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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: Reehana Raza, Karuti Kanyinga, Akanshaka Ray
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: On August 8, 2017, Kenya held its first elections since creating 47 new county governments in 2013 under a constitution promulgated in 2010. The elections were intensely contested both at the national and local level. Disputes over presidential results, amid allegations of fraud, saw Kenya’s new apex court, the Supreme Court, annul the August 8 presidential election. The court ordered a fresh presidential poll, which was held on October 26, 2017. Meanwhile, more than 20 local governorship results were legally contested, with multiple cases being taken all the way to the Supreme Court. These elections and the violence that followed the disputed presidential election created long periods of uncertainty across Kenya’s national and local government. In Wajir county, the election result for governor was contested for almost 20 months, until the Supreme Court ruled last February that the election was valid. Political transition generally creates uncertainty for bureaucrats, but prolonged transition periods exacerbate uncertainty and paralyze government functions. An annual survey and a technical report by partners implementing a project funded by the US Agency for International Development and the UK Department for International Development, Agile Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI), assesses how 22 Kenyan counties are improving their capacity to efficiently provide services to citizens. The most recent 2018 assessment shows how the 2017 elections undermined counties’ ability to sustain and maintain capacity-building initiatives.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Elections, Transition
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa
  • 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: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret, Daiki Akiyoshi
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: In Nairobi, Kenya, technological advances like Uber have brought positive disruption and significant benefits to consumers. The country has been called the Silicon Savannah for having hatched various technological innovations. But in some parts of Kenya, it’s not uncommon to wait for hours to get a stable Internet connection. In the capitals of Madagascar and Burkina Faso, where smartphone and computer ownership is still low, people have to go to cybercafés to access the Internet, usually on run-down computers with old software, and even then, connection speeds may be painfully slow. Slow connection speeds and lack of Internet access aren’t just a hassle though, they’re signs of the digital divide that sets many African countries behind. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 provides an in-depth analysis of countries’ access to and use of the Internet, mobile phones, and tools to collect, store, analyze, and share information digitally. We revisited the latest data and observed a persistent digital divide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa, Madagascar, Burkina Faso
  • 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: 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: Benjamin Edwards, Jonah Lefkoe
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: At tomorrow’s White House Summit on Global Development, President Obama will convene stakeholders in international development to celebrate the administration’s successes and plan for its legacy. The Obama administration has reformed the development goals and how we implement development activities. Revisions to the goals include sector initiatives like Power Africa, Feed the Future, the President’s Global Climate Change Initiative, and Let Girls Learn—results-focused projects that have filled gaps in our development policies. Changes to implementation include President Obama’s landmark 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, the USAID (US Agency for International Development) Forward reforms derived from that directive, and his recent signature on the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016. These initiatives are changing the way US development efforts are conducted, reimagining development with a focus on process and adaptability. The White House has laid out two goals for the summit: institutionalize the administration’s reforms, and recommit to expanding dignity and opportunity for all. To go beyond a well-earned celebration of progress already made, the event’s agenda should include three things.
  • Topic: Development, Urban, Barack Obama, USAID
  • Political Geography: North America
  • Author: Solomon Greene
  • Publication Date: 06-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity. This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the plan’s insistence on grounding poverty-reduction policies in the best available evidence. The evidence shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. Better understanding the mechanisms by which zip codes determine destiny and identifying effective strategies to sever the connection between poverty and place should be central to any federal antipoverty plan.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Poverty
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Jasmina Pless
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: An estimated 1.5 billion people live on less than $1 per day—the majority of whom are women. The “the feminization of poverty,” the worldwide gap between women and men trapped in poverty, has grown during the past decade. As developing countries continue to urbanize, uneven access to public services prevents women from taking full advantage of the newly available economic opportunities. Despite women’s improved overall labor force participation, they often end up with lower paying, precarious jobs—often in the informal economy. In Pakistan for instance, three-quarters of women engaged in non-agriculture jobs work in the informal economy without laws or public policies to protect them. That’s an estimated 8.5 million domestic workers. Governments typically clamp down on informal establishments by shutting them down or simply ignore their existence. The lack of appropriate legal or regulatory systems further increases women’s vulnerability to exploitation through low wages or lack of employment protections. Women are seldom viewed as productive economic agents as they are outside the tax net.
  • Topic: Development, Women, Economic Growth, Informal Economy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • 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