Born out of war, World Bank is beacon of security around globe
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During the second World War, allied nations came together to create global institutions to shape the future of a post-war era, with the goal of preventing another catastrophic war. One of these institutions, the World Bank, or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was designed specifically to help rebuild countries in the aftermath of the war. The World Bank Group, as it is now called, has grown and evolved into one of the largest sources of development aid, reducing poverty and promoting stability, security and economic growth around the world.

Our mission is as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago. Today, we face complex, overlapping threats to the economic stability and security of rich and poor nations alike. More than two billion people now live in fragile or conflict countries, where problems caused by famine, violence, pandemics, or natural disasters can spill across borders and regions. Violent conflict has spiked dramatically since 2010, leading to historic levels of forced displacement, including 22 million refugees, half of them under the age of 18.

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There’s a high probability that the world will experience a severe disease outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years, with the potential to destabilize societies and economies. And two-thirds of the world’s population live in areas where there is a high risk of natural disaster. The financial impact of an extreme natural disaster is equivalent to a $520 billion hit to the global economy.

 

Some have criticized the World Bank for having what they believe are lofty and idealistic objectives. In fact, our work continues to deliver concrete and measurable benefits that translate into greater economic security and stability, for Americans. In developing countries, fragility can lead to regional and even global instability, which affects the United States. One of our top priorities is supporting fragile states and those transitioning from conflict to peace.

Good governance, anti-corruption, disease prevention and infrastructure projects promote stability in fragile states, with positive spillover effects on regional and global security. We catalyze global action and go to work in some of the most difficult places on the planet. Countries where poverty and disease can breed political instability and foster extremism. The World Bank targets the major underlying drivers of conflict and extremism, promoting a safer world for all Americans. David Petraeus, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, called it “critical work.”

Financing human capital — education, health, jobs — is not aid or charity, it’s an investment that benefits us all. We’ve pulled together a global coalition to unlock financing to help Jordan and Lebanon host Syrian refugees, and mobilized an immediate response to the devastating food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Working with other partners, including the private sector, we created a global Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to deliver a rapid response to severe disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. We’ve also committed to strengthen the public health systems of at least 25 countries, so they are better prepared for outbreaks.

As the largest shareholder of the 189-member World Bank, the United States is the only country that possesses veto power, assuring a strong voice for U.S. economic, national security, and diplomatic interests and priorities at the institution. From fighting poverty in developing countries, to establishing key trading partners in emerging markets, to influencing policies in countries like Afghanistan and South Sudan, U.S. leadership at the World Bank has a wide and far-reaching impact.

Because the U.S. contribution to the World Bank is pooled together with contributions from other countries, the impact of an investment in the bank far exceeds the amount of any one country’s contribution and maximizes development aid. Every dollar invested by the U.S. provides $25 in development aid. In a time when financial resources are scarce, the World Bank maximizes U.S. impact on reform in developing countries. And the values of the American people — rights for the most vulnerable and marginalized, transparency, consultation and accountability — are reflected in the social and environmental safeguards embedded in its development work.

The World Bank also makes important, and often unnoticed, contributions to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than half of U.S. exports are to countries where the World Bank has lending programs that help open markets. The U.S. Treasury estimates that exports to emerging markets where the World Bank operates are responsible for creating and sustaining millions of U.S. jobs each year.

Our goals are real, achievable, and marked with progress. In the past decade, World Bank projects have immunized 310 million children, provided 177 million people with access to water and sanitation, helped more than 47 million people get health services, and improved education for more than 100 million children each year. The first Millennium Development Goal — to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015 — was achieved five years ahead of schedule, in 2010.

We’ve invested heavily in education, anti-corruption, early childhood, gender equality, and healthcare programs, helping poor countries set up the systems, structures and social safety nets necessary for a stable, secure society. We believe that without opportunity for people to achieve their aspirations and participate in the global economy, their frustrations may lead to fragility, conflict, violence, extremism and eventually, migration.

We cannot meet our goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 unless we tackle this challenge. At the World Bank Group, we will continue to work towards our inspirational goals — in some of the most difficult areas of the world — because we believe we all have a moral responsibility to do more to help people lift themselves out of both fragility and extreme poverty, to help stabilize the countries they live in, and to give them hope for the future.

William Danvers is a special representative for international affairs at the World Bank. He has worked on international issues in and out of government for 36 years.


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