In a report drafted under his direction before leaving his post as Senior Vice President of the World Bank, François Bourguignon urged the international financial agency to meet the “Challenges of Global Development.”
In interviews with the French newspapers Les Echos and Le Monde1 , Bourguignon, now Director of the Paris School of Economics (EEP), discussed the reforms the World Bank should adopt if it is to rise out of the legitimacy crisis it currently faces given the emergence of new players (private donors, NGOs, emerging countries such as China and Vietnam) and growing criticism over its past methods of intervention. These recommendations reinforce the findings of the internal audit commissioned by the former World Bank Senior Vice President in 2006, findings that had already pointed an accusing finger at the World Bank’s “proselytism … in favor of its own policies without properly vetting them or expressing appropriate scepticism.” 2 .
Two initial “challenges” related to the World Bank’s traditional missions were identified:
> Enable low-income countries to benefit from zero-interest World Bank grants and loans, “because the boom in raw materials does not guarantee that those countries will be sufficiently included in globalization.” African countries cannot develop their local export capacities without prematurely opening up to imports: “the reciprocity rules of trade deals prevent that approach,” François Bourguignon explains in Les Echos. “Europe and the United States are earnestly trying to promote trade with Africa via the EPA3 agreements for the European Union and AGOA4 in the United States. But these agreements impose a fair amount of limitations with, for example, product rules of origin, and African countries remain limited in their capacity to penetrate the European and American markets.”
> “Support the budget for fragile countries – those emerging from war – to enable poverty reduction in those areas.”
“New methods of intervention” must, therefore, be invented and the World Bank must carry out arbitrations to coordinate assistance that is “too fragmented” and thereby avoid the risk of inefficacy inherent to a proliferation of donors.
François Bourguignon also identified two new missions:
> Help middle-income countries to avoid an increase in their “social inequalities.” Strong growth in these emerging countries does not, after all, guarantee a decrease in poverty for all. “How growth is distributed domestically is what determines whether inequalities will increase or not.” The example of China, where disparities grew at an alarming rate as growth accelerated, is emblematic,” he analyzes in Les Echos.
> Focus efforts on “global public goods,” as emphasized by World Bank President Robert Zoellick. This could lead the World Bank to become “the planet’s environmental bank,” François Bourguignon points out in Le Monde, by in particular targeting climate change, which is a barrier to the potential for progress in developing countries. This was highlighted in a Brookings Institution study, according to which the poorest countries – those exposed to the greatest climate-related risks – could face a 20 to 25 percent drop in their agricultural production by 2050.
The goal of adapting to climate change was also in part what led the World Bank to readjust its strategy in favor of agriculture, as indicated in its 2008 World Development Report.5 . “The international community made a grave mistake in viewing agriculture as the residue of development,” accuses François Bourguignon. “If we want to fight poverty, we must have specific agricultural policies,” he continues in Les Echos.
To meet all of these challenges, the World Bank will have to commit to improving the transfer of its cumulative experience; this, to respond to the immense need for expertise, yet without giving in to the temptation of “drawing up uniform recommendations and ideological formulas,” as is currently the case.
Bourguignon, who has stayed on as an independent adviser to the World Bank, concluded both interviews with references to the inability of the existing international bodies – the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO – to improve global governance. “None of these three organizations is actually engaged in global governance,” he insists in Les Echos.
“It is, therefore, with all probability by means of these global public goods, such as the environment, water, health and emigration, that a new global governance will be established.”
To this list, WOAgri adds agriculture, a sector in which the transnational challenges are so great that its elevation to “global public good” status – in keeping with its geopolitical and strategic dimension and toward an institutional redefinition of this notion6 − will contribute to worldwide development, stability and peace.
As for the global governance deficit, in particular with regard to agricultural issues, we find it essential to not disregard the key role of the FAO, which, on the face of the prescriptions recently published after the most recent outside independent audit of this United Nations institution,7 has initiated a reform that provides elements of a response to this institutional vacuum.
This is also what has inspired WOAgri to develop, along with its economic model and the international rating agency, principles for the governance of agriculture and international agricultural trade, to move beyond the stage of declarations and consider possible avenues for change.
WOAgri Editorial Department