Heltberg, Rasmus

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vulnerability; social policy; adaptation to climate change; natural resource management
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Rasmus Heltberg is a Senior Social Development Specialist with the World Bank and a member of the core team for the World Development Report 2014 on Managing Risk for Development. Trained as a development economist, Rasmus has contributed extensively to the applied literature on poverty, vulnerability, social policy, natural resource management, and adaptation to climate change. His work for the World Bank has focused on identifying policy solutions to some of the social and environmental problems confronting households and communities in Africa and Asia.
Citations 409 Scopus

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 17
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    Natural Resources and the Poor : Introduction to a Special Issue of the Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research
    (Taylor and Francis, 2010-01-11) Heltberg, Rasmus
    Natural resources, unless of commercial interest, are hardly a prominent concern of most policy-makers. A certain complacency seems to prevail in which too little is done to increase the productivity and sustainability of the natural resource base on which the rural poor continue to rely for low-productivity semi-subsistence livelihoods. Natural resources remain integral to the livelihoods of billions in developing countries, providing food, fuels, water, biodiversity, raw materials, spiritual fulfillment, and more; they are also vital for the development prospects of many countries. It is therefore surprising that not more attention is paid to them. The status quo is not sustainable. Traditional low-productivity natural resource-based livelihoods do not lift people out of poverty; such livelihoods offer little more than a precarious subsistence survival at the margins of the global economy.The five new research papers in this special issue describe an uneasy and sometimes unhealthy co-existence between natural resources and the poor.
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    Climate-responsive Social Protection
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-03) Kuriakose, Anne T. ; Heltberg, Rasmus ; Wiseman, William ; Costella, Cecilia ; Cipryk, Rachel ; Cornelius, Sabine
    In the years ahead, development efforts aiming at reducing vulnerability will increasingly have to factor in climate change, and social protection is no exception. This paper sets out the case for climate?responsive social protection and proposes a framework with principles, design features, and functions that would help Social Protection (SP) systems evolve in a climate?responsive direction. The principles comprise climate?aware planning; livelihood?based approaches that consider the full range of assets and institutions available to households and communities; and aiming for resilient communities by planning for the long term. Four design features that can help achieve this are: scalable and flexible programs that can increase coverage in response to climate disasters; climate?responsive targeting systems; investments in livelihoods that build community and household resilience; and promotion of better climate risk management.
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    Coping and Resilience during the Food, Fuel, and Financial Crises
    (Taylor and Francis, 2012-12-20) Heltberg, Rasmus ; Hossain, Naomi ; Reva, Anna ; Turk, Carolyn
    This article aggregates qualitative field research from sites in 17 developing countries to describe crisis impacts and analyse how people coped with the food, fuel, and financial crises during 2008–2011. The research uncovered significant hardships behind the apparent resilience, with widespread reports of food insecurity, debt, asset loss, stress, and worsening crime and community cohesion. There were important gender and age differences in the distribution of impacts and coping responses, with women often acting as shock absorbers. The more common sources of assistance were family, friends, community-based and religious organisations with formal social protection and finance less important. The traditional informal safety nets of the poor became depleted as the crisis deepened, pointing to the need for better formal systems for coping with future shocks.
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    Is There a Community-Level Adaptation Deficit?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-11-12) Ashwill, Maximillian ; Heltberg, Rasmus
    This paper uses primary source data from several World Bank-led case studies on the “social dimensions of climate change” from 2008-2012 to understand how communities in developing countries can more successfully adapt to climate change. Poor communities face an adaptation deficit, specifically local communities, which engage more in coping measures than in adaptation measures, because the costs of adaptation remain too high while the effectiveness of adaptation in building resilience to severe weather events often remains limited or not sufficient in addressing long-term environmental trends. Further, adaptation can lead to negative outcomes, or maladaptation, which can occur when (1) planning does not sufficiently account for temporal and spatial factors, (2) policies contradict one another and create perverse incentives, (3) governance systems fail, and (4) communities lack the knowledge to adapt. Community leadership, organization, and trust towards nonlocal adaptation planners can build the social capital needed for collective action and successful adaptation.
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    "They Are Not Like Us" : Understanding Social Exclusion
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-02) Lakhani, Sadaf ; Sacks, Audrey ; Heltberg, Rasmus
    Negative attitudes toward groups in society are widespread and underpin systematic processes of social exclusion that marginalize people and deny them opportunities and dignity. This paper looks at the processes underlying social exclusion. It uses data covering Eastern Europe and Central Asia to study the responses to a simple hypothetical survey question about which specific groups respondents would not like to have as neighbors. Unwelcoming attitudes toward groups such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, the poor, HIV+ individuals, and others are surprisingly common. These attitudes fall into three distinct clusters: intolerance for the poor and for different lifecycle stages; intolerance toward stigmatized attributes and behaviors; and intolerance toward specific identity groups. An empirical analysis of the determinants of attitudes shows that country-specific factors are far more important than socio-economic characteristics. These findings could have important implications for theories about exclusion and for the design of appropriate social inclusion policies. The authors argue that strategies to address social exclusion need to consider ways to change social norms, attitudes, and behaviors toward disadvantaged groups. The paper explores potential entry points for change within formal and informal institutions.
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    Greening China’s Rural Energy : New Insights on the Potential of Smallholder Biogas
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-06) Christiaensen, Luc ; Heltberg, Rasmus
    Clean, safe energy for rural areas is an important component of green growth and sustainable development. Biogas could be an important contributor, if its record in reality lives up to its expected potential. This paper provides a preliminary assessment of biogas use by smallholder farmers in rural China, using data collected from 2,700 households in five provinces. The authors find that user satisfaction is high, and environmental and economic benefits appear tangible. There are strong indications of reduced use of wood and crop residues for fuel. Less time is spent on collecting fuel wood and cooking, which is especially beneficial to women. Adopters also save on fertilizers, because of the use of biogas residues. Moreover, problems with suspension of biogas use, whether due to technical or human factors, remained limited. However, few tangible benefits to respiratory health were detected. Overall, these findings are grounds for optimism about the potential for of smallholder biogas to contribute to more sustainable development, in China and beyond.
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    Tajikistan - Economic and Distributional Impact of Climate Change
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Heltberg, Rasmus ; Reva, Anna ; Zaidi, Salman
    Tajikistan is highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of global climate change, as it already suffers from low agricultural productivity, water stress, and high losses from disasters. Public awareness of the multiple consequences of climate change is high, with possible impacts on health, natural disasters, and agriculture of greatest public concern. Climate change can potentially deepen poverty by lowering agricultural yields, raising food prices, and increasing the spread of water-borne diseases as well as the frequency and severity of disasters. Regions with greater dependence on agriculture and lower socioeconomic indicators, particularly the east mountain area of the Region of Republican Subordination (RRS), the Southern Sughd hills, and Khatlon hills and lowlands, are most vulnerable to climate change, with rural areas more at risk than urban locations. Faster socioeconomic development is the best tool for adaptation, since greater income diversification, improved health and education, and better access to services and infrastructure enhance the capacity of households, particularly the poor, for autonomous adaptation.
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    What Do Household Surveys Really Tell Us About Risk, Shocks, and Risk Management in the Developing World?
    (Taylor and Francis, 2015-03-06) Heltberg, Rasmus ; Oviedo, Ana María ; Talukdar, Faiyaz
    This article reports on a project to explore empirical patterns in risk, shocks and risk management using recent household surveys with risk modules from 16 different developing countries. Natural disasters, health shocks, economic shocks, and asset loss are the most commonly reported types of shocks and, especially for the poor, often result in ‘bad’ coping responses that may perpetuate vulnerability. The information culled from these survey modules falls short of expectations in several ways.
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    Living through Crises : How the Food, Fuel, and Financial Shocks Affect the Poor
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012-04-03) Heltberg, Rasmus ; Hossain, Naomi ; Reva, Anna ; Heltberg, Rasmus ; Hossain, Naomi ; Reva, Anna
    The food, fuel, and financial crises that started in 2008 reverberated throughout the global economy, causing job losses; poverty; and economic, financial, and political upheaval in countries all over the world. This book is not about the causes of these crises or the macroeconomic and financial sector issues surrounding their origin, spread, and impact; nor is it about how such crises may be prevented in the future. These are important questions, but they have been dealt with in a large number of books, articles, and even movies. Instead, this book is about the more neglected, mundane, and yet centrally important matter of how people lived through the globalized crises of 2008-11, how these people were affected, and what they did to cope. At the time of writing, in late 2011, global food prices had again spiked, and further waves of fiscal and financial shocks were under way, as world economic growth faltered and the euro area sovereign debt crisis mounted. The timing means this book offers vital insights into how people coped, and how they sometimes did not, at a time when such knowledge is most urgently needed. The theme of the book is likely to have an enduring significance, as it offers a unique glimpse into the experience of living through a new type of systemic shock wave that is globalized, highly contagious, and multifaceted. Systemic shocks of the complexity and scale witnessed from 2008 through 2011 are quite unprecedented in world history, but are predicted to be more frequent in the future (Held, Kaldor, and Quah 2010; Goldin and Vogel 2010). The purpose in writing this book is to make the bottom-up perspectives on globalized crises available to a larger audience. The research presents a unique and largely untold account of how people lived through the severe economic turmoil of recent years, how they were affected, and what they did to cope, lending a voice to affected communities themselves.
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    Malnutrition, Poverty, and Economic Growth
    ( 2009) Heltberg, Rasmus
    This paper argues that indicators of anthropometric shortfall--especially low height and low weight-for-age--are uniquely suited for assessing absolute deprivation in developing countries. Anthropometric indicators are relatively precise, readily available for most countries, reflect the preferences and concerns of many poor people, consistent with reckoning the phenomenon directly in the space of functionings, intuitive, easy to use for advocacy, and consistent over time and across subgroups. Anthropometric indicators can therefore complement (but not replace) standard indicators of income/consumption poverty, especially for comparisons across subgroups, within households, across countries, and in the long run. In addition, the paper analyses spells of change in malnutrition over time, finding that the association between economic growth and chronic child malnutrition is very small (but statistically significant) and much lower than the elasticity of growth on poverty. The policy implication of this finding is that direct interventions aimed at reducing infant malnutrition are required.