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End Discriminatory Laws, and Transformative Change Can Follow

Tazeen Hasan's picture

A woman in South Africa. © Trevor Samson/World BankIn September 2013, four elderly sisters in Botswana were finally and definitively allowed to remain in the ancestral home where they had spent most of their lives — the result of their own tenacity and determination that a young nephew could not step in and take ownership of a property they had lovingly maintained.

This landmark decision by the highest court in Botswana, the Court of Appeal, followed five years of efforts by women’s networks and legal associations who helped the sisters bring their claim. The judges decided that customary laws favoring the rights of the youngest male heir were simply out of date.

“The Constitutional values of equality before the law and the increased leveling of the power structures with more and more women heading households and participating with men as equals in the public sphere and increasingly in the private sphere demonstrate that there is no rational and justifiable basis for sticking to the narrow norms of days gone by when such norms go against current value systems,” wrote Justice Lesetedi of the Botswana Court of Appeal.

The reform of discriminatory laws can lead to transformative change.

A pivotal moment in the World Bank's history

Peter Stephens's picture

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. 

Peter Stephens on World Bank Reform

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.

Spring Meetings: What’s on the agenda?

Angie Gentile's picture

Development Committee meeting. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

“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

Zoellick: ‘Spring Meetings a turning point for World Bank’

Angie Gentile's picture

April 22, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/ IMF Spring Meetings. World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, opening press conference. Photo: Simone McCourtie/World Bank.Bank President Robert Zoellick just gave his traditional pre-Spring Meetings briefing to the press, where he talked about a multipolar world economy and how the World Bank is changing to meet the needs of a new reality.

“Economic and political tectonic plates are shifting,” he said. Developing countries are key sources of demand for recovery from the crisis, and “over time, they can become multiple poles of growth.”


 

Zoellick said the Spring Meetings represent a turning point for the World Bank. Over the weekend, the institution’s 186 shareholders will be considering four issues:

  • the first capital increase in more than 20 years
  • whether to give developing countries a bigger say in the running the institution
  • the Bank’s post-crisis strategy, and
  • the most comprehensive reform program in the Bank’s history.

"Agreement on this package of measures, if successful, would represent a multilateral success story,” he said.

 
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Spring Meetings 'Can Represent a Landmark in Bank's History'

Angie Gentile's picture

Delegates, civil society members and press from around the world are set to converge in Washington for  the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. (See the schedule of events.) The week is packed with meetings, briefings and lectures covering topics ranging from strategies for post-economic crisis recovery to the first effort in 20 years to raise capital for the World Bank.

But many continue to wonder what the fallout will be of the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland last week--from the effects on countries to disruptions in international air travel.

Zoellick: End of the Third World?

Julia Ross's picture

April 14, 2010 - Washington DC - World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick speaks at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC

Setting the scene for next week’s Spring Meetings, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said today the world has changed since the financial crisis, the third world is gone and we now live in a multipolar economy.

At Washington, D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Zoellick told an audience of diplomats, economists and international development specialists, “We are now in a new, fast-evolving, multipolar world economy, in which some developing countries are emerging as economic powers; others are moving towards becoming additional poles of growth, and some are struggling to attain their potential within this new system.”

“It is time we put old concepts of First and Third Worlds, leader and led, donor and supplicant behind us,” he said.

The speech drew several questions on the Bank’s response to the financial crisis and how it is helping developing countries adapt to the new global economy Zoellick described.

World Bank reforming to meet new challenges

Angie Gentile's picture

October 6, 2009 - Istanbul, Turkey. World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings 2009. Opening plenary session.

The World Bank is pursuing an ambitious program of reform to enable the institution to become more efficient and effective while also gaining more legitimacy among the developing countries that it serves, Bank President Robert Zoellick said today.

In a speech at the start of the World Bank-IMF annual meetings, Zoellick said the World Bank’s reforms would focus on improving development effectiveness, promoting accountability and good governance, and continuing to increase cost efficiency.

“To serve the changing global economy, the world needs agile, nimble, competent, and accountable institutions,” Zoellick told the meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group. “The World Bank Group will improve its legitimacy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, and further expand its cooperation with the UN, the IMF, the other Multilateral Development Banks, donors, civil society, and foundations which have become increasingly important development actors.”