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The key to unlocking the economic potential of the Western Balkans? Women.

Linda Van Gelder's picture
Since arriving to the Western Balkans nearly one year ago, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with extraordinary people around the region - one of the most interesting and dynamic locations in the world. Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by the likes of Marija Bosheva’s, who is studying to become a scientist at a new laboratory for oenology and soil science in the FYR Macedonia, or Valoriana Hasi, a young Kosovar now working in ICT after completing a training for women in online work.
Stories like these remind me of the vast economic potential of this region, especially if countries here tap into one of their most valuable resources: women.

Reforming victim support services: Lessons from Serbia

Georgia Harley's picture

Victims of crime are among the most vulnerable groups in need of government services - from basic information to shelters, hotlines, health and psychological services, legal assistance, and more. Yet, support services are often inadequate or even unavailable, leaving victims feeling helpless and abandoned by the justice system. This brings a range of economic and social welfare costs that should be avoided.

But how do we prevent these negative, spillover effects?

How do courts impact the business climate… really?

Georgia Harley's picture
Tim Cordell,

We know that the justice system dampens the business climate in many of the countries where we work. In Bank reports, national strategies, and in common parlance, we lament that poorly performing courts delay business activity, undermine predictability, increase risks and constrain private sector growth. Going further, we conclude that weak justice systems disproportionately hamper micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) because they have less buffer to absorb these problems - which can become make-or-break for their businesses.

So that’s the ‘what’ but, precisely, how, do courts impact businesses?

Transitions and Time Lags: Understanding a Dispiriting but Temporary Phenomenon

Antonius Verheijen's picture

Having spent much of my working life working with and in countries in transition, it remains painful to watch the disillusionment that so often strikes people that had the courage to change a bad political situation, but then are forced to live through economic hardship. It is those that chose change that seem always to suffer most. But one source of hope is that, fortunately, this hasn’t stopped people from trying. This was true for Southern Europe in the late 1970s (though I was still in school at the time), Central and East European countries in the 1990s, several African countries in the 2000s and, as history has a knack for repeating itself, Tunisia today. 

Tunisia: Looking ahead or back to the future?

Antonius Verheijen's picture

I had the privilege recently to spend an unscheduled hour of discussion with a group of young Tunisians who were visiting our offices. As often, on these occasions it is hard not to get captured by the energy and impatience of the young people in this region. It gives hope that entrepreneurial spirit is really alive and well in a country where reliable private sector services remain otherwise hard to come by, let alone public ones. If one combines the energy of youth with the message in a recent (equally energetic) speech by the Minister of Development to a large group of investors, one gets a sense that Tunisia is, indeed, looking ahead and not to the past.

Yet, as always, reality is far more complex, and often we are confronted with a much gloomier picture of a country that is perceived as, economically, turning inward. This is the case even more so now, as Tunisia is coming under immense pressure to get its public finances in order. This has generated some decisions that go right against the message of openness and dynamism that one gets when meeting with young Tunisians. It all begs the question, for a newcomer like myself, which of the parallel universes is the real one, and, as in a movie, which one ultimately will prevail.

Can the rubble of history help shape today’s resilient cities?

David Sislen's picture

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Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Did you know that, in 1755, Portugal suffered a catastrophic disaster so severe that it cast a long shadow over politics, religion, philosophy, and science?

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.

Giving small people bigger power in Serbian courts

Georgia Harley's picture

What happens if you have a legal problem but you can’t afford a lawyer?

In Serbia, we are one step closer to answering that very question. We’ve developed a guide to help ordinary citizens and businesses navigate the court system in Serbia.

Got wings? Lessons on the survival of the skilled

Alexandria Valerio's picture

In a recent exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, “Dinosaurs Among Us,” paleontologists use prehistoric fossil records of bones, feathers, and nests to show that some dinosaurs did not go extinct but, rather, evolved into the creatures we see today. The links they trace show how avian dinosaurs (ones that fly) evolved into modern-day birds. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs’ swift aerial mobility played a key role in determining their survival while their land-based relatives failed to thrive. Flight enabled them to relocate and adapt to drastically changing environments—a skill that their land-based relatives lacked.
Figure 1. Paleontologists argue that avian-dinosaurs (left) adapted to the changing environment quickly and evolved into birds (right).


Taking a proactive approach to climate extremes in Serbia

Darko Milutin's picture

A severe and prolonged heat wave stifled much of Central Europe this summer, buckling train tracks in Serbia and forcing at least 10 countries to issue red alerts for health concerns and water conservation. Once a rare nuisance, extreme weather events like this are becoming more commonplace throughout the region – and more dangerous.

These challenges have prompted the government of Serbia to take a proactive approach to building resilience to climate and disaster risks over the last few years.

What happens if you don’t pay your bill? Lessons from Central and Eastern Europe

Georgia Harley's picture

We all have regular bills to pay for the ubiquitous services we consume – whether they be for utilities (water, heating, electricity etc.), credit cards, memberships, or car payments.  But, not everyone pays.  

So why don’t people pay?  Why are some countries better at this than others?  And what can be done to improve systems for debt collection?