With fewer than 1,000 days until the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the World Bank and IMF spring meetings taking place in Washington, D.C., just last week. Thousands of government officials, journalists, civil society organizations and members from academia and the private sector are invited every spring to attend meetings and seminars at the World Bank and IMF to discuss the global economy, international development and the status of the world’s financial markets.
So why all of the excitement this year in particular? Seeing the end of poverty in our lifetime is more attainable now than ever before, and with the close of the MDGs upon us, comes debate about what framework should be implemented next.
The panels hanging from World Bank headquarters say it all when it comes to the overarching topic of this year’s discussions
Everything from women’s empowerment to health and transparency were discussed at events taking place during the week. Senior officials cited hunger, education, poverty eradication and energy in particular as the “heart of development” efforts in the years to come.
Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, and Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, sat down to talk about what has been accomplished in the fight against extreme poverty and what we still have left to do. Both were optimistic about the progress that the international community has made in halving the number of people living in abject poverty and the potential to virtually end extreme poverty by 2030 – points that our co-founder Bono highlighted during a TED talk earlier this year.
President Kim addressed skepticism about what progress has actually been made in places besides China and India, a criticism that has been raised again and again when experts talk about unparalleled growth in the developing world:
“We did great work from 1990 to 2010, when we halved the poverty rate, but a lot of the success was due to the fact that China grew so rapidly economically and lifted 600 million people out of poverty. Now, what’s left is a lot of really hard work. We’ve got to make progress in South Asia, we’ve got to make progress in Sub-Saharan Africa. And so, the sort of higher hanging fruit is what’s left. This is going to be really, really hard. [But] I tell you, Africa has grown at over 5 percent on average…despite the economic crisis that the developing countries have been able to keep their growth rate at over 5 percent, and in fact keep global growth up, I think that means that we have been doing a lot of things right.”
President Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were joined by other well-known figures in the field of international development, including Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister of International Development in Sweden; Maria Kiwanuka, Minister of Finance in Uganda; and Trevor Manuel, the Minister in the Presidency in charge of National Planning in South Africa, who each took turns answering questions from the audience.
If you have been following the UN High Level Panel and discussions about what will come after the MDGs, or if you’d like to start, be sure to read the World Bank’s report titled End Extreme Poverty and Promote Shared Prosperity, which lays out ambitious goals to coordinate development efforts in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Like our YouChoose Campaign, which asked people in South Africa, Zambia and Malawi to send an SMS with the most important challenge to overcome in poverty-fighting efforts, the World Bank has turned to social media to collect information from people all over the world about what #ittakes to end poverty, giving those in the developing world an opportunity to contribute and be involved in the process. In fact, Bono visited the World Bank in November 2012 to discuss the next steps to ending poverty with Dr. Kim, with input gathered from the public through Twitter, postcards and online submissions.