Year in Review: Taking On the Toughest Challenges

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Can the world end extreme poverty by 2030? Will it be able to avert the worst effects of climate change or stop Ebola? These challenges are among the biggest we face today. In 2014, the World Bank Group tapped its knowledge, finance, and influence to confront global problems.

1) Taking on economic growth

In the wake of the financial crisis, developing countries were the engine of the global economy. In 2014, they faced new risks: lower growth, less financing, and lower prices for their commodities. In January and again in June, the World Bank urged developing countries to get their houses in order. Countries need blueprints to maintain the kind of growth that helped cut extreme poverty nearly in half globally in the last couple of decades. With the financial crisis fading, now is the time for developing countries to strengthen their economies so they can keep reducing poverty, according to the twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects.

2) Taking on inequality

 

“Shared prosperity” is a goal supported by the World Bank’s 188 member countries. It’s derived from the idea that society should be judged by how its poorest members fare. With inequality increasing globally, the World Bank Group is helping developing countries create conditions for higher incomes and living standards for the bottom 40% of the population. The World Bank is tracking income data and other indicators to measure progress.

3) Taking on fragile situations

 

More than 3 million refugees have fled war-torn Syria for neighboring countries – straining infrastructure and budgets. The World Bank has aided Jordan and Lebanon, most recently with a $250 million loan in March to ease Jordan’s fiscal strains. On a June visit, World Bank Group President Kim thanked Jordan and Lebanon for taking in the refugees and called for more international support for these countries. He also urged the region to plan for peace, rally around rebuilding and laying the foundations for a “more just and prosperous future.”

 

4) Taking on infrastructure

A man fills bottles with water in Sanaía, Yemen. © Foad Al Harazi/World BankAbout 1.2 billion people live without electricity and 2.5 billion people don’t have toilets. Some 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Developing countries need an estimated $1 trillion each year to close these big gaps. In October, the World Bank Group announced a new Global Infrastructure Facility would help deliver a pipeline of economically viable and sustainable infrastructure projects that could attract financing. The facility so far has won the support of some of the world’s largest asset management and private equity firms; pension and insurance funds; commercial banks; and donor countries.

5) Taking on disaster recovery

Victims of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) live in temporary shelters in Tacloban, Philippines. © Dominic Chavez/World BankTyphoons, droughts, and other disasters shatter lives and economies. Global losses have grown over the last few decades and now amount to about $200 billion a year. The World Bank Group is helping countries, cities and regions build back better and build resilience for the future. “The poor are disproportionately affected by disasters and are the least able to cope,” said President Kim during a visit to the Philippines, hit last year by Typhoon Haiyan. “If we don't build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, we won't end poverty.”

6) Taking on women’s empowerment

 

With women’s potential still untapped in many parts of the world, the World Bank group formed new partnerships to boost women’s empowerment, health and other outcomes. The Global Financing Facility supporting Every Woman, Every Child will help scale up and sustain essential health services for women, children and adolescents. The Data2X initiative will fill vast data gaps related to women and girls, as part of a broad effort to empower them and end extreme poverty. More data will build the evidence that helping girls and women pays off for women, men, communities, and countries. “The numbers are really clear. Discrimination is bad for economic growth,” said Kim.

7) Taking on climate change

The Climate March in New York City in September. © Max Edkins/Connect4Climate As nations gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September, Kim announced that 74 countries — including China and Russia — and more than 1,000 companies had expressed support for putting a price on carbon. In December, in the wake of a new report the earth is warming faster than expected, Kim called for an ambitious climate agreement and urged all countries to put a price on carbon, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, favor renewable energy, and invest in resilience.

8) Taking on Ebola

A man walks past a sign about Ebola in Conakry, Guinea. © Dominic Chavez/World BankWith the Ebola epidemic growing into a major crisis, the World Bank Group fast-tracked more than $500 million in emergency grants for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and pledged another $450 million in assistance. A report by the Bank predicted economic losses could spiral if the virus spread to other countries. Kim brought together the leaders of the three countries, ministers, and heads of organizations at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in October to urge global action. He visited the three most-affected countries in early December. “We must empower the strong leaders in the region who head the response to extinguish the virus wherever it exists,” said Kim.

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