Many experts believe the underlying
cause of terrorism is poverty. Today, over a billion people
live in desperate conditions. Millions die each year of
malnutrition or from treatable disease. The World Bank is
viewed by many as the lead organization in the war on global
poverty. Yet, in recent years, the effectiveness of its
lending and its accountability for mistakes has concerned
many people. There is a perception that well-connected financiers
close their doors to deliberate on the fate of millions
and it is only when these insiders unlock them that people
living in poverty learn what has been decided about their
future. By the dawn of the millennium, the Bank was being
vilified by governments and activists as monolithic and
secretive and as exacerbating poverty rather than eradicating
it. Now, we have entered a time when donor nations are focusing
resources on fighting terrorism rather than promoting development.
Many believe the Bank has reached a critical juncture.
The World Bank Unveiled comes
at a crucial phase of the Banks evolution and its
timing is compelling. In the wake of Paul Wolfowitzs
resignation as Bank President and the appointment of Robert
Zoellick as his successor in 2007, The New York Times
offered a frank assessment. Zoellicks first task would
be to convince donors to fully replenish the International
Development Association's (IDA) funding that occurs every
three years. IDA funding is directed to the Banks
poorest client countries. But continuing that aid,
and perhaps increasing it, is now a major hurdle
countries are balking because of their own budget problems
and lingering questions after recent turmoil over the Banks
relevance, its priorities and its effectiveness, wrote
Steven Weisman of The Times. (World Bank
Faces Doubts From Donors, September 25, 2007). In September
2008, The Times noted aid from the donor countries
had declined 13% from 2005 to 2007. Commitments made in
Monterrey in 2002 and by the G-8 in 2005 in Scotland had
not been met. And of all the major donors at Monterrey,
the U.S. is furthest behind in meeting its commitments.
(Times editorial, Failing the Worlds
Poor, September 23, 2008.) Events in 2008 have only
increased the stakes: beginning with escalating food prices
that led to riots in some countries and ending with the
sharpest global economic downturn since the Great Depression.
In 1999, two Bank researchers understood
the institution was already on a precipice. Rich countries
that funded its lending operations had become skeptical
that it could deliver sound results. Poor countries that
borrowed from it felt antagonized by loans they were pressured
to accept that had led to higher debt and, in some instances,
more poverty. Non-governmental organizations and thousands
of protesters were also on the march, suggesting the Bank
was destroying the environment, desecrating indigenous cultures
and creating profits for large multinational corporations
at the expense of the worlds poor. The two researchers
wondered if it was possible to open up the institution in
such a way as to increase it transparency, improve its accountability
and mute criticism. They decided to launch an internet-based
broadcasting station that disseminated unedited videos of
internal discussions and debates. The Banks culture
and bureaucracy, hardened over a half-century, presented
them with a formidable foe. Some powerful officials within
the Bank viewed the transparency initiative as anathema.
The World Bank Unveiled documents this epic struggle.
It is the story of a revolution to transform the World Bank
and a case study of the power of the Bank to transform peoples
While immensely powerful, the Bank is
an enigma to most of the public. Other publications about
the Bank have offered a global perspective on its activities.
The World Bank Unveiled is the only
text that gives readers a glimpse on its inner workings
from an internal source. The author speaks with authority
from 12 years of experience inside the institution. From
this unique perspective, he conducts
an analysis of how the institution thinks, operates and
acts. Other authors have alluded to the importance of transparency
in molding the Bank into a more effective organization.
Yet, none have explored the issue in detail or deciphered
the underlying cultural norms that make transparency difficult
in the current environment.
Population growth is expected to accelerate in the opening
decades of the new century and to reach six billion by 2025.
To reduce poverty in an environment where stresses on the
global poor will increase for generations, the Bank must
remain relevant. Nevertheless, its relevancy is not assured.
Its skeptics multiply by the day while millions die. The
Banks lack of transparency and accountability has
undermined its ability to increase aid levels. The institution
must change and The World Bank Unveiled shows why.
After a dozen years of working at the World Bank,
I left with one firmly held and unalterable belief: the
institution has as noble a mission as mankind can create.
Thousands of individuals from all over the globe working
at the Bank are dedicated to making its mission -- a world
free from poverty a reality. The World Bank
Unveiled was written for them as well as the millions
of shareholders they serve. I knew from my experience
there were World Bankers who cared deeply about issues
that concerned external critics. These critics viewed
the Bank as monolithic, secretive and uncaring, but they
didnt have access to the view I had. Still, their
concerns have validity, because I believe there are two
World Banks. One recognizes its mistakes and limitations
and seeks to be guided by the community of man. The other
rejects its own fallibility, promotes its superiority
and shelters itself within the confines of its authority.
My own work, to develop an internal and transparent communications
medium, served as the fault line between these competing
philosophies. I decided to write The World Bank Unveiled
because I believe it will provide an opportunity for those
who want a more open and accountable institution to overcome
an internal culture wedded to secrecy and a bureaucracy
married to the status quo. If this should occur, the ultimate
winners will be those millions who currently live in poverty
because they will then have a more effective advocate
on their behalf.
-- David Shaman, author of The World Bank Unveiled,
published by Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., Publishers