Amir Awaad was dreaming of gold. The 18-time national wrestling champion trained all his life to represent his native Syria at the Olympics. His dream turned into fantasy when Amir had to fight outside the arena—this time for his life. A year after the war broke out in Syria, Amir, his wife, and three young children fled to Egypt. They settled in Alexandria, where Amir opened the Sports Academy Syria in 2016. Its purpose is to bring together refugee and asylum-seeker youth from 12 different countries to cope pyscho-socially with the traumas they left back home. The method? Intense and proactive training in contact and ball sports.
During an All Saints’ Day mass in Lisbon in that fateful year, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake collapsed cathedrals, triggered a 20-foot tsunami, and sparked devastating fires that destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s 23,000 buildings.
The death toll was estimated between 10,000-50,000, leaving the center of a global empire in ruins, with losses equivalent to 32%-48% of Portugal's GDP at the time.
Never in the European history had a natural disaster received such international attention.
The “Great Lisbon Earthquake” had a resounding impact across Europe: Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature – the equivalent of today’s mass media – were reproduced for centuries and across several countries. Rousseau, influenced by the devastation, argued against large and dense cities in the wake of the disaster, while Immanuel Kant published three separate texts on the disaster, becoming one of the first thinkers to attempt to explain earthquakes by natural, rather than supernatural, causes.
In the years to follow, careful studies of the event would give rise to modern seismology.
- Sustainable Communities
People read about climate change every day and we are all familiar with it as a concept. While we understand that steps need to be taken to address the risks; its impact often feels harder to imagine. We assume that the impacts are something we will experience in the future.
But in the Pacific, the impacts are already being felt by communities. This came across clearly in our work on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment – Making Fiji Climate Resilient report, which the Fijian Government produced with the support of our team and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and which was launched at COP23.
Despite a difficult context of political transition and acute economic crisis, post-2011 Tunisia boldly laid the foundations for social dialogue. It allowed the government and key social actors to achieve a consensus on the country’s strategic direction. The 2013 Social Contract addressed the crucial challenge of social inclusion, with the need to target subsidies more effectively to make room in the budget for social investments. This included improving the targeting and coverage of the social safety net program – the Program for Needy Families-PNAFEN. In addition, for the first time, the government’s 2016-20 Five-Year Plan makes inclusion a strategic priority and lays out a vision for building a minimum social protection floor for all.
Global positioning systems (GPS), real time traffic maps, accurate weather forecasts, Uber, self-driving cars…
“Geospatial,” or location-based data has existed for hundreds of years – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated analytics that is being applied to it, thanks to technological advances.
What was once information only found in the domain of government, military, and select private sector, even up to the 1980s and 90s, has come into broad use over the last 20 years.
This summer, some tens of millions of people in the U.S. traveled to see the total solar eclipse, including a co-author of this blog. Not only was the eclipse amazing – but the drive back from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. showed the integration and impact of geospatial information in our daily lives.
Photo: European Commission
Greece has had a very poor track record in reducing the amount of waste going into landfills. One of the main reasons for this, other than the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) opposition to creating waste management facilities, was that for decades choosing the right technology was the apple of discord, causing disagreement and delaying advancement towards integrated waste management. In the last few years, however, three Public-Private Partnership (PPP) waste management projects have been initiated in Greece.
This past July, within two years of signing the PPP contract in 2015, the first project was inaugurated in Western Macedonia—without a day’s delay, any contract change, or cost overrun. The system will cut the amount of waste going to landfill, reuse material for commercially-viable products, boost the region’s growth prospects through job creation, and raise public awareness to prevent waste.
Despite much progress over the last two decades, girls still have lower levels of educational attainment on average than boys at the secondary school level in Uganda. In part this is because many girls are married or have children before the age of 18—often before they are physically and emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Educating girls, ending child marriage, and preventing early childbearing is essential for girls to have agency, as future wives and mothers, and for Uganda to reach its full development potential.
Those of you who have visited Dubai in recent years may relate to what I am going to say: Dubai is in the middle of the desert, and its land, not that long ago, was really worth nothing. Now it is one of the most vibrant international cities in the world. All this happened in a relatively short time span.