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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Experts call for poverty action
World Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern
Nick Stern: "Commitments must lead to real results"

The World Bank has signalled that the time for real action against world poverty has come.

But critics in the streets of Oslo, where the meeting is taking place, say that the Bank is part of the problem, not the solution.

Speaking to BBC News Online at the Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) in Oslo, the World Bank's chief economist, Nicholas Stern, said it was now the duty of the bank and its partners to transform the commitments made at the Monterrey summit in March into action.

"There you got commitment to increase aid, and you got recommitment to the millennium development goals.

"As well as all those recommitments you got an understanding of mutual responsibility and accountability for delivering.

"The challenge now is to transform those commitments into real results on the ground," Mr Stern told BBC News Online.

At the UN summit in Monterrey, world leaders agreed increased development was the way to reduce poverty.

More than 170 countries also recommitted themselves to the UN's millennium development goals, which seek to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, introduce universal primary education, and to reduce child mortality.

Mr Stern said with these commitments in place, he now felt confident making things actually happen could be just around the corner. But not, he added, without hard work:

"It won't happen unless people who are committed to development are really active and stand up to discuss these issues and press governments."

Kaunda leads criticism

The ABCDE gathering hosts academics from around the world in dialogue with development experts and activists.

This year's conference, entitled "Towards Pro-Poor Policies", has also attracted a range of critical voices against World Bank policies.

On Sunday the former President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, opened an alternative conference which aimed to focus on the negative effects World Bank policies have had on developing nations over the past few decades.

In the late 1980s, Mr Kaunda refused to co-operate with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in protest at what he saw as damaging structural adjustment programmes imposed by the Bank and IMF in return for loans.

The former president said the World Bank's move away from structural adjustment programmes toward poverty reduction represents little more than window dressing.

In his opening address Mr Kaunda welcomed the chance to fight for what he called "a second liberation from global financial strangulation of mankind spearheaded by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation."

Norway attacks critics

The host of the ABDCE, Norway's Development Minister Hilde Frafjord Johnson, told BBC News Online she was disappointed with the critics, some of whom had declined an invitation to take part at the World Bank conference itself.

"I must say that I'm a bit surprised.

"Many of the people who will be marching in the streets are those who campaigned for debt relief, and who made major contributions together with ministers and people in the World Bank to get $50 billion dollars in debt relief for 26 countries.

"Working with the bank to get the achievements we need is the best way to get results. I don't think the message 'get rid of the bank' is the one that delivers results for the poor at all", she told BBC News Online.

About 300 demonstrators are expected in Oslo amid tight police security.

Last year, the World Bank abandoned attempts to hold a similar conference in Barcelona and held the debate online instead after mass demonstrations by anti-globalisation protesters paralysed the city.

Key stories

Aid debate

Africa's future





See also:

23 Mar 02 | Americas
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19 Jun 01 | Business
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