The World Bank- IMF Annual Meetings wrapped Sunday, following the release of a Development Committee communiqué that endorsed the Bank’s emphasis on jobs and growth, gender equality, and recent reforms that have made the Bank more open and transparent.
Countries like South Korea and Thailand have seen similar demographic formulas work to their advantage in recent decades: falling fertility rates lead to burgeoning adult working populations lead to greater economic productivity.
How did they harness these changes to create engines of growth? According to speakers at a World Bank panel on “Realizing the Demographic Dividend,” greater investments in health, family planning, and gender equality paved the way, followed by further investments in education, youth development, and job creation.
The old Bank: hub and spoke….the new Bank: just one node in a vast network.
But in this network the Bank is still a “super-node,” as Martine Haas, Associate Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School describes it. In an information-based, totally connected world, the Bank brings a lot of material to the table.
World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin convened an open roundtable this week—the first of its kind—made up of all the Bank’s regional chief economists to discuss global economic prospects. There has been rising uncertainty in emerging economies, which until recently had not only remained somewhat insulated from the financial crisis in the developed world, but enjoyed continued growth.
In almost every meeting that I’ve been in over these last few days – be it with government officials, development partners or civil society – the words ‘results’, ‘accountability’, ‘openness’ and ‘effectiveness’ dominate. It’s not that the focus on results or accountability is new or unexpected, but I think each one of us has recognized the urgency to deliver and demonstrate results, in an open and transparent manner, and step back and assess what we’re doing and how it is helping our partner countries and the people who live there.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick this week urged civil society to help show how greater engagement on the ground brings about better development outcomes, particularly by improving governance and service.
Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde met with civil society organization (CSO) representatives in a town hall prior to the 2011 Annual Meetings. Some 600 CSOs—the largest number ever-- are participating in this year’s Civil Society Forum—four days of discussions to promote substantive dialogue between civil society representatives and Bank and Fund staff. Topics include climate change and energy, gender, aid dependency, and jobs as well as mechanisms for Bank-civil society engagement.
During a visit to Sierra Leone a few months ago, I was struck by the commitment that the government has shown to making changes in delivering basic services—such as education, health, and water—so as to try to reach and benefit poor people. But it was also clear to me that while the government must continue to make improvements in its existing programs, it cannot reach all citizens immediately—and this is true in many low-income countries in Africa, especially those recovering from conflict or civil war.
Showcasing the World Bank’s recently launched “Think Equal” campaign, the Nike Foundation yesterday unveiled an unusual visual message of equality and potential of girls at Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. Artists from Brazil, Argentina, and Kenya created installations to display at the Bank, including a banner hanging outside the Bank’s main complex and a series of murals inside the atrium.
The art works champion what the foundation calls the Girl Effect movement. “If you invest in a girl you can stop poverty before it starts,” said Nike Foundation President and CEO Maria Eitel.