World Bank President Addresses Poverty

Jim Yong Kim discusses World Bank’s efforts to minimize global poverty and how the GW community can help in event at Betts Theatre.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim presents a speech to students in Betts Theatre.
October 02, 2013

The World Bank will employ several strategies to achieve its goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting income growth for the poorest 40 percent of the population, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told George Washington University students on Tuesday.

Dr. Kim’s address, “The World Bank Group Strategy: A Path to End Poverty,” was organized by the Elliott School of International Affairs and the Institute for International Economic Policy, and held at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. The speech came just before the International Monetary Fund holds its annual meeting on campus starting later this week.

During opening remarks, President Steven Knapp discussed the university’s close relationship with the World Bank, where 250 alumni work. GW and the World Bank have fostered several partnerships based on a number of shared interest areas, including sustainability, public health and international development. Additionally, Dr. Knapp said, World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu co-taught a class at the Elliott School last semester.

“One of the many ways in which we as an institution and our students benefit from GW’s location in the nation’s capital is our proximity to some of the most important institutions in the world. There’s no better example than our dearest neighbors right at our doorstep: the World Bank,” Dr. Knapp said before introducing Dr. Kim.

Dr. Kim outlined the difficulties the World Bank will encounter while trying to meet its goals of ending poverty by 2030. He listed ongoing crises in the Middle East, where roadblocks include restoring macroeconomic stability, reforming economies to meet the expectations of populations and establishing new constitutions and multiparty elections.

“The protests during the Arab Spring and the more recent ones in Turkey, Brazil and South Africa were rooted in the universal desire to participate in the global middle class,” he said. “Today, leaders around the world realize that boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent is becoming more and more critical to ensure stability.”

He listed the World Bank’s comprehensive strategies for tackling the problems ahead. The first, he said, is partnering with the private sector to generate job growth for the poor. Secondly, the World Bank will increase its commitment to conflict-ridden areas like the Middle East. Finally, the World Bank will focus on issues that directly affect poverty, like climate change and investments for women and girls.

Dr. Kim went on to describe particular ways the World Bank is implementing its strategies. The World Bank Group is working collaboratively across all its branches, combining the bank; its private sector arm, the International Financial Corporation; and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, which deals with political risk insurance.

Dr. Kim explained the bank will prioritize job creation with the private sector by connecting the poor to local and global markets, and by partnering with companies who are pioneering new business models.

To help countries facing conflicts, Dr. Kim illustrated the importance of providing financial assistance. He described his recent visit to the Great Lakes region of Africa, a war-torn area in eastern Congo that the World Bank presented with a $1 billion assistance package. Dr. Kim then pledged to increase the IFC and International Development Association funds to conflicted areas by about 50 percent in the next three years.

He also discussed the World Bank’s plans to focus on climate change and limit its threats on economic development.

“If we want to end extreme poverty, we have to build resilient communities and mitigate shocks, like climate disasters, so that poor people can make gains in their lives—and keep those gains for the long term,” Dr. Kim said.

Tackling climate change, he said, will involve bringing together governments, societies, individuals and the private sector to mobilize climate finances and invest in climate protections. He added adapting cleaner energy solutions will also be a focus area for the World Bank, which is currently mapping renewable energy resources in 10 countries and working with partners to improve microgrid technology.

Dr. Kim concluded his speech by urging students to propel the movement to end poverty forward. He asked students to join the effort by signing the Global Poverty Project petition.

“This is the defining moral issue of our time. We cannot let over a billion people suffer in extreme poverty when we have the tools and the resources to change their lives for the better. We cannot allow the bottom 40 percent of the population be denied opportunities for jobs, health and education. We can do better,” he ended.

Following his speech, Dr. Kim participated in a question and answer session with students. Professor and IIEP Director James Foster moderated questions from the audience.

"I was a professor for a long time, so I'll call on people," Dr. Kim joked.

Students stood and asked Dr. Kim about the effects of population growth on poverty and how to get support from countries with strong economies, like Singapore. One student asked about the role health care plays in improving international development.

Dr. Kim answered the World Bank hopes to bring together the best thinkers in health care development and clinical management, and provide countries with the best economic strategies.

"If we can do that, and if we can do that in areas like energy  and water too, I think we will be valuable to the world," he said.