A major conference on poverty reduction, sponsored by the World Bank and the Chinese government, opened today with a call for a new commitment from rich and poor countries to cut poverty in half by 2015. World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned that the world community must meet the Millennium Development Goals it set for reducing poverty as a matter of self interest: “Without alleviating poverty there is no potential for peace and stability.”
Wolfensohn spoke to more than 1,000 people, mostly from developing countries. They included the leaders of Brazil, Tanzania, and Bangladesh, along with many government ministers, development experts, civic groups and non-government organizations.
During the next two days they will examine nine months of development research, including 100 case studies, a dozen field visit reports and results from extensive global discussions among development experts and practitioners.
The World Bank president said the challenge is to find ways dramatically to scale up current approaches to fighting poverty. That is why the conference is being held in China: “In this country, in the last 20 years, between 300 and 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty.” China has achieved this by looking at the totality of the challenges and implementing long-term solutions.
While the world has much to learn from China, Wolfensohn noted that China can also learn from the world and the global research being shared at the conference.
Premier Wen Jiabao acknowledged that China has made great progress but that it still faces a daunting task. “We still have nearly 30 million rural citizens who do not have adequate food and clothing.”
Wen said that for the fight on poverty to succeed, all countries must work together to create an environment of peace and stability. He urged the developed countries to pay more attention to the plight of developing countries by “providing them with more aid, relieving their debts, accelerating technology transfers and rolling back trade protection.”
Wen announced that China will contribute an additional US$20 million to the Asian Development Bank to create the China Special Fund for Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation, targeting poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.
Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who is campaigning to eradicate poverty at home, called the Shanghai conference a web of opportunity and stated that hunger is the greatest weapon of mass destruction of our time, claiming millions of victims every year. Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and the Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia also embraced the conference goal of scaling up poverty reduction.
Wolfensohn said key themes on the way to move forward are already emerging from the extensive research conducted. Poor people must take the lead in finding solutions to their poverty; local communities must be empowered to control money that is allocated to help them; and development practitioners must start thinking on a much larger scale and envision ways to expand small projects to the point where they are addressing the totality of the poverty challenge.
(China.org.cn May 26, 2004)