World Bank president says he will bring sense of urgency to efforts to end global poverty in exclusive Guardian interview
The new president of the World Bank is determined to eradicate global poverty through goals, targets and measuring success in the same way that he masterminded an Aids drugs campaign for poor people nearly a decade ago.
Jim Yong Kim, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian, said he was passionately committed to ending absolute poverty, which threatens survival and makes progress impossible for the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.
“I want to eradicate poverty,” he said. “I think that there’s a tremendous passion for that inside the World Bank.”
Kim, who took over at the World Bank three weeks ago and is not only the first doctor and scientist (he is also an anthropologist) to be president but the first with development experience, will set “a clear, simple goal” in the eradication of absolute poverty. Getting there, however, needs progress on multiple, but integrated, fronts.
“The evidence suggests that you’ve got to do a lot of good, good things in unison, to be able to make that happen,” said Kim. “The private sectorhas to grow, you have to have social protection mechanisms, you have to have a functioning health and education system. The scientific evidence strongly suggests that it has to be green – you have to do it in a way that is sustainable both for the environment and financially. All the great themes that we’ve been dealing with here have to come together to eradicate poverty from the face of the Earth.”
Kim, who was previously head of the Ivy League Dartmouth College, is probably best known for his stint at the World Health Organisation (WHO), where he challenged the system to move faster in making Aids drugs available to people with HIV in the developing world who were dying in large numbers. In 2003, he set a target of 3 million people being on treatment by 2005 – thereafter known as “3 by 5”. The target was not met on time, but it did focus minds and rapidly speed up the pace of the rollout, which included setting up clinics and training healthcare staff.
Now, he says, he thinks he can do the same for poverty. “What 3 by 5 did that we just didn’t expect was to set a tempo to the response; it created a sense of urgency. There was pace and rhythm in the way we did things. We think we can do something similar for poverty,” he said.
Asked if he would set a date this time, he said he was sorely tempted, but would not yet. “We don’t know what they will be yet, but [there will be] goals, and counting. We need to keep up and say where we are making successes and why, and when are we going to be held to account next for the level of poverty. If we can build that kind of pace and rhythm into the movement, we think we can make a lot more progress,” he said in his office at the Bank in Washington.
Kim was seen by many as a surprise choice for president. During the election, critics argued there should be an economist at the helm. Some said that, as a doctor, he would focus too much on health.
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