Senator John Kerry’s recent speech to World Bank staff, which a colleague reported on earlier, was clear and powerful. He said that the development challenges of the 21st century cannot be delivered by international financial institutions with 20th century structures and priorities. He could have not have started his speech better that he did—with a call for the governance of these institutions to reflect today’s transformed global economic landscape and a merit-based staff selection system from bottom to top.
In our work and experience at the World Bank, we see significant links between the three main challenges that Kerry outlined (empowering women, enhancing food security, and addressing climate change). Even as my agriculture colleagues focus on the nexus between climate change and food security, there is mounting evidence of a disproportionate burden on women from climate-related risks.
Senator Kerry’s suggestion to tackle energy poverty and climate change together, as “two sides of the same coin,” resonates with the twin objectives of the World Bank Group’s proposed new energy strategy posted for global consultation. I also noted his enthusiasm about the initiatives that we have embarked on under our Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change, such as carbon accounting and analysis of alternatives, including environmental externalities, for thermal power projects; and helping countries to analyze low-carbon growth options. The Bank has been supporting low-carbon growth studies in several countries.
Senator Kerry called on the Bank to exercise leadership in addressing climate change through its work in developing countries while acknowledging that his country has not been able to lead and deliver its part. While outlining a powerful vision of what a development bank of the 21th century should focus on, I trust he meant what he said about the importance of giving more proportionate voice and representation to developing countries. The senator’s vision for the World Bank is a valuable contribution to the collective thinking of our multilateral institution. Now it is the turn of developing countries—who will shape this century’s economy and climate and who will be the ultimate judges of our relevance, to articulate theirs.