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Speeches & Transcripts

Faith and Development Leaders’ Meeting

July 1, 2009

Graeme Wheeler, Managing Director, The World Bank Accra, Ghana

As Prepared for Delivery

We are meeting at an extraordinary time. Three years ago, the developing world was
experiencing its most rapid economic growth in four decades. We talked of the global
transfer of skill-enhancing technologies, the powerful catalysts of trade, investment, and
capital flows, and whether the developing economies were decoupling from the
developed economies.

Three crises later, things are dramatically different. 60 million people remain trapped in
extreme poverty (measured as living on under US$1.25 a day ppp adjusted), as a result of
the food and fuel crisis, and the effects of the global slowdown from the financial crisis
are only just beginning to be felt in low income countries.

Every 1% decline in the average GDP gross rate for the developing world thrusts an
additional 20 million people into extreme poverty. For regions like Sub-Saharan Africa,
with 54% of its population aged below 20, the impact can be devastating.

Poverty numbers mask the true nature of poverty. Extreme poverty has the face of a
woman and a child. It disguises the infant mortality, the hunger and malnutrition, the
lack of access to health care and education, and it disguises the pain of social exclusion.

It is a dangerous time. Governments in the developed world are absorbed with their
domestic policy agendas. They have taken on new roles as investors and guarantors of
last resort, and are running government balance sheet risks and exposures that were
simply unimaginable.

The poorest and most vulnerable on the planet are becoming politically and socially
disenfranchised and disconnected from global society. Most of these people are born and
die without leaving a legal record or official trace of their existence. They hunger for
inclusion, to belong, to have opportunities and access to services and property rights, and
to feel empowered.

In our past conferences, we have talked about how the work of development
organizations and faith-inspired institutions is linked. We share similar passions for
social justice, good governance, and building hope for individuals and communities, with
dignity and empowerment.

Now is the time to strengthen the links between development organizations and faithinspired
institutions. Our partnership is needed more than ever.

Your institutions make a tremendous difference to people’s lives. In many African
countries, you provide 30 to 70% of the health services, and in post-conflict countries, the
majority of primary education services. You deliver innovation and results, and you
speak courageously about ethical challenges, injustice, and failures in governance.

You have enormous influence on family and individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and
perceptions. You motivate and mobilize communities and influence decisions on
education and health – decisions that have long term effects on personal development and
opportunity. Your impact will become even more critical as official donors face
domestic pressures to focus more of their spending on their own citizens.

In the Bank, we are strengthening our work on faith and development to better support
government partners and faith-inspired organizations. Though our funding is channeled
to governments, we can support your institutions by:

  • expanding the dialogue between governments, development partners, and faithinspired
    organizations. We are seeing this in the international health partnership
    where partners are emphasizing the value of civil society organizations and
    funding their engagement;
  • sharing successful experiences of faith-inspired organizations in delivering social
    services, e.g. our work with the World Council of Religions for Peace in creating
    a directory of faith-inspired organizations in Central America, and our work with
    the Fe why ALEGRIA Jesuit Movements in Latin America to draw insights on
    the delivery of education services;
  • supporting faith-inspired organizations through analytical work and capacity
    building, especially on monitoring and evaluation by using household surveys to
    measure the quality and cost of services; and
  • giving a stronger voice to faith leaders as done in recent community development
    projects in Togo.

We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to work together to protect the most
vulnerable. Together, we need to advocate at local and global levels for better policies
and for more resources to help governments strive to meet the millennium development

Over the next two days, we have a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and learn
from each other. We need to value and respect our differences but, above all, we need to
learn more about how we can build stronger partnerships to provide hope and opportunity
for the poor.