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close this bookOvercoming Global Hunger (WB)
close this folderFinal session - commitments to action
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentNeeded: food security in a hungry world
View the documentConcluding statement on behalf of NGOS
View the documentClosing remarks

Concluding statement on behalf of NGOS

Carolyn Long

I want to commend the Bank for its willingness to listen here to some very frank exchanges about the way the Bank does its business and how it should change If we as NGOs had allowed ourselves to be scrutinized to the same extent, I wonder how we would feel right now. Now that Bank staff have listened for two days, maybe we'll do some self examination the next time we get together. As this conference ends, I ask myself, what does this mean? Is this a turning point for the World Bank and for the rest of the people working to end hunger? Or will it have been just another conference that will fade in our memories as one more time when great ideas were proposed about eradicating poverty and hunger, but nothing really changed?

The NGOs issued a press release and a statement yesterday with recommendations for the Bank as to how it needs to change to put people at the center of the development process I'd like to draw from that statement to pose five or six questions about what the Bank might now be willing to do to make this a turning point and make a couple of points about what NGOs might do too.

· The Bank has had a learning process on popular participation for almost three years, with a core group of staff examining how the Bank might alter she way it does its business to involve the poor effectively in the design of projects and policies. Bank staff have consulted with NGOs, they have worked with academics who specialize in researching participatory methods, they held a major workshop on the topic eighteen months ago, and they have developed many recommendations for changes in internal operations Is the Bank now willing to accelerate dramatically the institutionalization of participatory processes so that the poor can engage in the planning and design of policies, programs, and projects intended to benefit them? I know that there are "participation pioneers" (as I like to call them) toiling valiantly within the Bank already to alter the way in which the Bank develops projects and policies to incorporate participation, and even to do social mobilization to find the poorest, as Dr. Yunus talked about yesterday. These arc great efforts, but such work needs to be institutionalized throughout the Bank so that systems change and methodologies support these efforts.

· At present, staff are rewarded for moving money and for getting projects approved within certain time frames Is the Bank now willing to change the incentive system so that staff are rewarded for effectively incorporating participatory methodology into the design of programing, or for carrying out other innovations that refocus Bank programs and operations more directly on the poor?

· Currently, some very good work is being done in central vice presidencies of the Bank to ensure, for example, that environmental safeguards and other sustainability factors are incorporated into Bank programs. But usually decisions about projects are made in the country departments, where rates of return, moving the money, and maintaining cordial relations with major borrowing governments are more important, and much or all of the important innovations programming get left out. Would the Bank be willing to commit itself to interdepartmental decisionmaking so that the innovations are actually approved?

· In terms of equity, although Nancy Birdsall said yesterday that in implementing the right shared growth macroeconomic policies, "all boats rise," all boats in fact don't rise. Some little ones get flooded and sink, some light ones break apart, and some get stuck in the mud. To prevent this, is the Bank willing to commit itself to strategies to eliminate gender bias, promote land reform and secure tenancy, reduce massive income differentials, and give priority to hunger prone groups and regions?

· The [DA-9 agreement directs the Bank to give priority in its allocation of assistance to countries with a demonstrated commitment to alleviate poverty. NGOs have been asking the Bank for four years how this commitment to poverty is being defined in order to implement this directive. Is the commitment to poverty being defined as something other than adherence to orthodox structural adjustment measures?

· Yesterday, Atherton Martin proposed that NGOs from poor countries have a base in Washington where, together with Northern NGO colleagues, they would have the opportunity to make year-round input into the process of transforming the Bank into an instrument for development that is responsive to the needs of the poor and hungry. Is the Bank prepared to endorse this idea and help make it happen?

· To eradicate poverty, there is need for structural adjustment in the North to create a level international playing field for developing countries. Although the World Bank cannot press such reforms, we ask that the Bank at least monitor the damage done to developing countries by the highly selfish policies of the United States and other Northern industrial countries, such as protectionist trade policies and agricultural subsidies.

Now for the NGOs. We re-commit ourselves today to work toward building a pro-poor constituency in the United States to provide the necessary grassroots support for changes in U.S. government policies and international policies so that they work for the poor in developing countries and not against them.

Second, NGOs also commit themselves today to collaborating with the World Bank in its efforts to transform its policies and operational approaches to put the poor at the center of the development process. This could be in areas where NGOs have particular expertise, such as in participatory processes, social mobilization, and targeted interventions.

Brian Atwood, the new administrator of the USAID, is in the midst of transforming that institution to put people at the center of the development process, and the United Nations Development Programme, under the leadership of Gus Speth, is making similar important changes. The USAID, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, NGOs, and others all need to work together to put poor people first.

In Bill Clinto's successful campaign for the presidency, they had a war room run by the famous James Carville We wouldn't want a war room at the Bank, but how about a pro- poor task force or a campaign headquarters to end poverty and hunger, a group that would seize on the urgency of this need and make it happen?

At the beginning of this conference, Dr. Serageldin talked of being the new abolitionists in tire fight against hunger The old abolitionists took risks, many risks, and struggled in a campaign to end slavery in the same way that liberation groups in southern Africa and across the world have struggled for freedom If we all are to be the new abolitionists, we need to work with that same sense of urgency NGOs are ready to work with the Bank, the USAID, United Nations agencies, and others to move forward and win the new campaign to end poverty and hunger.