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Every year the World Bank produces the World Development Report, its flagship research publication and showcase for the latest Bank thinking on development. Each report has a theme--the WDR 2006 is on “Equity and Development,” the one to be launched at the fall meetings in Singapore, WDR 2007, will be on “Youth.” The development profession eagerly awaits two different parts of the WDR process--the announcement of next year's theme (and team leaders to produce it), and the subsequent launch of the final product, usually about 15 months later.
It’s that time of year. And much to the surprise of many, the WDR 2008 will be on “Agriculture and Development.” This is the first WDR to focus on agriculture since 1982 (!) . President Paul Wolfowitz selected agriculture as the topic for the first WDR to be completely produced under his leadership. That is an important statement of what the Bank considers to be the research and policy agenda going forward. At last Washington seems to have realized that any serious effort to reach the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger must figure out how to stimulate the rural economies where three-quarters of the world’s poor people live. Most rural economies depend heavily on a dynamic agricultural sector if they are going to drive poverty reduction.
World Bank Chief Economist Francois Bourguignon has chosen Derek Byerlee and Alain de Janvry as co-directors of WDR 2008. Derek is a long-time Bank specialist in agricultural development and risk management; Alain is on leave from UC-Berkeley, where he has long been a professor of agricultural economics, specializing in modeling the interaction between agriculture and poverty, especially in Latin America. They are assembling an eclectic team of advisors (“Friends of WDR08”) and authors for the various chapters whose topics are now a work in progress. As a member of both parts of the team, I am looking forward to a very stimulating (and pressured) six months as we struggle to produce a first draft for external comment before the end of the year.
I promise to report progress as we make it…
As donors gather next week in Rome to pledge funds to the International Fund for Agriculture Development , they may be wondering where the United States is. Given the generally high marks this independent fund earns for development effectiveness, the uncertainty around a US pledge is troubling. In this “America First” moment, it’s worth asking when it comes to IFAD, what’s in it for the United States and what will be lost if the United States drops out?