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Statement November 25, 2020

Statement on the Passing of Former World Bank Group President James D. Wolfensohn

WASHINGTON, November 25, 2020— World Bank Group President David Malpass today released the following statement on the passing of former World Bank Group President James D. Wolfensohn:

On behalf of the entire World Bank Group, I would like to express our sadness and great sense of loss on the passing of former Bank Group President Jim Wolfensohn.

Under Jim’s Presidency, which ran from June 1, 1995 to May 31, 2005, the World Bank Group sharpened its focus on poverty reduction and redoubled its efforts to combat corruption, give voice to the poor, and magnify the impact of development investments.

Bank staff had great admiration and respect for Jim and his wife Elaine, who passed in August of this year. In his 10 years as President, Jim traveled to more than 120 countries, often accompanied by Elaine, to better understand the challenges facing the Bank’s member countries. In addition to visiting development projects, Jim met clients and representatives from business, labor, media, non-governmental organizations, religious and women's groups, students, and teachers. Internally, Jim transformed the World Bank Group, increasing decentralization, advancing the Bank technologically, and making the organization more open and transparent.

In 1996, the World Bank and IMF launched the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, the first comprehensive debt reduction program. As of August 2004, 27 of the world’s poorest countries were receiving substantial debt relief under the program that amounted, over time, to more than $53 billion. Jim introduced the Comprehensive Development Framework in 1999, which emphasized country ownership of poverty reduction strategies and strong partnerships among government, civil society, and the private sector. In 2012, to recognize the profound impact Jim had on the lives of the poorest, the center of our headquarters building was dedicated as the James D. Wolfensohn Atrium.

Prior to joining the Bank, Jim established his career as an international investment banker with a parallel involvement in development issues and the global economy.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Jim and Elaine’s children, Sara, Naomi, and Adam.


David Theis
(202) 458-8626