May 8 , 2006
Final Carter Center ‘Conversation’ examines problems of developing nations
By Rachel Robertson
You have before you two very unusual bedfellows, institutionally,” John Stremlau said of the representatives from The Carter Center and the World Bank participating in last week’s “Conversations at the Carter Center” in the Ivan Allen Pavilion. The event, titled “Global Equity—Global Security,” culminated the 2005–06 “Conversations” series.
Stremlau, The Carter Center’s new associate executive director for peace programs, served as moderator for the discussion along with Jason Calder, assistant director of the center’s Global Development Initiative (GDI), and Pablo Guerrero, the World Bank’s senior adviser on development support for middle-income countries.
“President [Jimmy] Carter talks about the growing chasm between the richest and the poorest people on earth—not only between nations, but within them—as causing most of the world’s unsolved problems,” Stremlau said.
Stremlau said the two organizations approach poverty from different directions—The Carter Center from a quest for world peace, the World Bank from a responsibility for rebuilding states—but they must continue to work together to overcome their individual limitations.
“It’s not just a moral problem or a humanitarian problem, it is—because of the nature of today’s threats—a security problem, as well as a problem of indecency,” Stremlau said. “And the poverty that exists in the world today is, in fact, indecent.”
GDI was launched in part because of those far-reaching effects of poverty, Calder said, as well as specific events such as the collapse of democracy in Haiti in the 1980s.
“President Carter, in looking at that situation,” Calder said, “felt that part of the reason for [the success of dictatorship in Haiti] was that the international community had not come together with a coherent response to deal with development issues.”
Filling this need, Calder said, the center has worked with countries such as Albania, Guyana, Mali and Mozambique to form national development strategies that follow the GDI’s three guiding principles: country ownership in strategic planning (rather than having policies foisted on them from outside agencies); fostering involvement of civil society (such as nongovernmental organizations within the country); and coordination of international and domestic organizations.
In 1996, after the first national development strategy had been completed for Guyana, representatives from The Carter Center and the World Bank met to review the process and found that their thinking was aligned. As a lender, the World Bank could engage governments needing assistance, but it was not allowed to interfere in politics.
“Development is a very hard thing to do. You don’t do it to countries—they have to do it themselves,” Guerrero said.
Projects funded by the World Bank are guided by the bank’s Comprehensive Development Framework, which requires countries to have a long-term plan for development that has broad-based support within the country, but actually helping to follow it is beyond the World Bank’s scope.
Both Calder and Guerrero said the contribution of broader society, not just the government, is critical if developing countries are to reach their goals.
In the end, Guerrero said, money is just one ingredient for successful development. He cited the World Bank’s recently approved Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, providing some $37 billion to completely cancel the debt of some of the world’s poorest countries.
“Now it is the obligation of the international community to help [these countries] manage this new financial capacity in a wise manner,” he said.