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World Bank President Addresses International Labour Conference


Press release | 12 June 1997


GENEVA (ILO News) - "The notion that we have two worlds is a foolish notion. We describe them in terms of developed and developing worlds but in fact they are inextricably linked. We have one world in economic terms, in environmental terms, in health, migration, crime, drugs, food, war (...). The issue of equity and social justice is an issue we face wherever we are" said Mr. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank in a speech delivered this morning before the delegates to the 85 th International Labour Conference.

"Our world is a world in which 3 billion people live with less than US$ 2 a day and 1.3 billion on less than US$ 1 a day (...). We live in a world in which 56% of the people have less than 5% of the income. A world of great differences between countries: the rich and the poor. A world of great inequities within countries, between the rich and the poor - and those inequities are increasing."

Reflecting upon the evolution of investment flows, Mr. Wolfensohn pointed out that "seven years ago, the private sector was half the size of the official sector. Today, at US$ 240 billion, it is five times the size of the official sector. This is not only a quantitative change, it is also an enormous qualitative change. But again, there is inequality (...). 75% of that US$ 240 billion goes to 12 countries. 140 countries get less than 5%. Sub-saharan Africa gets around 1%".

Development represents an enormous challenge, but "unless you have sound social policies, you cannot have sound economic policies", emphasized Mr. Wolfensohn. "That is crystal clear. Unless you have a solid base with the people, unless you are concerned with the rights of the individual, unless you are concerned with elements of social responsibility and social justice, you cannot have peace and you cannot have safe investing. That is a very straightforward conclusion and it guides the work of the Bank."

"(...) We respect the expertise of the ILO. We build on it and we have worked together with you. But I have to say in all candour that in the past I do not think this relationship has been deep enough or sufficient to face the sorts of challenges we are facing. I am very proud that, in this last year, we have taken a step forward. We have to set priorities, achievable targets, and we have to set for ourselves a framework in which we can judge our effectiveness. We have to get away from theoretical exercises, from mutual expressions of goodwill, to targets, to evaluations, to focusing on projects on which we can work together (...). We should have the courage to move forward, to experiment and to take on issues which none of us have faced before."

"We are absolutely linked - the aims of the ILO and those of the Bank", Mr. Wolfensohn concluded. "The ways in which we work are different but the complementarity is clear."

Introducing Mr. Wolfensohn to the delegations of the 174 member States of the ILO, the Conference President, Mrs. Olga Keltosová, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic said that "we consider ourselves lucky that, at this crucial moment in history, the leadership of the World Bank is in the hands of a person who shows in both word and deed his moral and social commitment to putting the human being at the center of development and to engaging in the creation of a better world for everybody."

Responding later to his speech, Mrs. Keltosová added "(...) as you know, the promotion of social justice has remained since 1919 the first and foremost mandate of our Organization. After your encouraging words, we are confident that the World Bank is now an important partner in promoting this mandate. We are convinced that cooperation between the World Bank and the ILO will be beneficial to all of our constituents."