At the World Bank, we have made the world's most pressing development issue — to reduce global poverty — our mission. We focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which call for the elimination of poverty and sustained development. These goals provide us with targets and yardsticks for measuring results.
Six strategic themes drive our efforts:
1. The Poorest Countries
The Challenge: Many of the UN's Millennium Development Goals for 2015 seem out of reach for the world's poorest countries. An estimated 1.4 billion people survive on incomes of $1.25 or less a day. Rising food prices threaten to increase hunger and malnutrition, while climate change is affecting agriculture, the mainstay of most people in poor countries. Communicable diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria, are widespread. Many of the poorest countries in Africa are landlocked and lack reliable electricity, hampering the development of business and trade.
What We're Doing: The World Bank Group has assembled record funding to help the poorest countries through its International Development Association (IDA). We place new emphasis on fighting hunger and malnutrition, particularly through better agricultural productivity. We are encouraging regional integration and helping develop infrastructure: power, water, transport, and information and communications technologies. To produce faster results, IDA is undertaking joint programs with International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group's lead agency for private sector development, as well as with other nonprofit organizations.
The Challenge: Many of the world's poorest countries have faced a vicious cycle of conflict and poverty. Some 80 percent of the 20 poorest countries have suffered a major war in the past 15 years, bringing extraordinary suffering to their people and often affecting the larger region. Peace can also be fragile: Countries emerging from war face a 44 percent chance of relapsing within five years. Even with rapid progress on economic recovery, it can take a generation or more just to return to prewar living standards.
What We're Doing: Helping prevent conflict and support reconstruction remains a critical part of the World Bank's global mission of poverty reduction; in fact, we were first founded to support reconstruction after World War II. The World Bank Group is working with many partners, including donor trust funds and the United Nations, to offer more responsive, flexible and comprehensive solutions in difficult environments.
3. Middle-Income Countries
The Challenge: Middle-income countries are still home to most of the world’s poor people, often with a heavy concentration in specific regions or ethnic groups. These countries are generally creditworthy and have some access to financial markets, but they face constraints in mobilizing the funds they need to invest in infrastructure and essential services. They also need help to reform policies and institutions in ways that improve the investment climate.
What We're Doing: The World Bank Group is working to meet middle-income countries’ specific needs with tailored assistance that draws on an array of competitive financial products and knowledge and learning services. These countries are also increasingly important partners in our work to address critical cross-border and global issues, such as clean energy, trade integration, environmental protection, international financial stability and the fight against infectious diseases.
4. Global Public Goods
The Challenge: Global public goods are aspects of development that reach across borders: Examples include the environment, public health, international trade and financial infrastructure. Actions are often needed that extend beyond what market systems or individual countries can do on their own -- developing new vaccines, for instance, and reducing carbon emissions to address global warming.
What We're Doing: The World Bank Group is helping spur multilateral action and global partnerships involving governments, nonprofit organizations and socially responsible corporations. Our work on global public goods focuses on the environment, especially climate change; controlling communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria; preventing and mitigating crises in international financial systems; and promoting an open, multilateral trade system.
5. The Arab World
The Challenge: The Arab world has strong potential for growth and development, but it remains poorly integrated into the global economy apart from the oil sector. It has the highest unemployment among developing regions, as well as the lowest economic participation by women. The region’s poor and rich countries alike suffer from such problems as water scarcity, lack of economic diversity, weak public accountability, and conflict.
What We're Doing: The World Bank Group, in close cooperation with the League of Arab States, has established the Arab World Initiative (AWI), a partnership to foster effective collaboration in the interests of economic integration and knowledge sharing among the countries of the Arab world. The initiative focuses on three key pillars: Human Development and Improving the Quality of Education, Infrastructure Projects, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development. These pillars are detailed on the corresponding Arab World Initiative website, featuring the latest data, research, multimedia and documentation about efforts in the Arab world.
6. Knowledge and Learning
The Challenge: Poor and developing countries seek the World Bank Group’s expertise as much as they seek its financial assistance. As clients, they increasingly expect integrated solutions to address their particular needs. To become more economically competitive, they need data to benchmark their progress. More than ever, in-depth analysis of local challenges and practical experience gathered from around the world form the groundwork for sustainable development.
What We're Doing: The World Bank Group is committed to remaining the premier source of development knowledge through reports, data and analytical tools, conferences, and the Internet. We are enhancing our capacity to share this knowledge globally and are helping build partnerships and expertise in client countries. We have moved toward an open data platform, making our Web-based information more accessible and interactive, and improving the focus and depth of our learning and capacity-building programs.