At Semi-Annual Meeting, World Bank/IMF Governors Focus on Food Prices

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  • Development Committee discusses economic overheating, development in conflict-affected states, situation in the Middle East.

  • Communiqué calls on Bank to expand role in agricultural development and research.

  • Ministers say 2011 World Development Report should stimulate assistance to conflict-affected states.

April 16, 2011—Food prices are the biggest threat today to the world’s poor, World Bank President Bob Zoellick told reporters at a press conference following the meeting of the Development Committee of the World Bank and IMF. “We are one shock away from a full-blown crisis,” said Zoellick.

In their final communiqué, Committee members expressed concern that “overheating in some sectors, especially food and energy, is resulting in price pressures and volatility.”

The discussion was based on a World Bank report, Responding to Global Food Price Volatility and Its Impact on Food Security. The communiqué highlighted in particular the World Bank Group’s “stepped-up role in agricultural development and agricultural research, including efforts to strengthen the productivity and resilience of smallholder production.” It called on the Bank to “pursue innovative solutions to strengthening agricultural productivity, trade, and farmers’ access to markets, as well as private investment and South-South cooperation.” And it stressed “the crucial role women play in agriculture and the importance of ensuring their needs are addressed.”

Also on the agenda was the latest World Development Report on conflict, security and development. In their communiqué, ministers described the report as having “the potential to stimulate significant improvement in the performance of the WBG and other development partners in fragile and conflict-affected states.” They supported a role for the World Bank Group that focuses on job creation, private sector development, inclusive growth, development of strong institutions, and enhancement of security and justice.

“We support incorporating lessons from the WDR into WBG policies and operations, including alignment of results and risk management, and provision of incentives to the best qualified staff to serve in these situations. We urge the WBG to be ready to engage early and consistently in fragile and conflict-affected situations within the areas covered by its institutional mandate, and in full coordination with other development partners.”

In assessing progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, Zoellick pointed out that not one conflict-affected country has been able to attain a single Millennium Development Goal. “We need to make progress in fragile states,” he said. Since the Middle East and North Africa is foremost in everyone’s mind, he called for immediate action—in supporting policy reform and not necessarily financing—and not waiting for the situation to stabilize. This support should comprise transparency and accountability measures, governance, job creation, safety nets, private sector and export development, and social accountability which means engaging with civil society, he said. “We need a new social contract where governments listen to their people.” Zoellick referred to the situation in the Middle East as an opportunity to put the findings of the World Development Report into practice.

Ministers also participated on Friday in a “Bali Breakfast”—a Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Change. The final communiqué called for “innovative approaches to development and climate change financing, and the Bank’s support for the work of the Transitional Committee in charge of designing the GCF [Green Climate Fund].”

In addition to the core items on the Committee’s agenda—food prices and the World Development Report—governors received the 2011 Global Monitoring Report on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, an update on World Bank Group Modernization, and a governance report—Strengthening Governance and Accountability: Shareholder Stewardship and Oversight.