Knapen welcomes steps to modernise World Bank

At the annual meeting of the World Bank in Tokyo, international cooperation minister Ben Knapen has welcomed moves to modernise the Bank under its new president Jim Yong Kim.

Mr Knapen stressed that, when money is lent, it must take account of changing relations in the world. He also spoke up for fragile states like South Sudan and Yemen.

The Netherlands contributes €300 million annually to the World Bank, which provides loans and investment capital to developing countries. The Bank's terms for lending money largely depend on incomes in the borrowing country. In 1969, most of the money it lent to poor countries came from the governments of rich countries. Now, that proportion is only 14%. An increasing amount now comes from the private sector and other new donors, with whom, in Mr Knapen's view, the World Bank should work more closely.

Moreover, the world has recently seen an increase in the number of middle-income countries like India that still have many poor people. At the end of next year, we will need to decide whether these countries still qualify for the most favourable terms and whether the Bank will need to adapt its goals.

At the Tokyo meeting, participants asked whether the World Bank should focus on poor people rather than on poor countries and whether it should get more closely involved with global issues such as climate change.

In Mr Knapen's view, sustainability goals must be included in the new international agreements that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. ‘The World Bank is right to tackle this issue, but its ambitions to embrace global public goods must not lead it to reduce its efforts on behalf of fragile states.’

The latest reports on the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals for fighting poverty shows that fragile states have made the least progress. The Netherlands has co-initiated a new strategy for these countries.

Mr Knapen praised Mr Kim for taking the time during the meeting and in the margins to speak with representatives of fragile states. ‘It's refreshing to see how he is approaching the task and opening the World Bank's doors.’