For Immediate Release: October 26, 2000
Contact: Brian Deese, Carnegie Endowment, 202-939-2326
Rachel Menezes, Inter-American Dialogue, 202-463-2577

A Few Surprises at Expert Conference on Global Poverty

Speakers include James Wolfensohn, Stanley Fischer, Jeffrey Sachs
Discussion Available on Web

In his opening remarks to a gathering of top officials and experts on global poverty, World Bank President James Wolfensohn surprised some by agreeing that economic growth is the "first and foremost" issue for poverty reduction, and that the World Bank can not really avoid politics.

In response to a question on how the World Bank deals with politics, Wolfensohn said, "It strikes me that practically everything we do has some impact on politics, and it would be sheer nonsense to say that we are not involved in politics. We?re not openly involved in politics. We don?t go and campaign. We don?t try and change governments, at least not openly?"

The day-long conference was sponsored by the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Inter-American Dialogue on October 23, 2000. It featured selected themes from the recently published 2000/01 World Bank World Development Report-Attacking Poverty, including globalization, technology transfer, and race.

Stanley Fischer, International Monetary Fund deputy managing director, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, Jo Marie Griesgraber of Oxfam America, and others debated debt relief?is it the answer? Fischer endorsed moving rapidly with the existing Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, but argued that unconditional debt relief would not send the right signal. "Research, experience and common sense show that providing more resources to governments that have severe problems with governance?will be counterproductive," he said.

Other speakers included Thea Lee, AFL-CIO director of public policy, Nick Stern, chief economist of the World Bank, J. Bryan Hehir, Harvard professor of religion and society, and Glenn Loury of Boston University. Lynn Walker-Huntley of the Southern Education Foundation, criticized the World Bank for its insufficient attention to race in the World Development Report.

Audio transcripts of the conference proceedings, panel summaries, and other background are available at