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  • 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