Speaking to officials in Germany today, the President of the World Bank called for a global campaign to meet the international goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.
World Bank President James Wolfensohn told a public discussion forum at the German Bundestag that there had never been a more optimal moment to launch the effort. "Knowledge about what sustainable development entails has never been better. The budgets of rich countries have never been stronger. Technology has never been more dynamic. Our goals have never been clearer. We must seize this moment," he said.
Addressing German politicians on the Bank's role in meeting the challenges of globalization, Mr. Wolfensohn reiterated his call for rich countries to honour their commitments to devote 0.7 per cent of their yearly gross domestic product (GDP) to overseas aid. "Development assistance is not charity, but a vital investment in global peace and security," he stressed, noting that current levels of foreign aid -- some 0.24 per cent of yearly GDP -- fall far short of the promised goal.
Mr. Wolfensohn called for rich countries to lower their barriers to developing country exports. "I believe that the Bank has a major role to play in working towards a level trading field for developing countries," he said. Urging rich countries to "get serious on trade," he said debt relief without increased market access was a "sham."
The Bank President emphasized the urgency of the task ahead, noting that today half the world's population lived on less than $2 a day, while 80 per cent had only one fifth of global resources. "But the challenge does not end there," he added, pointing out that over the next 25 years, 2 billion people will be added to the planet -- almost all of them in the developing world.
"How many people will be condemned to live on under $2 a day then?" asked Mr. Wolfensohn. "How the international community answers that question will be the key determinant of whether our children will live in a peaceful world or a world of rising conflict."