A conversation with the World Bank’s Robert Zoellick

A conversation with the World Bank’s Robert Zoellick


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Last week, I had the huge honor of hearing Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, speak at the Society for International Development (SID) World Conference. Mr. Zoellick’s speech, which kicked off a weekend of workshops and panel discussions with the NGO community, spoke directly to SID’s mission to reappraise and challenge the fundamentals behind development policy. ONE fellow and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson moderated the conversation, and touched on issues such as poverty, food security and long-term development.

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You can watch the full speech, “A Conversation with Robert Zoellick” in the video above, but here’s a list of what I think were his five most interesting, forward-thinking ideas:

On food security: “We can increase agricultural and production — production and productivity in the developing world, significantly in sub-Saharan Africa, we can take advantage of higher prices to create higher incomes, to help overcome poverty….”

On drought: “We help organize something that was actually started by Robert McNamara in the 70s, the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research, and there’s great potential, again, from some of this — the research in seeds to these centers all around the world to fertilizers, to irrigation, to transport systems, the roads.”

On the World Bank’s partnerships: “Now, for some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, may not have the capability to do that, so we work with World Food Programme, UNICEF, and others on things like school feeding programs, which can become platforms for dealing with child nutrition and other aspects.”

On emerging and developing markets: “You know, America has about 4 percent of the world’s population. If we’re going to grow, if we want to continue to grow, we’ve got to be able to market at the rest of the world, and what’s really changed a lot is, including sub-Saharan Africa with infrastructure development, there is increasing opportunities here for investors as well as on the trade side.”

On gender equality: “So, let’s start with the basic concept, if you take 50 percent of your people and you don’t allow them to reach the potential, it’s probably not good for your economy.”

I knew before attending this event that Mr. Zoellick is a legendary expert who has a profound understanding of our complex global economy. To learn more about his views on development, read the transcript of his speech.


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