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Predictably and perhaps appropriately, the flood of remembrances of Robert McNamara is focusing on his role as the architect of the Vietnam War. Yet McNamara was also a transformative president of the World Bank, shaping both that institution and the larger development enterprise in ways that are still felt today. McNamara served for 13 years as World Bank president, almost twice the seven years he previously spent as the U.S. defense secretary (both terms set records for length that have yet to be exceeded).
In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade last week, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argued that support for the G-20 commitments to increase lending resources at the IMF is a critical part of ensuring U.S. recovery from the economic crisis and global prosperity and security. She was, however, confronted with a host of concerns about whether multilateral lending would go to governments like Iran, Sudan, and Syria, and with one member of Congress’s view that he “is a citizen of the United States, not the world.”
Last week the Guardian reported that the Obama Administration has approached President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil about becoming the next President of the World Bank. Seems unlikely to me – for one thing it’s early, since Robert Zoellick’s term lasts another three years, and the Administration has many other fish it is frying right now.
My friend Nathalie Johnson is one of my personal heroes. For the better part of two decades, she has worked tirelessly at the World Bank to conserve biodiversity while promoting sustainable livelihoods for the rural people of Africa. Fiercely proud of being a field biologist in an institution dominated by economists, Nathalie has turned out to be one of the finest applied economists I know.
In a huge step forward, this week Liberia slashed its foreign debt by buying back $1.2 billion in commercial debt -- about one-quarter of its foreign debt -- from its private foreign creditors, including banks, hedge funds, and other “distressed debt” investment funds.
The Executive Order signed by President Obama this week creating the White House Council on Women and Girls signals that the Administration recognizes that special consideration is warranted to make sure government policies and programs don't reinforce discrimination against women and girls -- and in some instances should spur extra efforts to overcome gender-related economic and social