The World Bank and IMF must keep focus on tackling the food and climate crises for world’s poorest people

“Clearly, 21st century institutions simply cannot function on post-war rules”
Marita Hutjes
Oxfam International’s spokeswoman
Published: 7 October 2008

Washington DC: The World Bank and the IMF must cushion developing countries from the financial crisis that is threatening to hit them hard, while also tackling the challenges of food and fuel price increases, said Oxfam today.

On the eve of the IFIs’ annual meetings, Oxfam said that nearly one billion people are now malnourished and 50 countries will remain at risk in 2009 due to price increases of fuel and basic food staples. This will make the effects of the financial crisis even more painful for poor countries.

Oxfam also points to the Bank’s work on climate change and internal reform of its voting power as key issues for the four-day meeting that takes place in Washington DC from October 9-13.

“This is a triple whammy for poor countries. The World Bank and the IMF must help cushion the harm that the global financial crisis will have on the world’s poorest countries. But it would be a mistake for them to turn their back on other urgent priorities such as tackling the food and fuel price crises. They also need to ensure poor countries have a seat at the table where decisions about their financial future are made,” said Oxfam International’s spokesperson Marita Hutjes.

Oxfam calls on the World Bank to update its five-year old agricultural strategy to reflect the new reality of the food price crisis. In the past, the Bank has pushed for a decreased role of the state in agriculture. This has clearly failed and the Bank needs to set out a new vision, Oxfam said.

“The fight against global warming cannot be sidelined by the financial crisis either. The Bank has not thought enough about how to protect the most vulnerable communities from the impact of global warming,” Hutjes said.

The World Bank is also set to propose a new reform on the division of power - called the Voice Reform Package - within the institution. Although welcome and necessary, the reform falls far short of what is needed to make the Bank a truly balanced body.

“Anything that comes up short of giving developing countries parity of the voting share will be insufficient. We need more than token change. Clearly, 21st century institutions cannot function on post-war rules,” Hutjes said.