If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.
When I heard the news last autumn that 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan had been shot simply for standing up for her right as a girl to get an education, I was horrified.
It also reminded me how lucky I was.
When I was offered a rare scholarship to study abroad, it wasn’t acceptable for me, as a young married Indonesian woman, to live apart from my husband. My mother laid out two options: Either he would join me, which meant giving up his job, or I had to decline the offer.
I know it was her way to advocate for my husband to support me, which he did without hesitation. We both went to the United States to complete our master’s degrees. I combined it with a doctorate in economics, and we had our first child, a daughter, while we both were graduate students.
Imagine you are a leader of an African country and your entire government budget for the year is $1.2 billion.
That same year, an investor sells 51 percent of their stake in a huge iron ore mine in your country for $2.5 billion — more than double your annual government budget.
And imagine having ordered a review into mining licenses granted by previous regimes and knowing that the investor who made the $2.5 billion sale had been granted a mining license in your country for free.
It's what happened in Guinea. It's a story I heard Guinea's president, Alpha Condé tell the G8's trade, transparency and taxation conference in London. And it's a story I thought well worth sharing at the UN Security Council's meeting on fragile states and natural resources last week.
The evidence tells us that malnutrition costs lives, perpetuates poverty, and slows economic growth. We now know that nearly half of all child deaths globally are attributed to malnutrition. I have seen in my own country, Indonesia, how stunting caused by malnutrition has diminished too many children’s futures before they even begin. Malnourished children are more likely to perform poorly in school and drop out earlier than their better-nourished peers, limiting their future earnings. Data from Guatemala show that boys who had good nutrition before age 3 are earning nearly 50% more as adults, and girls had a greater likelihood of having an independent source of income and were less likely to live in poor households.
Malnutrition diminishes not only the futures of individuals, but also of nations. Recent estimates suggest that as much as 11% of gross national product in Africa and Asia is lost annually to the impact of malnutrition. To end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, the world must commit to end child stunting due to malnutrition. I will be joining leaders from around the world in London this week to focus on this critical challenge.
Photo: IDA16 Mid-Term Review, right to left, President Alassane Ouattara, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Republic of Liberia, and Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President of the World Bank, Concessional Finance & Global Partnerships. Credit: Abidjan.net
Two weeks ago, a consortium of donor and borrower countries met to take stock of progress on meeting commitments made by IDA, the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries. (Not sure what IDA is? Click here.) This meeting was an important check-in at the half-way point in what is known as IDA16—a three-year period running from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014, during which special grant and soft loan financing is made available for life-changing works in the world's 81 poorest countries.
The meeting was hosted by Côte d'Ivoire, our first mid-term meeting held in a client country. The talks were attended by IDA Deputies and Borrower Representatives, individuals appointed to represent their governments on IDA.
I have some good and some not so good news about aid. First, the good news. The aid landscape has seen three important changes during the last decade that have had a transformative, positive effect on the very nature of aid.
One of these changes has been the increased focus on the quality of aid—especially on the results being achieved on the ground. The World Bank and IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest, have placed a premium on having a real impact in the work we support, and the results show.
Following months of preparation, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) officially kicks off this morning in New York. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper and security tighter than usual in Manhattan’s Midtown East area, but the 140+ country delegations gathered here are focusing on how to accelerate progress on the goals to meet the 2015 deadline.
At today’s U.N. General Assembly plenary session, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick called for a redoubling of global efforts to achieve the MDGs, which he said were “central to the World Bank Group’s mission and our everyday work.”
This weekend, shareholders gathered for the Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, will decide on a request to replenish the World Bank Group’s capital base. The request comes in the wake of unprecedented demands for the Bank’s financial assistance stemming from the global economic crisis.
In a recent speech at Harvard University, Africa Region Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili outlined the importance of the capital increase as a critical source of funding for the International Development Association (IDA), the concessional window of the World Bank that provides grants and interest-free credits to low-income countries; the majority of which are in Africa. IDA will be seeking its 16th replenishment in 2011.
In their discussions this weekend, the Development Committee will be assessing five strategic priorities for the Bank in a post-crisis environment. Gender is considered a cross-cutting issue that will factor into all of the Bank's work in these priority areas.