March 25, 2002—Heads of state meeting in Monterrey, Mexico adopted on Friday, what has come to be called the "Monterrey Consensus," a commitment by nations to provide the means to attack poverty worldwide.*
The World Bank has been a major stakeholder, along with the IMF and the WTO, in the two-year process that culminated with last week's International Conference on Financing for Development. More than 50 heads of state participated in the UN conference, as well as finance and foreign ministers. The Bank's Board was also strongly represented.
Countries adopted a plan which calls for the resources to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the conditions that will enable freer trade, more foreign investment, debt relief and efficient government. In the days before the conference pledges of tens of billions of dollars of increases in overseas development assistance were made by the United States and the European Union.
"I very much welcome—as should we all—the recent decisions by President Bush and the European Union to boost aid spending," said Bank President James Wolfensohn addressing the plenary on Thursday. "There is no debate that our efforts need to be focused and effective. On this we are all agreed. Too much money has been squandered in the past by decisions borne of politics not development. I look forward to the forthcoming discussions on increasing the effectiveness of the development community as a whole." (The Bank released last week its full research paper, "The Role and Effectiveness of Development Assistance: Lessons from World Bank Experience.")
Wolfensohn referred to unprecedented international consensus achieved in Mexico on the steps necessary for furthering development and to a new global partnership, "an understanding that leaders of the developing and developed world are united by a global responsibility based on ethics, experience and self-interest.
"It is a recognition that opportunity and empowerment—not charity—can benefit us all. It is an acknowledgement that we will not create long-term peace and stability until we acknowledge that we are a common humanity with a common destiny. Our futures are indivisible."
But the progress in aid was not enough, said Wolfensohn, calling for more action on trade, to tear down the trade barriers that harm the world's poorest workers, and on agricultural subsidies that rob poor countries of markets for their products.
He also called for scaling up, comprehensiveness, debt relief, and good governance. "We must support nations to build capacity so that they can create an investment climate and invest in their people. So that they can create jobs, so that they can increase productivity and boost investment in health and education. This is not about rich countries telling developing countries what to do. This is about creating a chance for developing countries to put in place policies that will enable their economies to grow."
At a joint press conference with Wolfensohn, IMF Managing Director Horst Köhler, and WTO Director-General Michael Moore, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Conference was unprecedented not only in bringing finance ministers and development ministers together with businessmen, but also in the way the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO had worked together in its preparation. "We must work together, in a coherent fashion, if we want to achieve our goal."
Asked by a reporter what was known about development today that was not known a week ago, Wolfensohn spoke of a unity of purpose between the leaders of the developed and developing countries. What was coming out of the consensus, he said, was that the partnership was not only recognized, but also that there would be action in the areas of capacity-building, trade and increased development assistance, with each side bearing its responsibilities.
The consensus, said Wolfensohn, will make it possible to make progress. In a series of summit roundtables heads of state and heads of institutions discussed the issues of implementation and the obligations of developing and developed countries going forward.
"The World Bank chose some two years ago to engage in a new way with the United Nations, to build bridges as President Fox called it here," said EXT VP Mats Karlsson. "This was in part uncharted territory, but we saw opportunities. If we got a broad based alignment on strategy that in turn would open for a boost for resources. This is exactly what happened. This was a major step forward for global cooperation. And the next one needs to be taken at Johannesburg."
* The Monterrey Consensus includes: The UN's Millennium Development Goals: halving poverty by 2015, universal primary education, gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.
Useful links: Click here to access the UN Financing for Development conference site