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Where do the world’s talents immigrate to?

"We’re the nation that just had six of our scientists and researchers win Nobel Prizes—and every one of them was an immigrant," U.S. President Barack Obama recently said after the Nobel Prize winners were announced.

The Internet was abuzz about it, and how could it not be?

The announcement couldn’t come at a better time. Not only are US Nobel laureates immigrants, but also the country has been identified as one of four where the world’s high-skilled immigrants are increasingly living, according to a new World Bank research article. The other three countries are the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.


Titled Global Talent Flows, the research found that in 2010, there were about 28 million high‐skilled migrants residing in OECD countries (members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), an increase of nearly 130% since 1990. Only four OECD countries are the landing destination for nearly 70% of the 28 million migrants.

The study added that the United S…

Sensitizing development challenges through virtual reality

There is a round metal tray surrounded by four children and their parents. In it, there are plates filled with instant noodles, hummus, lebne, olives and pickled eggplant. I look left and there is a silver tea pot. I look right and my eyes catch a plastic bag of pita bread.

The tray is put on an unfinished concrete floor covered with a bunch of heavy winter blankets. The brick walls are partially covered with bedding sheets, while heavy winter clothes are hanging on a water pipe.

I lift my head up. I see a light bulb hanging from an unfinished cement ceiling. When I look back down, I see a toddler approaching me trying to poke my eyes, until I realize that I am not actually there and she is only trying to poke the 360 camera!

I pulled the headphones off my ears and unfastened the headset from my face. I had been immersed in another ‘reality,’ a virtual one. It was of Syrian refugees Ammouna and Fayad Selloum and their four young children in their makeshift home in Beirut, Lebanon. I …

Youth and peacebuilding one act at a time

Aristotle once said “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference,” and what a difference a group of young Lebanese men and women are making to advocate for peace to make a difference!
Their ages range between 16 to 25 years old. They are poor and unemployed. They once fought each other, literally, in their sectarian-divided Lebanese city of Tripoli. Sunni residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Alawite residents of Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods fought each other repeatedly.

But at the beginning of 2015, the government imposed a ceasefire that put an end to the endless rounds of fierce clashes and restored calm in the city.

And that’s when a Lebanese non-profit organization promoting peace through art went there looking for a different kind of recruitment: one of peace. March brought the youth together to perform in a play!

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the …

Afghan teen rapper sings and advocates to end child marriage

At first she looks like any bride: wearing a white wedding dress with her face covered with the wedding veil and carrying a bridal bouquet. Except that she is no ordinary bride. She is being sold.

As she removes her veil from her face, her forehead appears marked with a barcode. Her left eye is badly bruised and a big scratch on her cheek is as red as a war wound.

The girl in the music video “Brides for Sale” is portrayed by Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghan teen rapper who sings in the video about the ordeal many girls in Afghanistan go through when are sold by their families to marry at an early age in return of money.

But why is she singing about this issue?

Because she herself was about to be sold to wed a man, first at age 10 and then at 16. The seller? Her mother. The money was going to be used to cover her brother’s wedding costs. Teenage Sonita Alizadeh decided that marrying at an early age was never going to happen.

Unlike many in her war-torn country of Afghanistan, she made her o…

Arab reality show tests humanity and empathy

It’s Ramadan and the Arabic TV channels are festooned with shows that vary from recurring popular soap operas, cooking and competition shows — but one has become the talk of the town.

Al Sadma, or The Shock, the Arabic version of the popular American show What Would You Do, is a reality TV prank show. But it’s not like many other tasteless reality shows that invoke fright and even terror, it is a show that invokes morality and examines humanity.

The prank show uses hidden cameras to capture the reactions of the public to staged scenarios that are intentionally disturbing. The scenarios are filmed in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. It airs around Iftar time in the region, when Muslims break their sunrise-to-sunset fasting.

Some of the show’s scenarios include a man humiliating his wife at a restaurant, a woman scolding her child while helping with his homework, a lost girl trying to find her mother while a man tries to kidnap her, a man following and h…

Healthy living for healthy societies and stronger economies

This post was originally published in the World Bank blog Voices.  

The cigarette puffs surrounded the 18-month-old boy as he stood next to his chain-smoking grandparents in the living room, while a 3-year-old girl fetched a can of Pepsi-Cola from the fridge in the kitchen. Just across in the dining area, a 7-month-old boy was being fed a creamy, sugary, chocolate cake, while a bunch of other kids were playing “house” in the front yard by actually eating unlimited number of chocolate bars, cake, and chips while drinking soda.

I could not believe my eyes. Observing these behaviors as a parent myself, it seemed like I was watching the slow death and diseases haunting these children for the rest of their lives.

It has always been like this, but I had never noticed it until I moved out of Iraq and became a parent. I grew up in a place where the unhealthy lifestyle was not a major concern. There are many other, more pressing concerns people there tend to worry about — and rightfully so — t…