It is indeed invigorating to hear the eloquence with which
Atherton Martin puts forth his case. I feel comfortable that it is not
disagreements on the objectives that ma,, divide us in this group today, but
perhaps on fine-tuning the contributions of each of us to establish more firmly
the common ground on which we can act. This fine-tuning will be our
responsibility in this coming day and a half, to determine how we can keep
Congressman Hall's bonfire going to provide us with the necessary heat and
Perhaps I too can share with you the feelings of outrage that so
many of us in the World Bank, and in the development community at large, feel
about the problem of extreme poverty and its ugly corollary, hunger, in the
midst of a plentiful world.
Every day, 40,000 people die from hunger related causes. In the
brief forty-five minutes of this opening session, one-and-a-half times as many
people as are in this auditorium will have died from hunger-related causes.
Those who do not die outright are deprived of the most basic attributes of human
existence, and their children are stunted in their growth and unable to realize
the full potential of their genes.
From this perspective, hunger is surely the most abhorrent
physical expression of absolute poverty, for it is imprinted on human flesh and
bones. Furthermore, it is not only the poor who are degraded by that condition.
All of humanity is degraded by tolerating that one-sixth or more of the world's
population could continue to live, barely, in such conditions. It is shameful
for the nations of the world that have achieved so much in so many domains not
to be taking the necessary actions to remove this blight from the face of the
earth. All the more shameful because so much of the problem is avoidable.
Taking the actions needed to reduce hunger is what this
conference is all about. Butand in this I join my colleagues who spoke
before me today, including Mr. Martin and Congressman Hall the goal of
this conference is more than that. The abolition of hunger in our lifetime is a
task to which all people of good conscience must rededicate themselves.
Mr. Martin mentioned slavery, and I believe that like slavery
150 years ago, hunger today is unconscionable. Let us be the new abolitionists,
those who from every location and every forum will go our almost to address this
challenge. We must do so because it is a moral imperative. But beyond the
ethical issues, from an economic standpoint and from a political standpoint, we
have no choice. It makes no sense to leave so many kindred souls living in
misery and wretchedness, barely on the brink of survival, when they could be
active contributors to the improvement of both self and society.
But wishing the problem away will not make it disappear. It will
require the systematic application of sound policies, a sustained commitment to
investment in human resources, and the promotion of policies that support the
empowerment of the poor. It will require special attention to the needs of
women, for the empowerment of women is at the core of any sustained action to
deal with poverty and hunger. It will require sustained commitment and partner
ship from the international community, including all of us here today.
You may well ask, "What is the World Bank doing to meet this
challenge?" The Bank's commitment to fight poverty is grounded in a view of
development that sees the ultimate measure of success in the improvement of
people's wellbeing. Mr. Preston has said many times that poverty reduction is
the benchmark against which our success as a development institution must be
We believe that sound economic management that focuses on
broadly based, employment generating growth is a necessary feature of any
effective attack on poverty, because real progress occurs when the poor, the
weak, and the marginalized become the producers of their own welfare and bounty,
not the recipients of charity or the beneficiaries of aid. We also believe that
these policies must be accompanied by sound investments, especially in human
resources. Currently, the World Bank is lending close to US$ 3.0 billion a year
for human resource development, of which US$1.6 billion is going for education,
with a special emphasis on the education of girls. In some countries in the
poorest regions that are most at risk, such as the Sahel in Africa, fewer than
one girl in four goes to school.
But beyond this double-pronged attack of sound macroeconomic
policies and investment in human resources, increasingly the Bank has been
supporting direct interventions to improve food security and nutrition. Our
support for nutrition projects, for example, rose from nearly US$20 million or
so five or six years ago to more than US$680 million last year. Many of these
projects have brought about sound improvements in people's lives. The Tamil Nadu
Nutrition Project in India, for example, managed to reach 20,000 villages and 3
million children, and significantly improved the nutritional status of 50
percent of those children.
Today we heard Mr. Preston announce that the Bank was willing to
consider new ways of supporting complementary actions to reach the poorest of
the poor and to join with our partners in exploring how we can systematically
provide support to the kinds of micro-credit schemes that empower the poorest of
the poor to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, whether it be the National
Family Planning Coordination Board in.
Indonesia or Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. My colleagues and I
look forward to participating in such discussions with the donor community after
Mr. Preston spoke of the different comparative advantages of
different institutions in the fight against hunger. We fully recognize that ours
is only one contribution among many. During this conference we must all seer;
the common ground that will enable each of us to make our contribution in a way
that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts. How do we do this? The
World Bank certainly does not have all the answers. We are here to listen and to
learn from the experience and expertise of others as much as to share whatever
we have learned ourselves. This conference was structured so as to allow maximum
interaction and cross-fertilization of ideas, which brings me to the mechanics
of the program.
The conference was preceded by a participatory workshop at which
representatives of international agencies, governments, nongovernmental
organization and academic groups discussed the main themes of each of the main
plenary sessions to be held today and tomorrow: macroeconomic policies, targeted
interventions, and the political economy of hunger. The workshop participants
designated rapporteurs from the workshop who will be reporting in the plenary
for each session during the conference. The main sessions are structured as
panels with an invited speaker, a designated discussant, and the workshop
rapporteur as the second discussant. Each set of presentations will be followed
by questions and answers from the floor.
On this occasion we hope that all speakers will keep in mind the
issues of equity, sustainable development, and popular participation, which are
the common threads running through this intricate tapestry. Again, as Mr.
Preston mentioned, we know that there will be differences of opinion and
disagreements, but that is healthy, because these are differences in means, not
in ends. With good will on all sides, we all will leave here enriched by this
The World Bank will be represented by many of our staff in the
audience, and by four vice presidents in addition to myself, who will be the
chairs of the four sessions: Mr. Edward Jaycox, the vice president for Africa;
Mr. Caio KochWeser, the vice president for the Middle East and North Africa; Mr.
Joseph Wood, the vice president for South Asia; and Mr. Shahid Husain, the vice
president for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thus, in addition to the central vice presidents like myself and
Mr. Michael Bruno, our chief economist, who is here in the audience right now,
we will actually have listening to this debate the four vice presidents dealing
with the four regions of the world that are perhaps most affected by this
I would also add that we are privileged to have distinguished
world leaders join us in our deliberations, and by their presence lend their
support to the cause of ending global hunger during our lifetimes. We are indeed
privileged to have with us.
· His Excellency
Ketumile Masire, president of Botswana, winner of The Hunger Prize for 1989,
chairman of the Global Coalition for Africa, first vice chairman of the
Organization of African Unity, a true spokesperson not just for the people of
Botswana, but for all of Africa. His actions have demonstrated what political
leadership and a sensible government can do to avoid hunger and famine even in
the face of the worst drought in 100 years. President Masire will be addressing
us after the first session.
· Secretary-General of the
United Nations Dr. Boutros-Ghali, scholar, diplomat, and profound humanist, who
is actively working to orient the global United Nations system to balance
military and political security considerations with the security that only
broadly based development can provide when it brings a decent living to the
millions of people currently deprived of it.
· Former United States President
Jimmy Carter, who by word and deed, both in and out of the White House, has
shown how profoundly a political leader can be committed to the cause of the
poor and the hungry in the world. He will be addressing us
All in all, it promises to be quite a gathering and an unrivaled
opportunity to build that common ground and keep that bonfire alive, to retain
that sense of outrage that is necessary for all or us to go straight into action
and not limit ourselves to