents called for a data revolution to help achieve its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The challenge of rapid urbanization is a priority in the SDGs, as it is in the companion New Urban Agenda adopted by the United Nations’ Habitat III conference in late 2016. But to achieve the aims of these agendas, we need to use data in ways that will make change happen, not just track it. We need to get the data, tools, and training to the programs, people, and community leaders responsible for achieving the new goals. They are the ones whose work will decide whether the world’s urban future will be a story of inclusion and prosperity or a tragedy (over a billion people living in abject poverty in urban slums with scant water supply, sanitation, or other services—and highly at risk of environmental disaster).
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Solomon Greene, Sarah Rosen Wartell
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: A century ago, 1 in 10 people lived in urban areas; today, it’s more than half. By 2050, that fraction will rise to two thirds of the world’s population as cities of all sizes swell to accommodate an estimated 2.5 billion more urban dwellers. What will cities look like in the future? Next week, researchers from the Urban Institute will join global leaders at the United Nations’ historic Habitat III conference to take stock of our progress in creating sustainable cities that meet the needs of all residents, and to get ahead of anticipated changes that will create both opportunities and challenges for city dwellers, our nations, and our planet.
  • Topic: Development, Urban, Cities
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Benjamin Edwards, Loren Landau
  • Publication Date: 09-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The world is in the midst of a historic refugee crisis. In 2015, over 65 million people were forcibly displaced—19.5 million of them international refugees living outside their home countries. While the United States hopes to welcome up to 110,000 refugees next year, the scale of the crisis demands a larger and more creative response. Formal humanitarian approaches have focused on refugee camps and direct humanitarian aid, but cities and urban areas play a central role in hosting and protecting displaced persons. Today, only one-third of the world's refugees live in camps. Of the approximately 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, nearly 90 percent live in urban environments. Given the nature of the current crisis, what can humanitarian organizations do differently to address refugee concerns in urban areas? And what unique opportunities might arise by focusing on cities in addition to camps?
  • Topic: Refugees, Displacement, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Global Focus
  • Author: Jonah Lefkoe, Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: As the world’s greatest athletes, brave tourists, and the eyes of a global TV audience (London 2012 brought 3.6 billion global viewers, and Rio is expected to break viewership records in the United States) descend on Rio for the 2016 Olympics, Brazil’s political troubles and urban infrastructure are also in the spotlight. Awarding the Olympics to Rio was not a completely foolish act. In 2009, when Brazil won its Olympic bid, the country was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis faster than the United States and enacting new social programs to further assist its poor populations. From 2003 to 2014, 29 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, fell 11 percent. When the International Olympic Committee announced Brazil’s selection as the Olympic host, Brazilians threw a party on Copacabana Beach, and then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) declared a new era for Brazil’s progress.
  • Topic: Development, Poverty, Governance, Sports, Olympics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Arjan de Haan, Alejandra Vargas Garcia
  • Publication Date: 06-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Throughout the world, economic opportunities are less available to women than to men. Not only is the worldwide female labor force participation rate lower than it is for men, working women earn 10 to 30 percent less than their male counterparts. The share of girls who enroll and complete primary school remains less than boys'. Women hold only 22 percent of national parliament seats around the world. In a recent World Bank study, 90 percent of 173 surveyed countries had at least one law (e.g., prohibitions on women taking up certain jobs) preventing women from taking full advantage of economic opportunities. While gender equality has improved in some respects, minimizing gender-based violence, early and forced marriages, and property-rights violations will take more work. The full realization of women’s economic potential is essential for achieving the ambitious United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which will drive the global development agenda until 2030.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Women, Sustainable Development Goals, Business , Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Solomon Greene, Benjamin Edwards, G. Thomas Kingsley
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Cities are where sustainable development challenges like poverty and disaster risk are felt most acutely, particularly as the world’s population shifts to urban areas. But cities can also be incubators for the policies to address those challenges, and local leaders increasingly hold the keys to fostering inclusive growth and mitigating climate change. Fortunately, city leaders across the globe are rallying behind sustainable development in all its dimensions: environmental sustainability, economic opportunity, and social inclusion. Mayors and local leaders were instrumental in securing a dedicated goal on inclusive and sustainable cities in the United Nations’s 2030 Agenda and framework of 17 high-level Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), signed by all member states at a historic summit last September. Since then, hundreds of local leaders have made commitments to support SDGs in their cities, forming new global networks and designing local implementation plans.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, Sustainable Development Goals, Cities
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: It may be difficult in the current political season to welcome news that international development agencies are paying more attention to the politics of reform when designing their assistance programs to poor countries. But we should be relieved that agencies like the World Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development, and our own US Agency for International Development are doing just that. For too long, aid programs operated with the convenient fiction that assistance work was purely technical. The premise of many programs was “simply transfer missing knowledge, skills, or cash to people in the foreign government or local organizations, and they could adopt policies and programs to promote growth and reduce poverty."
  • Topic: Poverty, Foreign Aid, International Development, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Benjamin Edwards, Mohammad Hamze
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The world’s urban population is projected to add 2.5 billion people by 2050, with nearly 90 percent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. The provision of safe, clean drinking water in urban settings is a high priority for international development, and justifiably so. Drinking water that is protected from contamination improves health, education, and economic growth, yet roughly 150 million urban dwellers do not have access, with numbers on the rise. Fortunately, the problem has not gone unrecognized. An expansive body of work explores the causes of water market failures and the policy interventions national governments can use to mitigate them. This body of work, however, has paid less heed to local governments’ role in implementing those policies, a critical link in the chain of service provision.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Water, Cities
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Jameson Boex, Benjamin Edwards
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: As we approach this year’s deadline for achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the global development community is trying to decide how to make the new targets for 2030 more responsive and appropriate to local needs. An important piece of this debate concerns the role of local governments, and how local spending on public services such as health care and education could promote human welfare. A growing body of research explores this relationship, but so far the focus of most studies has been limited to spending by elected local governments, with the assumption that this type of local spending is the only type that matters. Yet many local entities responsible for service delivery in the developing world are not elected. Excluding resources provided directly by central government ministries or their local administrative arms ignores a rich and complicated story of how different levels of government interact to provide basic services.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Government, Health
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Julia Hagen
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Readers love lists, especially city rankings. There are lists that rank the world’s leading cities of opportunity, the most sustainable cities, the bike-friendliest cities, the top shopping cities, and even the most competitive cities in the future. What they all share is an attempt to measure cities. But what defines a city? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. Every year, leading corporations fund the publication of an increasingly large number of benchmarking studies, which generate significant interest in the media. Even the UN has jumped on this bandwagon by adapting, for the first time, an urban goal within the Sustainable Development Goals framework. However, the basic question of what constitutes a city is often defined inconsistently across rankings. This could leave general-interest readers and policymakers, confused, or worse—misled.
  • Topic: United Nations, Urbanization, Sustainable Development Goals, Cities
  • Political Geography: Global Focus