A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis. CHAPTER 1: INDIFFERENCE (Part 35). The following is a continuation of an abridgment of the keynote address given by James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2002, with the title “A Partnership for Development and Peace”.
A vision of the road to victory
Last year, at a summit held at the United Nations, more than 140 world leaders agreed to launch a campaign to attack poverty on a number of fronts. Together, we agreed to support the Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, we said, we will:
halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day;
ensure that boys and girls alike complete primary schooling;
eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education;
reduce child mortality by two-thirds;
reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters;
roll-back HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
halve the proportion of people without access to safe water;
and develop a global partnership for development.
How could anyone take issue with these goals? How could anyone refuse to stand up and say that for my children and my children’s children, I want that better world?
The facts show that we have made important progress
And yet, there are those who legitimately ask: Can we win a war against poverty? And if we can’t be sure, should we wager our resources? To these people I would ask: Can we afford to lose? How much are we prepared to commit to preserve our children’s future? What is the price we are willing to pay to make progress in our life time toward a better world? And to the doubters I would say: Look at the facts. For the facts show that despite difficulties and setbacks, we have made important progress in the past, and we will make progress in the future.
Over the past 40 years, life expectancy at birth in developing countries has increased by 20 years – about as much as was achieved in all of human history prior to the middle of the 20th century.
Over the past 30 years, illiteracy in the developing world has been cut nearly in half, from 47% to 25% in adults.
Over the past 20 years, the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day, after rising steadily for the Last 200 years, has for the first time begun to fall, even as the world’s population has grown by 1.6 billion people.
Real progress in real people’s lives
Driving much of this progress has been an acceleration of growth rates in the developing world – more than doubling the income of the average person living in developing countries over the past 35 years. These are not just meaningless statistics. They indicate real progress in real people’s lives:
In Vietnam, where the number of people in poverty has halved over the last 15 years.
In China, where the number of rural poor people fell from 250 million to 34 million in two decades of reform.
In Uganda, where the number of children in primary school has doubled.
In Bangladesh, where dramatic strides have been made to achieve universal primary education – and raised the enrollment of girls in high school to about par with boys, in an environment where girls have for long faced huge barriers.
In Brazil, where the number of AIDS-related deaths have been cut by more than a third.
Or in Ethiopia, where six million people are now benefiting from better education and health services.
These advances have not come by chance. They have come by action: First and foremost action by developing countries themselves, but also from action in partnership with the richer world and with the international institutions, with civil society, and the private sector.