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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
New 'green' policy for World Bank
World Bank president James Wolfensohn
Wolfensohn: A powerful advocate of green issues
The World Bank said it had adopted a new environmental strategy that would ensure that economic development in poor countries does not bring pollution and degradation of natural resources.

The bank said the new strategy was the result of two years of meetings between the lender and stakeholders on all continents.

Critics of the Washington-based lender have charged some of the bank's programmes with being harmful to the environment.

But under president James Wolfensohn, it has attempted to reorient itself towards more sustainable policies - a move sometimes seen as little more than an attempt to shake off anti-globalisation protestors.

Ian Johnson, president of the bank's Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network, said that developing countries were increasingly concerned about the effects of pollution and the impact that declining natural resources have on health and on their prospects for growth.

The impact of environmental degradation on developing economies is as high as 4-8% of gross domestic product, the bank said.

Aspirations

Details of the new programme are vague; it represents more a set of aspirations than a concrete set of procedures.

The bank said the new policy was the culmination of a long process of soul-searching about the environment, evolving from a "do no harm" policy in the 1970s to one more targeted at actively promoting green issues.

Although it has long focused on traditional economic success - especially growth in economic output - as its yardstick of performance, the bank now says quality-of-life issues are equally, if not more important.

The World Bank now has an $18bn fund specifically aimed at environmental projects.

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