World Bank President Calls for “Solutions Bank” to Meet Global Challenges

October 12, 2012

Kim calls on shareholders and development partners to help “bend the arc of history,” accelerate progress, and virtually eliminate extreme poverty

TOKYO, October 12, 2012 - World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today told the Bank’s shareholders he wants the institution to become a solutions Bank that can work with partners and help “bend the arc of history” to eliminate extreme poverty.

“Let me be clear: when I say we will be a solutions bank, I do not mean to suggest that we have ready-made solutions for every development problem. We do not, nor is this our goal,” said Kim. “Through decades of development work I’ve learned that the best solutions to economic and social problems often lie with the individuals and communities coping with these challenges in their daily life. They have been my greatest teachers. We must listen to and act on their insights.”

Speaking to the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund at the Bank/Fund Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Kim noted that knowledge now flows “from entrepreneurs in Delhi to citizens in rural Mexico to civil society in Lagos to policymakers in Sarajevo.” With the World Bank’s global reach, Kim stated that the Bank is ideally positioned to connect and convene multiple stakeholders from around the world, brokering knowledge exchange across institutional boundaries.

"A solutions bank will be more focused on delivery than ever before. During an era of constrained resources and daunting challenges, this is what both our donors and our clients demand,” said Kim. 

Kim observed that ongoing economic and financial instability in Europe continues to threaten growth and jobs in developing countries.  Surging food prices are stretching the budgets of the poorest. And many countries in the Middle East are embarking on perhaps their most important transitions in generations.

In this challenging environment, Kim cautioned that support for development can fade in the face of other priorities, but he emphasized that with over one billion people living in extreme poverty and 200 million unemployed, now is not the time for countries or institutions to go their own way or focus only on their own narrow interests. 

Kim noted the remarkable development progress made in recent years:

“Over the last decade, some 50 developing countries – collectively home to over 4 billion people – have seen their GDP grow by an average of at least 5 percent a year. Thanks to this growth, poverty has fallen more quickly than ever before; the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), to halve the 1990 poverty rate by 2015, was achieved some five years ahead of schedule,” said Kim.

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kim called on shareholders and other development partners to come together “to bend the arc of history” and accelerate this recent progress to work toward the goal of eliminating extreme poverty. 

"This goal is not farfetched – it is achievable. Together we can make it happen,” said Kim.

Kim stated unequivocally that this evolving world needs a strong World Bank Group—“A World Bank Group that, through our lending, our knowledge, and our convening power, provides integrated development solutions for both today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”

In terms of the Bank’s work with partners, Kim discussed challenges facing high-income countries, middle-income countries, low-income countries, fragile states, and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  He also discussed the need to continue to work in a more sustainable way.

Kim also called on the Bank to leverage its knowledge and talent to advance a “science of delivery,” and he identified four early actions to speed this process:

  • First, establish a clear and measurable bottom line. “The World Bank Group’s mission is to end poverty and build shared prosperity.  That’s why I’ve asked the institution to come up with a bottom line in the form of ambitious targets for these two goals.”
  • Second, strengthen implementation and results. “It should not take two years for a project to evolve from concept to implementation.  We want to be held accountable not for process but for results. That’s why I will work with our Board to streamline our procedures, simplify our processes, and cut down project preparation time.”
  • Third, provide clients with integrated solutions for maximum impact.  “Better synergies will reinforce our comparative advantage as the only global development institution that can credibly support the public and private sectors; provide access to exceptional knowledge resources; and offer risk insurance to energize investment. That’s why I’ve asked my management team to come up with a plan for building greater synergies across the World Bank Group to save costs and improve effectiveness.”
  • Fourth, continue investing in data and analytic tools, building on the success of the Open Data initiative.  'Data are crucial to setting priorities, making sound policy, and tracking results.  Yet many countries have weak statistical capacity, and lack reliable and updated economic and poverty data. That’s why we will work with our partners to ensure virtually all developing countries have timely and accurate data. And we will be reporting annually on progress in fighting poverty and building shared prosperity. 

“When we meet again in six months, I will give you a progress report on how we are doing, letting you know what has been accomplished and where we need to push harder. I hope you and your Executive Directors will hold us accountable throughout this process, ensuring we set ambitious targets for ourselves and mobilize to reach them,” said Kim.

Kim concluded his speech by noting, “At the World Bank Group we often talk about dreaming of a world free of poverty, the motto inscribed in the entrance of our headquarters. Well it is time to move from dreaming of a world free of poverty to achieving it. It is time to bend the arc of history. With global solidarity underpinned by a relentless drive for results, we can, we must, and we will end poverty and build shared prosperity.”