Page last updated at 18:41 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Criticism spurs World Bank reform

By David Loyn
International development correspondent, BBC News

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks at the Barbican in London, UK, 9 March 2009
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said the commission would ensure the bank was better run

The World Bank has launched a commission to reform itself as it faces calls to become more representative during the global economic downturn.

The make-up of the commission, which will include leading economists, was announced by World Bank Managing Director Ngosi Okonjo-Iweala.

It will be chaired by a former Mexican President, Ernesto Zedillo.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala spoke at a conference in London aimed at helping the poorest nations deal with the global downturn.

She said the commission would ensure the World Bank operated "more dynamically, effectively, efficiently and legitimately".

The plan to set up the commission was originally announced in October 2008 by the World Bank at its annual meeting.

'Our interests'

UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander recently criticised the World Bank for not acting swiftly enough in the past in response to crisis, and demanded that its procedures should be streamlined.

In a world of cross-border risks and opportunities... fighting poverty is, bluntly, in our own interests
Douglas Alexander
UK international development secretary

Opening the London conference, which comes ahead of next month's G20 summit in London, he said that beyond the moral imperative of aid - the "timeless call of justice" - international development was based on self-interest, as countries relied on each other.

He said: "From the attacks of 11 September, to the global recession today... from the terrorist networks of South Asia to the drug traffickers of West Africa.

"None of these problems is confined to the countries in which they originate. In a world of cross-border risks and opportunities, in a world where there is no more 'over there' and 'over here', fighting poverty is, bluntly, in our own interests."

Mr Alexander said 90 million more people would be thrown into poverty by the global economic downturn because of a combination of what he called the "credit crunch tsunami", the cut in remittances from foreign workers, and lower commodity prices, adversely affecting many countries in Africa whose foreign currency flows depend on sales of a small number of commodities.

Imbalanced world

The head of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, said it was ironic that the poorest countries who benefited least from globalisation were now suffering worst from the negative effects of global economic collapse.

Sir Bob Geldof, London, UK, 9 March 2009
Geldof made a passionate defence of aid during the conference

Sir Bob Geldof addressed the conference with a badly swollen eye, the result of a spider bite in Africa.

He made a passionate defence of aid, saying that two million lives had been saved in Africa by the availability of cheap anti-retroviral drugs, provided by enlightened development policies.

He said the global economic crisis was inevitable because the world economy was imbalanced. "When something is lop-sided, it falls over," he said.

He said that the world was interdependent, and for wisdom we should turn from Karl Marx and Adam Smith to Bob Dylan: "He was right when he said 'Money does not talk, it swears.'"

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific