Millennium Development Goals: World Bank President Jin Yong Kim Says Our Leaders Must Fight Poverty

As part of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings that took place in Washington, D.C., last week, World Bank President Jin Yong Kim, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and a handful of influential leaders and opinion-makers hosted Global Voices on Poverty to discuss what it takes to end poverty.

With less than a thousand days to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals, President Kim talked of looking ahead towards a new set of “Sustainable Development Goals” post-2015. The low-hanging fruit of the development goals has been achieved, claimed President Kim — thanks in great part to the rapid rise of China and, to a lesser extent, India — and the world must now look towards the “higher-hanging fruit” that still remains.

Secretary-General Moon stressed that while all leaders may decry the ills of poverty and tout the need to work together to fight such ills, real political will is needed back home to enact change.

The discussion surrounded numerous barriers to poverty eradication, which included civil conflict, gender equality, global inequality and vested business interests.

Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of the micro financing movement and head of Grameen Bank, stressed that the banking system has remained remarkably unchanged despite the fact that its widespread failures had been exposed so glaringly by the financial crisis of 2008. Yunus called for a re-examination of the role of the private sector in development, stating that, “the conceptual framework of businesses as solely profit-maximizing needs to be changed.” He argued instead that the limitlessness of human creativity should be channelled in to businesses that solve problems for the greater social good.

South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel echoed the belief of Nobel Prize recipients Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and others in reiterating that GDP is not an adequate measure of social well-being. Manuel said that the $1.25-a-day benchmark of global poverty is an insufficient measure when the drastic changes in prices of staple goods are taken in to account.

President Kim also noted that the Bank was adjusting to this idea by looking more closely at how the bottom 40% of a population participate in economic growth, adding that “the Arab Spring taught us that growth that’s not inclusive is not sustainable.”

Speaking on the need for endogenous growth, Ugandan Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka cautioned donors not to “make formal mechanisms in informal ways,” claiming that well-funded NGOs and civil society organizations, can be a detriment to development when they do not have a high level of local ownership and participation.

President Kim closed the discussion by underlining the pernicious effects climate change is having on development, as well as highlighting the urgency of the MDG deadline.

“I’d like to see a movement taking shape around ending poverty,” he said. Whether leaders have the political will to move is yet to be seen.

For more information, head over to the The World Bank website.

This post originally appeared on The Student Journals.

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Diptesh Soni

Diptesh is a Master's candidate at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) studying Economic and Political Development

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