Pioneering efforts planned on AIDS and other development issues
[Nairobi, 10 March 2000] The World Bank and a group of 150 Senior Christian leaders from 20 African nations announced today that the Church and Bank plan to work more closely together to fight poverty and spur economic and social development in Africa.
The agreement, unveiled at the end of a week-long poverty consultation near the Kenyan capital chaired by the Archbishop of West Africa and facilitated by Dr. Agnes Abuom, President of the World Council of Churches, marks the first time the Bank has partnered on a regional level with the Church. Through the new partnership, the Bank and Church will focus on other development issues ranging from governance and corruption to gender equity and post-conflict reconstruction, and aim to "break the conspiracy of silence on AIDS."
"We are preparing for this special year of the Jubilee by working with Church leaders to place poverty on the forefront of the international agenda and build on an international plan to relieve the debt of the world's poorest countries worthy of a millennium celebration," said Callisto Madavo, vice-president of the World Bank's Africa region. "This is the beginning of a process that brings us together on the basis of our common concerns for raising the incomes of the poor and promoting empowerment, security and opportunity ."
The Bank/Church partnership, which capped this week's meeting sponsored by the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) and the Bank, combines the Bank's global perspective on poverty with the Church's deep influence among the urban and rural poor of Africa.
"We have all been delighted by our mutual enthusiasm and openness to explore and develop this partnership", said the Archbishop of West Africa, the Most Revd. Robert Okine, Chairman of CAPA. "We commit ourselves to develop our partnership with passion, compassion and professionalism so that our joint work produces results for the poor. We stand together for life and dignity".
The joint communique unveiled on Friday said that where possible, the Bank and Church will cooperate with governments in testing the channeling of development resources through Church programs. Pilot initiatives could take place in a number of areas, such as building centers of compassion for HIV/AIDS counseling and care, setting up rural and urban slum credit unions, and providing basic services to communities.
The Bank will include the Church in national consultations on economic and social policy issues and designs of poverty programs, and follow-up meetings will be arranged on a national basis with the broadest Christian participation possible. The Bank also aims to better understand Church involvement and capacity in development in particular countries. During the next 24 months, the Church and Bank will hold further consultations with African governments, the private sector, and other international development institutions.
The joint communique lays out several areas where the Bank and Church aim to work together, including:
- Women and Assets - If Africa is to achieve equitable growth and sustainable development, gender inequality must be reduced. The Bank can work with the Church to assess the impact of programs of both institutions that are targeted to rural women especially and to enable men and women to work together in mutually supportive partnership in the home and community.
- Children and Youth -- More than half of the people of many African are under 15 years of age. The Church has experience with programs with children and youths that it can offer on issues such as street children, AIDS orphans, and children soldiers.
- Education and Health - The Church can partner with the Bank and others in promoting life-skill training, civic education, and informal education for adults.
- HIV/AIDS - The Church can work with the Bank in influencing community leaders, Church and national officials to break the conspiracy of silence about HIV/AIDS. The Bank can provide data on a country-specific basis to empower the Church to make the case about AIDS.
- Governance, Leadership and Corruption - The Bank and Church can empower citizens to recognize their rights, improve performance in developing accountable leaders, address corruption based on tribal and political affiliation, and dissuade Western governments from giving tax breaks to companies making illegal payments to African officials.
- Enterprise, Debt and Economic Growth - The Church should encourage its parishioners with business expertise to work with capital markets, the private sector and Bank in channeling resources to the poor, especially through micro-enterprise development. New resources from debt relief should be translated into direct benefits for the poor.
- Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Reconstruction - The Bank and Church can work together to address the root causes of conflict, train leaders in conflict transformation, enhance the role of women in the peacemaking process, and launch programs to build the fabric of conflict-ridden societies.
Working with the Churches is not entirely new for the Bank. For two years, the Bank has consulted with the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), an Oxford-based grouping of world faith leaders from the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths.
This week's meeting in Nairobi marks a major step forward in making that cooperation a practical reality in the field. The World Bank plans to hold a follow-up workshop with African Muslim leaders next year, and a joint faiths conference the year after.