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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Development banks stress social issues
Russian farmer with horse in the snow
The transition to a market economy is tough for many Russians
Health, education and the environment must be taken into account when helping developing countries, according to some of the world's most powerful development agencies.

Laurent Fabius, EBRD
Fabius: Inequalities threaten economic security
The chairman of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Laurent Fabius said it was crucial for the central and eastern European economies to look after their workforces.

"The sustainable development of the transition countries depends... on their ability to exploit their fundamental advantage: the quality of their human resources," he said as he opened the tenth anniversary forum of the EBRD.

"There can be no prospect of sustainable growth if the population suffers from ill health and is in decline," he said.

Growing inequality

"Inequalities are not just socially unacceptable, they are also a threat to the economic security of the countries concerned," said Mr Fabius.

James Wolfensohn, World Bank
Wolfensohn: Pollution leads to lost productivity
The UK's international development secretary Clare Short, who opened the EBRD conference, agreed that action was needed.

"There has been a sharp increase in poverty and inequality on most countries of the EBRD's operation," she said.

The EBRD's concerns were also echoed by the World Bank's efforts to deal with social problems elsewhere in the world.

The World Bank on Monday announced plans to boost its global anti-Aids/HIV spending by 15%.

The Bank has plans to devote up to $150m to fight HIV/Aids in the Caribbean, president James Wolfensohn said while attending the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

Green issues

The EBRD and the World Bank officials also stressed the importance of combating pollution.

The EBRD headquarters in London;
The EBRD is 10 years old
"We must endeavour to improve the quality of the environment in the transition countries, which have often suffered heavily from ill-considered and unbridled industrialism," he said.

Similarly, a report by the World Bank released on Sunday found that "local air pollution is one of the major causes of deteriorating human health and quality of life in the Europe and Central Asia region".

This results in "lost productivity and a decline in the quality of life of many city-dwellers".

Closer cooperation

Mr Fabius also called for the EBRD to work more closely with other international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"Globalisation requires greater economic security within the framework of a new worldwide financial architecture," he said.

The EBRD and the World Bank have often been criticised for ignoring social and environmental issues when constructing lending programs and offering assistance to developing countries.

The latest statements come after a weekend of anti-globalisation protests at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

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See also:

23 Mar 01 | Business
Health brings wealth
23 Apr 01 | Americas
Americas sign free trade deal
22 May 00 | Europe
Frenchman to head EBRD
11 Mar 99 | Europe
EBRD announces huge losses
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