Latin America & Caribbean
These Spring Meetings will probably be remembered for the capital increase – the first in 20 years – and the historic changes to the voice and representation of developing countries within the Bank. They are important milestones, and deserve to be recognized. But something much more profound is happening within the Bank, something that historians will look back on and regard as a pivotal moment in the organization’s evolution.
The key to understanding what is underway is Mr. Zoellick’s speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 14. This was probably the most important speech by a Bank president since McNamara’s Nairobi speech of 1973 – even more important, I would argue, than Mr. Wolfensohn’s 1996 speech on corruption. For the first time in many years, the Bank is at the leading edge of thinking about global trends. Mr. Zoellick’s blunt declaration that the era of the Third World is over and a new, more complex arrangement is emerging, challenges everyone at the Bank and everyone working in development to think and act differently. It sets in context why the reforms underway across many areas of the Bank are really necessary, why we need a new approach to investment lending, to knowledge, to our location and operation as a global bank.
The end of the Third World does not mean that there are no poor countries, or that all countries are equally advantaged. It means the landscape has changed so much that our thinking and behavior must shift. To think of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Malaysia as developing countries seems anachronistic. Yes they have poverty and challenges, but… “developing”? They play a regional and global role of real significance. They have civil servants, academics and businesspeople as skilled as (and many more skilled than) World Bank staff. Developing just doesn’t capture it.
At a press conference earlier today, World Bank President announced that the Development Committee approved a capital increase, as well as proposed voting reform for the Bank. In his remarks, Mr. Zoellick talked about how these changes will affect the institution, as well as international development on the whole:
"This extra capital can be deployed to create jobs and protect the most vulnerable through investments in infrastructure, small and medium sized enterprises, and safety nets. The change in voting-power helps us better reflect the realities of a new multi-polar global economy where developing countries are now key global players. In a period when multilateral agreements between developed and developing countries have proved elusive, this accord is all the more significant."
A summary of the changes approved by the Development Committee:
- An increase of $86.2 billion in capital for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
- A $200 million increase in the capital of the IFC.
- A 3.13 percentage point increase in the voting power of Developing and Transition countries (DTCs) at IBRD, bringing them to 47.19 percent.
- An increase in the voting power of Developing and Transition Countries at IFC to 39.48 percent.
- An agreement to review IBRD and IFC shareholdings every five years with a commitment to equitable voting power between developed countries and DTCs over time.
The consensus at today’s high-level meeting on “Scaling Up Nutrition” was this: the world can do better for its hungry children. Many of the Ministers and donor agency leaders who spoke at the event acknowledged the global commitment to fighting malnutrition had fallen short. As many as 3 million mothers and young children die each year due to lack of nutritious food.
OECD figures show that development aid for nutrition has been modest, with commitments of less than $300 million a year – one reason why nutrition has been labeled the “forgotten” Millennium Development Goal.
Yesterday, I attended the TEDxWorldBankGroup event, entitled Global Challenges in the New Decade. This first TEDxWorldBankGroup event was organized by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) to add to the critical discussions taking place during the Spring Meetings. The event aimed to encourage conversation on gender, climate change, agriculture and water, and to find possible solutions to these global issues.
The speakers at the event were great and made excellent points about each of the chosen issues. One of the takeaways from the event was that the development community should act as one in addressing critical issues and take a wholesome approach to resolving global challenges instead of tackling them piecemeal.
Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who presented on water issues at the event said that every time the development community tries to maximize efforts in one area, it takes away from another; therefore looking at all of these issues as a whole is the most effective way to solve them for the future generations.
“Engagement with civil society has stepped up in so many ways—in terms of quality and also in terms of quantity. This engagement is critical because we have different roles that we can play. I think that there is a realization between civil society and the World Bank that we have a single mission and we need to forge ahead towards that mission.”
Compelling issues of the day drew the highest volume of civil society organizations to register for this year than ever before for Spring Meetings, though volcanic ash caused some panels to be cancelled, according to Edith Grace Ssempala, a World Bank senior advisor. Talks ranged from the ongoing effects of the financial crisis to the Bank’s energy strategy and new Access to Information policy.
A panel on strengthening partnerships that took place earlier this week at the Civil Society Policy Forum during the 2010 Spring Meetings looked at how partnerships were integral to the response after the earthquake in Haiti.
The panel, which featured speakers from the World Bank, USAID, IMF, Save the Children, and the German Marshall Fund, explored the ways various organizations came together to ensure effective post-disaster revitalization and development outcomes after the disaster in Haiti.
One such example of collaboration and partnership was in the sharing of Bank geo-spatial data with community groups like Random Hacks of Kindness and CrisisCamp. (More on the Bank's new open data initiative here.)
Not even the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull could keep the Netherlands’ Prince of Orange, the chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and the World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from participating in a Davos-style panel discussion of solutions for the 2.6 billion people who still lack access to sanitation.
The BBC’s Katty Kay moderated today’s official Spring Meetings event, which also included South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Patience Sonjica; Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Gloria Steele; Ek Sonn Chan from Cambodia’s General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; and IFC’s Executive VP Lars Thunell.
I haven’t seen the Bank’s J building mini-amphitheater filled with that much energy since, well, ever. The standing room-only event started with a delighted Ngozi acknowledging the crowd for bringing the issue of water and sanitation to such a high level on the occasion of the Spring Meetings.
Measuring human progress is a messy, complicated effort. The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are an effort to bring some standardization to that process, but the 8 globally agreed goals are viewed by some as a construct that handicaps the poorer countries into a race where they started a lap behind many other nations.
It's 10 years since the goals were agreed and 2010 has been designated the 'Year of the MDGs' by the UN and its partners. If all this helps feed hungry families, educate more kids and increase the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, I'm all for it. Good thing I feel that way, since I was working with the team that launched the Global Monitoring Report 2010: The MDGs After the Crisis on April 23.
Yet beyond the goals, targets and exhortations, as well as useful forecasts of extreme poverty rates in 2015, I wonder about the elephant in the room: population growth.
“Spring Meetings” is the name used to describe a series of events—seminars, roundtables, press briefings and official meetings—spread over five or so days every year and all geared toward one thing: improving the lives of people in the developing world.
Discussions throughout the week focus on a broad range of topics (see meetings and civil society forum schedules) and are in many ways a prelude to the main event—the official meeting of the Development Committee—a group of 24 finance and development ministers appointed by each of the countries, or groups of countries, represented on the Boards of Executive Directors of the Bank and Fund. This year's meeting is set for Sunday, April 25.
The Development Committee meets twice a year and advises the Boards on critical development issues and on the financial resources needed to promote economic development in developing countries. The President of the Bank has a special responsibility to propose topics that he believes require the ministers’ attention.
This year’s agenda, just announced, includes:
- Strengthening Development after the Crisis: World Bank Group Post-Crisis Directions, Internal Reforms and Financial Capacity
- World Bank Group Voice Reform: Enhancing Voice and Participation of Developing and Transition Countries in 2010 and Beyond