West Bank and Gaza
The Middle East and North Africa region is on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ͦ C Warmer World Must be Avoided (WB, 2012), the region is steadily getting hotter and drier. Of the 19 countries that set new national temperature highs in 2010, the warmest year globally since records were first kept in the 1800s, five were Arab states.
Whether constructing a new bridge or buying textbooks for a public school, governments around the world constantly purchase a wide variety of goods and services. In the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, these types of public contracts represent between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP each year, an annual amount equal to tens of billions of US dollars.
Peer learning has great potential as an effective tool for sharing knowledge and good practice. For it to work, the right environment is needed; one that is conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing. In a recent case in Georgia, however, it all came down to the right crowd, a great host and relevant experiences. Good food and nice weather may also have helped some.
For its level of per-capita income (around $1,500), the Palestinian territories have among the best social indicators in the world. These achievements are all the more remarkable given the difficult economic circumstances facing the Palestinian territories. In contrast to other countries such as India, Indonesia or Peru, teachers in the Palestinian territories do teach and clinics are staffed with health workers.
“This is the first time when I left a conference that I really felt like we were a family. Already people have sent emails to continue the discussions we had. Some of the participants have really valuable experience with social safety nets and there is a lot we can learn from each other.”
In Gaza earlier this week I met a group of students learning cutting-edge computer animation skills at a technical institute we support. And I met a crowd of women in a small village where simple street paving has made all the difference to their mobility, their children’s health and access to education, and I sensed, their civic pride. All good barometers of development you'd think except these particular students go out into an economy where youth unemployment hovers at around 50 percent with few prospects for improvement.
Tackling a myriad of challenges including cross border issues and escalating internal conflicts, the Middle East seems like the last place for serious integration – economic or otherwise. So, a long-distance walking trail across the region seems like an inconceivable notion. Even if it would exist, surely none would want to walk it. Not so, it appears.
The Middle East and North Africa region is 60 percent urbanized compared to the global average of 52 percent and is home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations. By 2030, a 45 percent increase of MENA’s urban population will add another 106 million people to urban centres.
Microwork presents a unique opportunity for jobs and income for sections of Palestinian society that face high levels of unemployment, such as youth and women. It is a new phenomenon in the digital economy: anyone anywhere can work through an online platform equipped with just a computer and internet access.
If you think you are immune to the lure of a soap opera then try watching an Egyptian soap. At first, you will be amused and perhaps even laugh at all the melodrama, but in the end you will most certainly find yourself wondering: Will Alia expose her evil twin sister? Will Omar learn how to read, propose to his beloved and be accepted by her upper-class family?