Search

You searched for: Content Type Commentary and Analysis Remove constraint Content Type: Commentary and Analysis Publishing Institution Urban Institute Remove constraint Publishing Institution: Urban Institute
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: Harvey Galper, Reehana Raza
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: On March 13, Kenya reported its first case of COVID-19, and an additional 649 cases were reported in the following two months. As the pandemic spreads, Kenya’s policymakers are facing the first significant challenge to the country’s nascent intergovernmental system and will have to prioritize how to spend the country’s scarce resources amid existing fiscal constraints. Established in 2013, Kenya’s decentralized government structure gives the country’s 47 counties the primary responsibility of delivering health care services to their citizens. But historical and geographical factors have led to substantial variation across counties in both health care capacity and risk of contracting the coronavirus. To make critical decisions to control the pandemic, Kenya’s policymakers will need not only accurate data on the spread of the coronavirus but also county-specific data and analyses on health care capacity and population risk. With such county-level data, the national government can flatten the curve and better allocate the country’s limited resources in line with individual counties' circumstances.
  • Topic: Health, Population, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa
  • 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: Alex Tammaro, Alex Katz
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Despite India’s strong economic growth, women’s labor force participation in India has decreased—from 33 percent in 2005, to 27 percent in 2010, to 24 percent in 2019. Even with increased investment in women’s access to education and professional opportunity, women are leaving the labor market, dampening economic productivity and innovation. So why are women opting out? Bhavani Arabandi offered answers in a presentation to Urban Institute staff titled Karma and the Myth of the Indian Superwoman. Arabandi spoke to highly skilled, highly educated Indian women as part of an ethnographic study to determine why they step away from lucrative, fulfilling careers. She examined how structural barriers—the disadvantages, constraints, and discouragement women face—are “treated as normal by society and often internalized.”
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Economic Growth, Participation
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Cade McCurdy, Harvey Galper, Reehana Raza
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: For national governments around the world, effective budgeting depends on accurate revenue forecasts. Revenue forecasts are estimates of what governments will collect from various sources, such as income taxes, value-added taxes, corporate taxes, and excises, which together determine the funds available to allocate to various public programs. If revenues are significantly overestimated in the budgetary process, the results can be unexpected borrowing, high debt-service costs, and cutbacks in these important governmental services. Under Kenya’s newly decentralized government structure, accurate revenue forecasting has become more important than ever. Kenya’s new constitution, approved in 2010, decentralized the country’s government structure and created 47 county governments, each responsible for a broad range of programs and services. Counties’ execution of these programs depends heavily on funds from the national government.
  • Topic: Government, Budget, Economic Growth, Revenue Management
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa
  • Author: Matthew Eldridge, Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: This summer, several hundred asylum seekers—most fleeing violence in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—arrived in Portland, Maine, igniting a debate on how to support these new arrivals, most of whom have immediate housing and service needs, as well as issues related to trauma and navigating a new country, and whether to encourage more immigration to bridge local labor shortages. The responsibility of providing services for asylum seekers—unlike refugees, who have access to some supports—falls into a gray area without clearly delineated roles for local, state, and federal government agencies. If granted asylum, these individuals would be eligible for federal supports, but that process could take months or years. Capacity constraints among local service providers are limiting their ability to expand services to meet these new needs. Although there may be long-term, quantifiable benefits for integrating these new, mostly younger residents into communities with workforce needs, the short-to-medium-term integration and support costs, coupled with unclear funding responsibilities and tight budgets, present barriers to action.
  • Topic: Refugees, Asylum, Integration
  • Political Geography: Africa, North America, Angola, United States of America, Congo
  • 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: 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: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret, Jacques Lévesque
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Across Africa, there is increasing public investment in strategies to promote government transparency and empower citizens to hold their leaders accountable. Achieving transparency, however, is a formidable challenge, especially given constraining political contexts in some sub-Saharan African countries, a third of which have been ruled by a single party for several decades.
  • Topic: Government, Democracy, Accountability, Investment, Transparency
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tanzania
  • 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: Ammar A. Malik, Yasemin Irvin-Erickson, Faisal Kamiran
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: As cities around the world invest billions in new mass transit systems, people’s experiences and fears of victimization in public spaces cause gender disparities in accessibility. Gendered social norms regarding women’s traditional role in society and control over income further limits women’s access to mass transit systems. Although fear of crime affects all transit users, sexual harassment and victimization is a larger concern for women and girls, and it restricts their mobility and hampers access to economic opportunity. As we learn more about this problem, we are looking for solutions, including technology, that can lower the risk of victimization and help women feel more safe on public transit.
  • Topic: Crime, Science and Technology, Women, Gender Based Violence , Urban
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Jared Stolove
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The World Health Organization has identified Southeast Asia as the region of the world with the highest rates of domestic violence, with 37.7 percent of women experiencing spousal abuse. This troubling statistic deserves the attention of policymakers and nongovernmental organizations looking to reduce domestic abuse. But those designing interventions should not treat this region as a monolith. Recent research has highlighted that domestic violence is the result of community- and individual-level factors. Although certain socioeconomic groups, such as the impoverished and the poorly educated, are generally more likely to be the victims of domestic violence, the factors that put individual women at risk of abuse vary across communities. Policymakers aiming to reduce spousal violence must be conscious of local context when designing interventions. Otherwise, policymakers risk using valuable resources on ineffective projects that do not address the root causes of domestic violence. Recent fieldwork by the Urban Institute profiles how different the causes of domestic violence can be, even among similar socioeconomic groups.
  • Topic: Women, Gender Based Violence , Cities, Domestic Violence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia, India
  • Author: Ammar A. Malik, Harsh Parikh
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Urban residents around the world know that housing close to mass transit commands a price premium. Living near transit stations saves residents time and money, which is reflected in rents. Studies evaluating the impact of bus rapid transit (BRT) services in Beijing, China, and Brisbane, Australia, have found rents of properties near stations to be 10 and 20 percent higher than those farther away. The value of properties within six miles of mass urban transit are known to increase two to three times faster than those outside. But does this relationship hold true everywhere? And what factors complicate it?
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Transportation, Rent, Public Service
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • 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: Ammar A. Malik, Hadia Majid
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world, and at least two in five Pakistanis will live in urban areas by 2020. But, as in the rest of South Asia, rapid urbanization in Pakistan is “messy” and hidden. A large-scale informal economy and poor public service delivery is dampening the potential productivity benefits of agglomeration. Seventy-eight percent of nationwide nonagricultural jobs are in the informal economy, and some 22 million people are in such roles, most of them women. Most of an estimated 8.5 million mostly unregulated domestic workers are also women. Underdeveloped and unenforced work regulations make women disproportionately more susceptible to exploitive working conditions. They are poorly compensated and forced to work in hazardous circumstances without proper social or legal protections. Beyond the ambit of taxation, they are seldom considered productive economic agents and are relegated as secondary contributors to the economy. These issues with urbanization and informal economies are not unique to Pakistan. All South Asian countries have similar problems. But overall gender disparities in Pakistan are considerably higher than the regional average, and the fact that more women are poor than men poses a particular challenge for women in Pakistan’s urban informal sector.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Urbanization, Women, Economy, Informal Economy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret, Sarra Souid
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Last month, a leaked US State Department budget document raised concerns around whether the Trump administration plans to eliminate funding for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. These concerns were allayed by the budget released this week that maintains the office and gives it more funding. This reprieve from the general cuts in the foreign assistance budget is welcome, but the fact that the office still lacks an appointed leader from the new administration raises questions about what—if any—strategy the United States will implement in this important area.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Women, International Development
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • 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: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret, Ammar A. Malik, Nan Marie Astone, H. Elizabeth Peters
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Worldwide, only about one in two women work, compared with three in four men. In some low-income countries, such as Zimbabwe and Madagascar, the labor force participation rate for women has reached 90 percent, but these women are often underemployed. Hard economic circumstances often force them to be self-employed or work in small enterprises that are unregulated and unregistered. About 83 percent of all domestic workers in the world are women, most of whom work in precarious conditions. Women also do much more unpaid work than men, including caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities; contributing to family farms or businesses; and performing household chores such as collecting water or gathering firewood. Improving women’s livelihoods constitutes basic human rights protection. But could including more women in the labor force also stimulate economic growth, enhance business competitiveness, and improve well-being? We recently conducted a review of evidence to answer that question and found that reducing the gender pay gap and equalizing access to economic opportunities and resources are good for economic, social, and business development. For example, some firms that purposefully reduced gender discrimination and supported family-friendly policies attracted more talented workers, improved retention rates, and decreased employee stress, resulting in enhanced productivity.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Africa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar
  • 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: Fenohasina Rakotondrazaka Maret
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The quality of public-service delivery in developing countries depends on accountability for public-sector employees, but what does it take to make accountability the norm rather than the exception? According to the 2004 World Development Report, the long route of improving service delivery involves accountability through political mechanisms like the electoral system and politicians’ oversight. But the short route—accountability through the direct relationships between service providers, clients, and the local community—can often be just as effective. Social service delivery is still weak in many developing countries, particularly those in Africa, but increasing accountability could make a difference.
  • Topic: Education, Health Care Policy, Accountability, Economic Development , Public Service
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tanzania
  • Author: Madeline Roth, Ammar A. Malik
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Cities are widely regarded as engines of economic growth. Their ability to attract and retain talent and financial capital drives productivity and the well-being of societies. But cities across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, two of the world’s most populous and rapidly urbanizing regions, are unable to provide basic services to most of their residents. Countries with greater levels of urbanization have traditionally enjoyed greater prosperity, but the rise of poor megacities in recent years has cast doubts on this relationship. By 2040, over half the world’s poor earning less than $1 per day are expected to live in cities. To realize their full economic potential, cities must offer quality public amenities, modern urban infrastructure, and widely accessible basic public services such as water and sanitation. What factors prevent cities from better serving residents? And what can city governments do improve the status quo?
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Urbanization, Economic Growth, Public Service
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia
  • 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, 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: 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
  • Author: Luke Fuller
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Africa is on the move. Cities across the continent are continuing to grow, shrink, and transform in response to the demographic and economic pressures that drive urban migration. By conservative estimates, every hour Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is growing by 47 people; Kinshasa, DR Congo by 53 people; and Lagos, Nigeria by 58. Today about 40 percent of Africans are city dwellers, and that number will rise to nearly 60 percent by 2050 as sub-Saharan cities swell with 800 million new residents. This tremendous shift in where people live represents a major opportunity to guide development, but it also raises important questions. In places where land is scarce and expensive, how do urban migrants find a foothold? What opportunities or anchors do people use to establish themselves in the city? How do they buy or rent land for their own use and welfare? And what does this mean for governments?
  • Topic: Demographics, Urban, Cities, Migrant Workers
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Caroline Smith, Luke Fuller
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Of the world’s 10.5 million refugees, just one-third reside in camps. This figure turns on its head the common perception that refugees live in rural camp settings and begs the question: where are the other seven million refugees? The short answer is that many refugees and displaced peoples make their way to cities or other communities in pursuit of better opportunities for employment and education, to join existing ethnic or familial social networks, and to gain some level of security not available to them in settlements. However, host country policies designed to protect and support refugees often apply only to those residing in settlements, implicitly discouraging refugees from moving into urban areas. So if policies largely overlook the existence of urban refugees, how do governments, humanitarian agencies, civil society organizations, and others plan, implement, and coordinate efforts to ensure that this massive segment of the refugee population is cared for?
  • Topic: Government, Refugees, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • 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
  • Author: Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: The prime ministers of Kosovo and of Serbia initialed an agreement Friday to normalize relations between their two countries. This accomplishment—at the last hour and under the careful and forceful leadership of the EU’s Catherine Ashton—does not, by itself, reconcile the long-standing enmity between neighbors in Kosovo, a territory now recognized by 90 countries as a nation. The devil is in the implementation details yet to be worked out.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Negotiation, Normalization
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Kosovo, Serbia
  • Author: Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: All eyes are on Kenya today as some 14 million citizens are expected to vote for an array of candidates for president and other offices. The world hopes to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008 that killed some 1,500 people and created as many as 600,000 refugees, a trauma that lingers even five years later. Indeed, one candidate and his running mate are under indictment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for their role in the 2008 violence. Nonetheless, at a rally last weekend, six presidential candidates held hands and committed to accept the results of the vote. While there are reports of scattered pre-election violence, most observers do not expect a repeat of the last cycle’s mayhem. In this circumstance, it’s easy to lose sight of the dramatic changes in Kenya’s political and governmental structure that take place tomorrow. These elections launch an entirely new constitutional arrangement for Kenya.
  • Topic: Government, Elections, Constitution, Transition
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa
  • Author: Mary Larzelere
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: When was the last time you thought about street lights? They’re certainly something I’ve always taken for granted, until a recent trip to Kosovo as part of an Urban Institute program supported by USAID, the Democratic Effective Municipalities Initiative (DEMI). DEMI is a three-year, $20 million project dedicated to helping Kosovo municipalities achieve good governance at the local level. DEMI undertakes steps to make local service delivery more transparent and inclusive, and make local officials more accountable for results, a true challenge in any democracy, let alone a new one such as Kosovo’s.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Electricity, Public Service
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Kosovo
  • Author: Charles Cadwell
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: Jakarta, with a population of 9.5 million (27 million in the greater metropolitan area) has grown 3.6% per year for the past decade, about double the overall Indonesian population growth rate. By 2025, Jakarta will join the list of megacities, with the center city population reaching 10.8 million, according to a 2010 UN report. This next spurt will make Jakarta larger than Moscow and put it on a par with Paris. The proliferation of gleaming office towers that stretch in all directions from downtown is but one measure of dramatic growth. As you might expect, any prospects for continued growth will require dramatic new investment in infrastructure. Gleaming new toll-ways are already clogged, electricity supply, though much more reliable than in the countryside, is reportedly inconsistent. Corruption in public procurement dominates local and national headlines, keeping the national Anti-Corruption Commission more than busy. Financing infrastructure in the years ahead will require both public and private investment, though investors are understandably wary of a policy environment still dominated by money politics, opaque regulatory processes, and slowing reform momentum.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Urbanization, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia