from The World Bank..
October 22, 2012, from the blog of Jim Kim, President at The World Bank
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been asking people everywhere to answer a question that is at once simple, but not easy: “What will it take to end poverty?” So far we’ve seen more than 12,000 responses.
Across the world, people are bound together by their common hope for a better future. People like Oneida, a 26-year-old woman from Honduras, who told us that to keep people safe from crime, her community needs “more policemen yes, but above all, more jobs.”
Or Dhangaur, a mother in India, who told us that to keep her children healthy she needs a clean neighborhood and clean air. They don’t just want to escape poverty. They want to build and achieve all dimensions of prosperity, including higher incomes, good health, and quality education. And they want justice. Because wherever there is poverty and inequality, there is too often injustice.
I’ve witnessed firsthand how poverty inflicts violence on people’s bodies and spirits. This makes all of us less human. Why do we tolerate this? I’ve also seen how the marginalized possess extraordinary resolve to assert their dignity. Why does our resolve to end poverty not match theirs?
So here’s the question I want to address: What will it take for all of us – governments, the private sector, civil society, and multilateral organizations around the globe – to help the Oneidas and Dhangaurs all over the world realize their goals? What can we do to help end poverty and build shared prosperity?
I am well aware that, in this challenging environment, support for development can fade in the face of other priorities. Many of you have heard arguments that in the current economic climate, we cannot afford to renew our commitment to global development, to keep the promises we made in earlier times.
Well, here is the counter-argument. Today, when many citizens are demanding greater inclusion and some may be losing hope, we have the opportunity – and I believe the responsibility – to build a new era of shared prosperity. With more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty and 200 million unemployed, now is not the time to go our own way or to focus only on our own narrow interests.
Because so much more is possible today and so much more is at stake.
Over the last decade, some 50 developing countries – collectively home to more than 4 billion people – have seen their GDP grow by an average of at least 5% a year. Thanks to this growth, poverty has fallen more quickly than ever before. The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), to halve the 1990 poverty rate by 2015, was achieved some five years ahead of schedule.
In Africa, new opportunities beckon, as I saw for myself when I visited Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa in September. At a World Bank-supported jobs training center in Côte d’Ivoire, I met ex-combatants who are laying down their arms and picking up pliers and screwdrivers, learning to become electricians. This kind of optimism is contagious, and it’s spreading across the continent.
There was a time when we thought small, land-locked countries could never grow sustainably; Rwanda’s economic expansion of nearly 8% per year over the last decade refuted that. We used to think it was impossible to establish healthcare delivery systems in conflict environments; Afghanistan’s dramatic extension of basic health services over the last decade refuted that. We thought that countries with deep structural inequities could not tackle persistent inequality; Brazil’s success in lowering its Gini coefficient by 5 percentage points refuted that.
What we’ve learned is that nothing is pre-determined, every economy has potential, and the question is, how do we unleash it? As a child I emigrated to the United States from South Korea, a country which was then frequently described as a “basket case.” Korea’s economic success reminds us that we must never again be so immodest and pessimistic to assign such a label to any country.
At the World Bank Group we often talk about dreaming of a world free of poverty, the motto inscribed at the entrance of our headquarters. Well, it is time to move from dreaming of a world free of poverty to achieving it. It is time to bend the arc of history. With global solidarity underpinned by a relentless drive for results, we can, we must, and we will end poverty and build shared prosperity.