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Leaders create news as they stake out new territory, and they also create turbulence that can be harnessed by institutional reformers when conditions are right. The conditions were undoubtedly right at the World Bank in 1992. Then Senator Gore had just published Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. The bank, meanwhile, was badly bruised from a spate of missteps and terrible publicity on the environment; Greenpeace was calling the world’s leading development organization "Bankenstein." Seeking ways to repair the damage, bank president Lewis Preston readily agreed to meet with Gore when a group of internal reformers (including yours truly) proposed inviting him for a visit. Gore joined us for a memorable day, including an SRO performance for bank staff. More than any other single event, his visit set in motion the dawn of a new environmental era at the Bank. For the internal reformers, it provided a badly needed morale-booster and justification for insisting on badly needed resources for our work. Resources were indeed forthcoming; many Bank environmentalists moved into influential jobs; and the institution adopted much stronger environmental policies under Preston’s successor, James Wolfensohn.
Flash forward 15 years, and we have more progressive turbulence from Al Gore. An Inconvenient Truth has had a big impact on the Bank—much of it, I suspect, via family pressure on non-environmental staff members. Suddenly climate change work is all the rage there, with the active encouragement of the new president Robert Zoellick. And for this writer, as for many colleagues at CGD and other DC think tanks, Al Gore has once again created big maneuver space by winning the Nobel Peace Prize (along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Capitol Hill is finally moving on climate change in response to rising public demand for action spurred in large part by Gore’s work.
So, a heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you on your much-deserved Nobel Prize, Al. You’ve once again put a strong wind in our sails!
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
By Mark Lowcock and Masood Ahmed
Countries risk a ‘dangerous divergence’ in economic fortune unless more is done to help
At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank this week, we can expect measures to support low- and middle-income countries’ pandemic recovery that are laudable but fall well short of what is required.
One likely outcome will be an allocation of up to $650bn in IMF special drawing rights, the fund’s reserve currency that is used to supplement members’ official reserves. An extended pause on debt service payments for the poorest countries and a commitment from wealthy nations to help finance the global distribution of Covid vaccines will probably also be agreed.
All these measures will be welcome. But they will be only marginally helpful for countries where the end of the pandemic remains far off. They certainly will not prevent IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva’s warning of a “dangerous divergence” between economies from becoming a reality.