From left, Robert B. Zoellick, President, The World Bank; Corazon “Dinky” Juliano Soliman, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines; Romulo Paes de Sousa, Vice Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger in Brazil; Michael Elliott, President and CEO, ONE; Dikembe Mutombo, NBA Global Ambassador; Maurice "Mo" Evans, Washington Wizards. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank
Safety nets are needed more than ever to stave off malnutrition, illiteracy and disease in an increasingly uncertain world, but many of the most vulnerable people still lack coverage.
That was the main message of an April 18 live event, Close the Gap: Safety Nets Work, held at the World Bank in Washington in the lead-up to the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. The event, which was webcast and live-blogged in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, followed the release of a new World Bank Social Protection and Labor strategy calling on countries to invest in stronger social protection and labor systems.
An online audience sent feedback and questions to a panel including World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott, high-ranking officials from Brazil and the Philippines, and two basketball stars. They were flanked by banners urging people to “act equal,” “create jobs,” and “protect the vulnerable with safety nets.”
SAO PAULO, June 4, 2011 -- For the cities of the world, there’s rarely if ever been such a momentous single week. Faced with the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, the C40 organization of world’s large cities met in this Brazilian megacity to announce a set of landmark agreements. All the accords, said New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, current C40 chairman and the prime driver of its new initiatives, will be designed to undergird their struggle against rising seas and disruptive weather patterns -- in a world in which cities are responsible, directly or indirectly, for up to 80 percent of global climate emissions.
“The leaders of C40 Cities - the world’s megacities - hold the future in their hands,” Bloomberg asserted.
As a first step, the three dozen C40 mayors confirmed a full merger with the Clinton Climate Initiative, assuring added funding for a centralized, high-grade professional staff as well as full-bore support from former President Bill Clinton, who flew to São Paulo to seal and celebrate the agreement. Staff operations are global, with current bases in London and New York.
Driving through Sao Paulo yesterday, I was struck by the power of cities. While cities are part of the climate change problem, they need to be part of the solution too. They are bigger and more energized than any individual or organization. Cities push and cajole; and cities act. Cities are where it all comes together.
Even more so when former President Bill Clinton, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined forces in Sao Paulo. The accomplished gentlemen born less than a dozen years and 1,500 miles apart spoke and fielded questions with a worldly and gracious informality. The pleasant exchanges sat in contrast to the underlying gravity of their mission. Together they have determined to access their considerable resources to tackle one of the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced: climate change.
Representatives from civil society organizations around the world converged at the Istanbul Conference Center yesterday for a special Townhall meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Just guestimating here, but I’d say there were about 300 CSOs in the room.
At the head of the table was moderator Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, who set the tone by noting how times have changed, with the World Bank and IMF engaging much more closely with CSOs these days.
The Archbishop posed three questions to inform the discussion: How can we work together to avoid another financial crisis? What can the Bank and Fund do to make sure the world doesn’t backslide? And how do shifts in power give those most affected by the crisis a chance to impact the response?
Bank President Robert Zoellick told an overflowing room of journalists this morning that these annual meetings come at an important time for the work of the Bank Group and its members.
“The G-20 summit last week provided clear markers for the work of the World Bank. But more than 160 countries were not at the G-20 table,” he said. “These meetings can therefore ensure that the voices of the poorest are heard and recognized. This is the G-186.”
Zoellick began his remarks by expressing his sympathy for the people of Indonesia, the Philippines, Samoa and Tonga and others in the region, who have been battered by a series of cataclysmic natural disasters.
The Bank’s President told reporters that developing countries are still suffering from the global economic crisis, and it is important for the G20 to scale up support. He said the meetings offer a platform to follow up on the proposal for a crisis facility for low-income countries—critical to ensuring that protection for the most vulnerable becomes a permanent part of the world’s financial architecture.
The Spring Meetings 2009 finished earlier today with the final Development Committee press conference, held by Development Committee Chair, Minister Agustín Carstens, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Speaking on behalf of the Development Committee, Carstens in his opening remarks stressed that "All members of the Development Committee recognized that this is the critical time for developing countries. Impacts from the financial crisis are hitting them hard...The financial crisis is turning into a human and development calamity. Many people have already been driven into absolute poverty."
"In this sense, the Development Committee called on countries to translate their commitments into concerted action and additional resources. We welcome member countries' commitments to a substantial increase in resources for the IMF and we urged all donors to accelerate delivery of commitments to increase aid, and to also consider going beyond existing commitments. We welcome the leadership of the Bank Group and IMF in helping developing countries respond to the crisis,” he said.
- See Development Committee Communique for more info.
In his remarks, Zoellick stressed that “there is a widespread recognition that the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis, poor people could suffer the most, and that we must continue to act in real time to prevent a human catastrophe.”
“Before this crisis, the Millennium Development Goals on overcoming poverty by 2015 already looked like a stretch. Our latest research shows that most of these eight globally agreed goals are unlikely to be met.”
“No one knows how long this crisis will last. We also do not know the pace of the recovery. The Bank’s finances have been prudently run and we are therefore currently in a strong position to help our partner countries,” Zoellick said.
- See the Bank’s Financial Crisis webpage to learn more about the Bank’s initiatives to help poor countries deal with the crisis.
This past Wednesday, leading development banks joined efforts to provide as much as US$90 billion during the next two years in a joint effort to spur economic growth in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
The Inter-American Development Bank and the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the World Bank Group (IBRD, IFC and MIGA), Corporacion Andina de Fomento, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration are all working together to explore new opportunities to protect the economic and social gains achieved in the region during the last five years.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick spoke about the importance of this joint effort:
"Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved substantial economic and social progress over the last five years and we must ensure that this is not lost because of the external shock of the global crisis. We need to avoid a social and human crisis."
For more information:
- Press Release: Development Banks Join Efforts to Provide US$90 Billion For Latin America & The Caribbean
- Upcoming Event: Latin America and the Global Crisis, Towards a Rapid Regional Recovery
- VOICES Video Interview: Augusto de la Torre, Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank