Can countries tackle climate change and still grow? Yes, say the leaders of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund – and the need to do so is urgent.
Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde weighed in on development and climate change in their first public discourse together on the topic, ahead of Annual Meetings with finance and development leaders this week.
World Bank Annual Meetings
The message draped across the World Bank’s Washington headquarters proclaims a noble goal – End Poverty. But how can the world achieve it? Later this week, finance and development ministers from 188 countries will weigh in on the World Bank Group’s plan to reorganize and modernize in pursuit of the goal. A new strategy paper describes how data, knowledge, financing, and talent will be leveraged to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and to ensure prosperity is more widely shared throughout society. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, and many other speakers will have more to say on these topics at events this week. See a schedule.
A while back, I visited a village in a country whose economy has been grown rapidly over the past decade. The country has been moving quickly from its lower income status to become classified as a lower-middle income economy. The village I visited was only some 50 kilometers from a bustling provincial capital on the border, but it might as well have been 500 kilometers away. The village took four hours to reach because we had to traverse three rivers or streams, and the roads were riddled with potholes the size of lunar craters. The shoulders of the road sometimes reached up to the top of the car windows.
There was no internet, no phone, and most definitely no technology superhighway and ‘push-one-button solution’ to development. As we went from house to house, it seemed as though everyone in the village was sick. Children were running a high fever. In one household we visited, I asked the mother who was cradling her ill son whether she had been to see a doctor. She said yes. She had managed to borrow money from her neighbor and taken three van rides to the closest health clinic with her son. One month later, however, the child had not recovered and was still running a high fever. He could no longer go to school, and the mother was having difficulty tending her fields because she had to care for her son. I asked her if she was considering taking her son back to the clinic, and she said that even if she had the money, she would not go back. The health staff had treated her and her son badly, talking down to them and belittling them because they were poor ethnic minorities. She and her son only felt worse after the visit, and vowed not to return, no matter how sick the child became.
Variants of this story of marginalization and social exclusion abound. In other countries, it may be the single female head of household who is stigmatized because of her lowly status, or the internally displaced person who falls through the cracks of national safety nets and household surveys, or the ethnic minority villager who cannot speak the official language and consequently is unable or ashamed to speak up at community meetings.
The global economy, climate change, and a new World Bank Group strategy to tackle extreme poverty will be hot topics next week. That’s when nearly 10,000 delegates, journalists and civil society representatives gather at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. But you don’t have to be in Washington to take in 38 World Bank Group events that will be webcast Oct. 8-12. Several will be live-blogged or live-tweeted in multiple languages. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with #wblive and other hashtags connected to events. We’ve compiled a sampling of events and hashtags below. Check out the full schedule or download the first-ever Annual Meetings app for Apple devices and Android smartphones.