Inequality is of concern for at least three reasons. First, lower inequality per se is an objective for a decent society. Second, lower inequality improves the efficiency of economic growth in achieving poverty reduction. Third, high inequality impedes growth itself, through its impact on social cohesion and the investment climate.
Last week I was a panelist at a civil society organization seminar during the World Bank Annual Meetings on the topic of “Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact.” The task for the panel was to discuss good practices in citizen engagement to make governments and service providers (including the private sector) more accountable so that policies and project interventions have greater impact for all citizens. The other panelists included representatives from Civicus, Plan International, and the Bank and International Finance Corporation.
The invitation to this event made me reflect on a fundamental question: Is it realistic to expect citizens to hold service providers accountable given the huge asymmetry of power between the two, or are we setting unrealistic expectations that citizen engagement interventions can improve development outcomes?
As I searched for answers, I was reminded of the story of the mighty warrior, Goliath, and the shepherd boy, David, who stepped up to fight him when no one else dared. No one in his or her right mind would have given David a chance against Goliath. However, we all know how the story ends — David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, causing the mighty to fall. Can we have similar happy endings in citizens vs. almighty service providers?
The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.” Read the communiqué and article.
A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.
President Jim Yong Kim outlined his plan for a leaner, more efficient and tightly knit World Bank Group in his opening address at the Annual Meetings — and listed several ways changes would be visible to countries working with the institution. Among them: reducing by a third the amount of time a project takes to get off the ground; gathering feedback from all beneficiaries on development projects; and openly sharing knowledge and experience, including making it easy to see exactly where the Bank is working and what it is doing. “Together, we must urgently lift a billion people from extreme poverty, help them to regain dignity, help them find hope, and help them change their own lives — and the whole world’s future — for the better,” said Kim. The Development Committee discusses the Bank Group’s new strategy on Saturday.
An excited crowd greeted Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old whose fight for girls’ education earned her the European Union’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year. In an often humorous, sometimes touching conversation with President Kim and young people in the audience on International Day of the Girl, Malala talked about her life before and after an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Her cause, education, is the best way to fight poverty and should be the top priority of development institutions, she said. “I believe that when we work together, that it’s really easy for us to achieve our goals,” she said. Kim pledged $200,000 to the Malala Fund on behalf of the World Bank. Replay the webcast and read our Youthink blog.
At least 80% of countries considered fragile or affected by conflict are home to valuable extractive resources that the global economy hungers for. Earth’s riches like oil, gas, and minerals often fuel conflict, trapping all but the elites in poverty amid vast wealth.
A high-level panel of industry experts and representatives from CSOs and resource-rich nations weighed in today on the challenges that define poverty or prosperity in a fragile country.
Fragile states endowed with natural resources have the chance to benefit from their transformational impact, said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group. "Success can mean stability and development, and failure can mean aid dependency,” she said.
Indrawati underscored the need to get things right — alluding to the recurrent discussion regarding the “resource curse.” “Our focus is on transparency, governance, and strengthening country capacity,” she said.
On transparency, panelist Clare Short, chair of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources, acknowledged that extractive resources “are very difficult to manage.”
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim delivered two startling facts at his Annual Meetings press briefing today: 400 million of the world’s extreme poor are children; and in 35 low-income countries, 100 million more people are living in extreme poverty — defined as less than $1.25 a day — than 30 years ago.
Both statistics are from a new report, the State of the World’s Poor, and they reveal that critical challenges remain despite historic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries in recent decades. “How can we in good conscience not do all we can to lift these children and their families out of extreme poverty?” asked Kim. “They can’t wait for progress to emerge slowly. They need our help today.”
The mood was light-hearted and lively as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim traded jokes with CNN’s Richard Quest in an early morning, no-holds-barred interview before a live and online audience from around the world. But Kim soon turned serious about a new target the world must meet on the road to effectively ending extreme poverty by 2030 — cutting it from 18% percent today to half that by 2020.
Can the world cut poverty in half by 2020? In a webcast interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for reducing extreme poverty to single digits in just seven years. The Bank Group will work with countries and the international community to reduce the number of people living under $1.25 a day to 9% of the global population, down from 18% today. The 2020 target would be an interim step on the way to cutting extreme poverty to 3% by 2030 — a goal approved last spring by the Bank Group’s 188 shareholders. Read more: Blog, Release.
Luckily, your good friends at the Africa Region are just as determined to make sure you stay in the loop. We sense your angst and we’ve got you covered.