This April, the World Bank named Dr. Jim Yong Kim as its next president . Dr. Kim, a global health specialist, will officially begin his tenure at the World Bank on July 1st. As the new president of the World Bank and the first development professional ever to head the institution, Dr. Kim represents the potential of truly returning to the stated mission of the bank: the elimination of global poverty.
It is a mission that Dr. Kim is well equipped to lead. As a co-founder of Partners in Health, Dr. Kim pioneered the treatment of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. As Director of the World Health Organization’s Department of HIV/AIDS in 2003, he launched the first ever global goal for AIDS treatment with his “3 by 5” initiative. Aimed at treating 3 million patients living with HIV with antiretroviral drugs by 2005, the ambitious program reached its ultimate goal in 2007, and was recently touted by the Lancet as having "helped change forever the way we thought about AIDS." Dr. Kim’s impressive credentials and achievements in the field of global development have certainly left him primed to usher in a new era at the World Bank. As in most big institutions, there is a foreseeable risk for the Bank to resist change. It is therefore important that we set the tone before Jim Kim arrives that there are big expectations of change, especially in reaching the bottom billion, the very poor who have not been reached by basic health and basic education efforts.
Getting Health and Education Back on Track
Globally, the world is not on track to meet the Millennium Development targets for both basic education and global health. While enrolment in primary education has continued to rise, reaching 89 percent in the developing world in 2008, globally 67 million children remain out of school. Similarly, although tangible gains have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and TB, with significant reductions in deaths from AIDS and TB reported in 2011, progress is still needed to thwart these diseases. Each year, 2.7 million people become newly infected with HIV, and 8.8 million are diagnosed with TB.
The World Bank now has an opportunity to turn these figures on their head and pave the way for the entire donor community to deliver real results for impoverished communities by the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target date and beyond. For the past several years, the World Bank has been lending tens of billions of dollars to developing nations, and in recent years, $14 billion at very low interest rates. This puts the Bank is in an extremely advantageous position to set new directions and demonstrate leadership in global development by focusing on those who have been left behind. Canada’s contribution to the World Bank, of $1.3 billion over three years, its highest ever , is a significant amount that can be used to leverage real impact on the ground.
Electing Dr. Kim to lead the Bank is the first positive step towards such change. The next step is to re-focus the institution’s efforts on pro-poor policies – policies that revolve around aiding the poorest billion - and to prioritize global health and education in its development programming. By doing this, the Bank can finally get back to the business of achieving development for the impoverished communities it aims to serve.
Many of us have already taken action in previous months to have the World Bank increase it’s funding for basic education. We will continue our action on this specific promise, but this month we are focusing on the bigger picture so as to create a climate where public expectations on the arrival of the new President is not business as usual, but on the contrary, potentially a key milestone in the bottom billion’s long overdue access to basic health and education services.
What you can do