World Bank discusses approach to fragile states and food price volatility

On Saturday the Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen attended the spring meeting of the World Bank Development Committee. The Committee has 25 members and meets twice a year.

The role of the international community in fragile states and the volatility of food prices were high on the Committee’s agenda. An ambitious role for the World Bank in fragile states as proposed in the recently published World Development Report received the unanimous backing of the meeting. Now it is a question of turning words into deeds and pushing ahead with implementation. ‘The World Bank has a crucial role in these states,’ said Mr Knapen. ‘It is important that it works transparently and is judged on its ability to achieve lasting results. An active partnership with parliaments, the private sector and civil society is the best way of working together and promoting development.’

A recently published study by the World Bank shows that food prices have risen by an average of 36% since last year, pushing millions more people below the poverty line. ‘Food-importing countries should be given more support by the World Bank,’ said Mr Knapen, ‘so that they are better able to assist vulnerable groups in society. The World Bank should also share its expertise so that governments and the private sector are better able to deal with the impact of price volatility.’

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Knapen met the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka. They have agreed to work together more closely in fragile states and in the field of private sector development. The African Development Bank is an important player on the African continent for the Netherlands.

Mr Knapen’s schedule on Sunday included meetings with senior officials at the World Bank and the head of USAID, Raj Shah, and – with State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers – talks with the President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick.