USA: Author of World Bank Report Resigns in Protest

Ravi Kanbur, lead author of the World Bank's forthcoming World Development Report (WDR) on Poverty, has tendered his resignation. He has sent a letter to senior Bank management expressing his concerns about what he saw as unreasonable pressure to tone down WDR sections on globalisation. Reliable Washington sources indicate that US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has got directly involved in re-writing the globalisation sections of this report, which is likely to be extremely prominent in future discussions of international issues and in guiding aid interventions.

Ravi Kanbur, T.H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, Cornell University, was appointed by the Bank in Spring 1998 to lead the team writing this report. His writings and the genuine efforts he made to commission research from and consult a range of groups across the world have won him much respect. Many people had hoped the World Bank's report for this year might break new ground compared to its predecessors and open up debates on issues such as free trade and political disempowerment. Kanbur was at pains to stress that policy-makers must examine the detailed, disaggregated impacts on different population groups, rather than relying on general formulae. The organisations which have fed into this report are very concerned to know what will happen to it now that Kanbur has been forced out.

Alex Wilks, Coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project, commented:

"The resignation of the lead author of this flagship Bank report confirms our view that the World Bank is unable to accept dissenting views, whether from insiders or outsiders. Coming soon after Joe Stiglitz departed as Chief Economist this is a major blow for an institution trying to position itself as a 'knowledge Bank' and a 'listening Bank'"

"It raises questions of who really calls the shots at the Bank and what evidence or opinions about the impacts of globalisation they are trying to suppress".

At Ravi Kanbur's request, the Bretton Woods Project and New Policy Institute ran an electronic conference to discuss the WDR first draft which (a first for the Bank) was disseminated in January this year. The conference attracted 1,523 people from over 80 countries. Many respondents felt that the draft WDR 2000/01 reflected real progress compared to its predecessors, with a increased examination of non-income dimensions of poverty and recognition of insecurity, voicelessness and powerlessness. It moved beyond national average figures on poverty incidence to examine the many factors which influence poverty outcomes for vulnerable population groups. A number of contributors, however, urged the WDR to be bolder in its conclusions, particularly on the political obstacles to implementing pro-poor policies, and the need for a rights-based approach to press Northern countries to do more on trade and environmental degradation. In his 19 May response to the conference, Kanbur said that his team was looking to strengthen their lines on some of these issues, in particular to: "revise the concluding recommendations to bring global actions to center stage".

Contact: Alex Wilks: 0207 523 2170 (daytime), or 0207 284 1886 (evening)

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