Other News

Poverty in paradise: The dark side of Indonesia’s new tourism hope

RAJA AMPAT, Indonesia – A tableau of white sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs and turquoise water, the islands of Raja Ampat are set to be …

by · Friday, 22 September 2017 · Indonesia, Philippines

Poverty in paradise: The dark side of Indonesia’s new tourism hope

A tableau of white sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs and turquoise water, the islands of Raja Ampat are set to be Indonesia’s next tourism hotspot …

by · Friday, 22 September 2017 · Indonesia, Philippines

Prepare for more

As for poverty, historical, crippling poverty, affecting tens of millions – where is the grand plan to unravel and undo it? I am sure that the Cabinet has a …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines

Income distribution and education in Turkey

Is there anyone following the news in Turkey who is not worried about the country’s future and its economy in terms of income distribution? Specifically …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Turkey

Rehabilitating Marawi

Rehabilitating Marawi City, like widespread poverty, will be the one of the biggest challenges facing the government. Images of the war-torn city …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines
Hope for the future: Key to peace lies with the Filipino youth

Hope for the future: Key to peace lies with the Filipino youth

Women beneficiaries from Maguindanao, southern Philippines, with World Bank Country Director Mara Warwick. These women are participating in livelihood projects under the multi-donor Mindanao Trust Fund. Photo: Justine Letargo/World Bank

Peace – something that many of us take for granted in our own lives – is elusive for millions of people around the world, including in southern Philippines. Long-standing conflict between the government and rebel groups, and a complicated patchwork of clan and family conflicts, has led to decades of economic stagnation and poverty in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful and productive regions – Mindanao. A peace process is hopefully nearing its conclusion and is expected to bring autonomy and with it, greater opportunities for peace and development to the people of the Bangsamoro.

The Philippines is a middle-income country – with GDP at $2,953 per capita and a robust economy, with almost 96% enrollment rate in basic education, and improving health indicators such as child mortality; overall the country is doing well. But these numbers mask sharp regional contrasts: in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the GDP per capita is only $576 – equivalent to countries like Rwanda and Afghanistan – the poverty rate is 53.7%, and more than 50% of its employed population are in agriculture with 80% of them working as subsistence farmers, living precariously from crop to crop.  One crop failure can mean ruin for a family.

Before coming to the Philippines to work, I had never worked in conflict-affected areas. There are many colleagues in the World Bank who specialize in this, who are passionate and dedicated, driven to work harder and longer to see positive outcomes for the communities their work supports, and it is not hard to see why. 

Visiting areas subject to conflict for decades is at once distressing and uplifting.  In the most conflict-ridden areas of Mindanao people are very poor – they live in crude nipa huts, most often do not have running water, sanitation or electricity, and the roads, where they exist, are not sealed, becoming quagmires on a rainy day. 

When fighting erupts as it all too often does, communities have to flee, sometimes becoming dislocated for years at a time. They farm low value crops – mostly corn and rice – because they cannot afford to plant anything else. They cannot invest in high-value crops like coconuts that take a while to mature for fear that they cannot stay for years in their communities.

And yet visiting these areas is also uplifting. Why?  Because these people have a pride, grace, resilience, and good humor that deeply impresses me. We are always greeted warmly and our conversations are infused with laughter.  They are endlessly fascinated with my height (tall) and my hair color (light).  We talk about our children and the things we enjoy doing. 

These are also amazingly practical people.  In one community supported under the Mindanao Trust Fund, the people’s committee set up to oversee the project comprised all women. When I asked the chairwoman of the committee why this was, she said (with a laugh) that the men in the village had asked the women to lead the project because the men thought that if they had been in the lead, there would have been too much arguing and not enough decision-making!

Mindanao is at a critical juncture. The ongoing conflict in Marawi shows how the situation is changing and new stresses, including the rise of extremism, present a real risk for many countries, including the Philippines.  

The solution is not easy, but a place to start is with the youth. Young people need hope for the future – education, a job, the right to their own self-identity and self-expression, and freedom from poverty. In my conversations with mothers in Mindanao, I hear echoes of my concerns about my own children. Are they healthy? Are they doing well at school? What will they be when they grow up? Our concerns are the same, but the foundation and stability on which we base our support for our children differs like night and day.

In one of the communities we visited in Maguindanao, we spoke with a group of young people who had just completed an Alternative Learning Course – a 5-month intensive literacy course for adults who either dropped out of school or were not able to attend when they were children. They had studied hard during their 5-month course – excited by the unexpected opportunities that could now be ahead of them. Although they had not yet even completed their final exams, 8 of the cohort of 50 had already been admitted to technical vocational training in a nearby town. And when I asked those with whom we met what they wanted to be, the young women were particularly vocal: “I want to be a midwife!”, “I want to be a teacher!”. And with the kind of grit and determination that these young women possess, I can only bet that they will be too.

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Afghanistan, Oman, Philippines
Women play a part to bring peace in Solomon Islands

Women play a part to bring peace in Solomon Islands

Margaret Wete, first female Village Peace Warden in Makira Province, Solomon Islands。 Photo: Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening

In a hot and crowded school classroom in December 2015 I sat excitedly watching Margaret Wete accept her role as Village Peace Warden for Waimasi and neighbouring villages in Makira/Ulawa Province, Solomon Islands. She was the first woman to be elected into this role by her community and I took it as a positive sign that the majority of those present for the vote were young women and men, making an important decision for the community’s future and putting their faith in a fellow young person. 

At the end of “the tensions”, a civil war in Solomon Islands which lasted from 1998 to 2003, peace was something not many people could picture. The government requested, and received, support from the region and 14 years of RAMSI – the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands – ensued.

I moved to Solomon Islands in 2010 and was privileged to see many of the peacebuilding activities roll out and support communities to take the lead in creating a more harmonious society. The use of Village Peace Wardens was one of these, coming under the Community Governance and Grievance Management Project. Through the project, Village Peace Wardens – as they are called in Makira – are elected by communities to help chiefs, church and other leaders and community members resolve low-level local conflicts peacefully, with assistance from government when needed.

There are currently 29 Village Peace Wardens in Makira/Ulawa Province, but only two of them are women. Sometimes it can be because the women themselves don’t have the confidence to take on the role.

Margaret herself was reluctant at first, saying, “When the time comes for public speaking, I was not brave to talk and look in the eyes of people, that made me reluctant but after a while I decided to try it. The story going around was that people said I would be easy to approach and come to, they liked to have a man, but some men are hard to approach. People said ‘we want you to accept the position’, women said, ‘we won’t feel frightened to come to you’, so they chose me and I decided to take up the role of Peace Warden.”

But since accepting the position, Margaret’s proven she’s more than capable, from having an active involvement in the drafting of local bylaws, to working closely with chiefs, often going to incidents to get information and make reports. A lot of the issues she deals with involve thefts (including pigs or crops) or people drinking, fighting, or making noise that disturbs the community.  She also proactively engages with known “troublemakers” to encourage them into alternative activities. 

To be successful, Margaret encourages teamwork, and getting back up from the police and government when needed: “I like my work and can see it is good but I also advise people in the community we must work together, wardens need help from everyone in community, they can’t do it alone. Police also need to come down to support the local peace wardens and make awareness. Sometimes I think if peace wardens talk but police do not show their faces here, people will not worry about it, the province needs to work with the wardens too.”

Margaret has shown herself, and her community, that restoring peace is possible, and today – the International Day of Peace – I congratulate her and the work she’s done and look forward to her continued success.
 

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Oman

Bulacan commemorates 119th anniversary of Malolos Congress

Echiverri said Duterte wants to alleviate the poverty in Mindanao and the entire Philippines before the end of his term. He added Lanao del Sur, Lanao …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines

Bulacan commemorates 119th anniversary of Malolos Congress

Echiverri said Duterte wants to alleviate the poverty in Mindanao and the entire Philippines before the end of his term. He added Lanao del Sur, Lanao …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines
Visiting conflict-affected communities in the Philippines: a Country Director’s experience

Visiting conflict-affected communities in the Philippines: a Country Director’s experience

Country Director Mara Warwick poses with the women of Maguindanao, in Mindanao, southern Philippines who are benefiting from livelihood projects under the multi-donor Mindanao Trust Fund.
Photo: Justine Espina-Letargo/World Bank

Peace – something that many of us take for granted in our own lives – is elusive for millions of people around the world, including in southern Philippines.  Long-standing conflict between the government and rebel groups, and a complicated patchwork of clan and family conflicts, has led to decades of economic stagnation and poverty in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful and productive regions – Mindanao.  A peace process is hopefully nearing its conclusion and is expected to bring autonomy and with it, greater opportunities for peace and development to the people of the Bangsamoro.

The Philippines is a middle-income country – with GDP at $2,953 per capita and a robust economy, with almost 96% enrollment rate in basic education, and improving health indicators such as child mortality; overall the country is doing well.  But these numbers mask sharp regional contrasts: in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the GDP per capita is only $576 – equivalent to countries like Rwanda and Afghanistan – the poverty rate is 53.7%, and more than 50% of its employed population are in agriculture with 80% of them working as subsistence farmers, living precariously from crop to crop.  One crop failure can mean ruin for a family.

Before coming to the Philippines to work, I had never worked in conflict-affected areas.  There are many colleagues in the World Bank who specialize in this, who are passionate and dedicated, driven to work harder and longer to see positive outcomes for the communities their work supports, and it is not hard to see why. 

Visiting areas subject to conflict for decades is at once distressing and uplifting.  In the most conflict-ridden areas of Mindanao people are very poor – they live in reed houses, most often do not have running water, sanitation or electricity, and the roads, where they exist, are not sealed, becoming quagmires on a rainy day. 

When fighting erupts as it all too often does, communities have to flee, sometimes becoming dislocated for years at a time.  They farm low value crops – mostly corn and rice – because they cannot afford to plant anything else. They cannot invest in high-value crops like coconuts that take a while to mature for fear that they cannot stay for years in their communities.

And yet visiting these areas is also uplifting.  Why?  Because these people have a pride, grace, resilience, and good humor that deeply impresses me.  We are always greeted warmly and our conversations are infused with laughter.  They are endlessly fascinated with my height (tall) and my hair color (light).  We talk about our children and the things we enjoy doing. 

These are also amazingly practical people.  In one community supported under the Mindanao Trust Fund, the people’s committee set up to oversee the project comprised all women.  When I asked the chairwoman of the committee why this was, she said (with a laugh) that the men in the village had asked the women to lead the project because the men thought that if they had been in the lead, there would have been too much arguing and not enough decision-making!

Mindanao is at a critical juncture.  The ongoing conflict in Marawi shows how the situation is changing and new stresses, including the rise of extremism, present a real risk for many countries, including the Philippines.  

The solution is not easy, but a place to start is with the youth.  Young people need hope for the future – education, a job, the right to their own self-identity and self-expression, and freedom from poverty.  In my conversations with mothers in Mindanao, I hear echoes of my concerns about my own children. Are they healthy?  Are they doing well at school?  What will they be when they grow up?  Our concerns are the same, but the foundation and stability on which we base our support for our children differs like night and day.

In one of the communities we visited in Maguindanao, we spoke with a group of young people who had just completed an Alternative Learning Course – a 5-month intensive literacy course for adults who either dropped out of school or were not able to attend when they were children.  They had studied hard during their 5-month course – excited by the unexpected opportunities that could now be ahead of them.  Although they had not yet even completed their final exams, 8 of the cohort of 50 had already been admitted to technical vocational training in a nearby town.  And when I asked those with whom we met what they wanted to be, the young women were particularly vocal: “I want to be a midwife!”, “I want to be a teacher!”.  And with the kind of grit and determination that these young women possess, I can only bet that they will be too.

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Afghanistan, Oman, Philippines