A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis.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 36). The following is a continuation 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”.
Too many countries are being left behind
But some would say, should we wager our resources on success, knowing that there has also been failure? Much of the growth and poverty reduction worldwide over the past twenty years have come in the two giants of the developing world, China and India, with progress too in other parts of East Asia and Latin America. Yet, too many countries are being left behind – especially in Sub Saharan Africa. There has been too much inequity between countries and within countries, too much exclusion, too many wars, and too much internal strife. And now AIDS threatens to reverse many of the gains made over the last 40 years. And these challenges will only grow over the next 30 years, as the global population increases by two billion to eight billion people, with almost the entire increase going to developing countries.
We must look objectively back at the past with humility
As we in the international community – international institutions and bilateral agencies, governments and NGOs – look to the challenge before us, we must also look objectively back at the past, and do so with humility. For too many people, the Cold War years were years when development stalled or even reversed; when leaders became enriched at the expense of their people; when monies were lent for the sake of politics, not development. We have seen failure, yes, and we have seen the effects of the politicization of aid; and we must never forget its corrosive impact.
What we have learned
We have learned that policies imposed from London or Washington will not work. Countries must be in charge of their own development. Policies must be locally owned and locally grown. We have learned that any effort to fight poverty must be comprehensive. There is no magic bullet that alone will slay poverty. But we know too that there are conditions that foster successful development; Education and health programs to build the human capacity of the country; good and clean government; an effective legal and justice system; and a well-organized and supervised financial system. We have learned that corruption, bad policies, and weak governance will make aid ineffective, and that country-led programs to fight corruption can succeed. We have learned that debt-reduction for the most highly indebted poor countries is a crucial element in putting countries back on their feet, and that the funds released can be used effectively for poverty programs.
Investment in people
We have learned that we must focus on the conditions for investment and entrepreneurship, particularly for smaller enterprises and farms. But that is not enough for pro-poor growth: We must also promote investment in people, empowering them to make their own choices. We have learned that development is about the long haul, reaching beyond political cycles or quick fixes – for the surest foundation for long-term change is social consensus for long-term action. These lessons should give us heart, for more than ever today, bilateral and multilateral donors, governments, and civil society are coming together in support of a set of shared principles.
Building on and then replicating successes
More than ever today, a new wind is blowing through the world of development, transforming our potential to make development happen. In this new world, development is not about aid dependence. It is about a chance for developing countries to put in place policies that will enable their economies to grow, to attract private investment, and that will allow governments to invest in their people – promoting aid independence. It is about treating the poor not as objects of charity, but as assets on which we can build a better and safer world. It is about scaling up – moving from individual projects to programs. It is about building on and then replicating successes – for example, in community-driven development and microcredit – where the poor are at the center of the solution, not at the end of a handout. It is about forging a New Partnership between the rich and poor based on mutual interest and mutual support.