WASHINGTON (AFP) - The World Bank gathered the might of the international community on Saturday behind its audacious plan to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation.
"This is it. This is the global target to end poverty," said World Bank President Dr Kim Jim Yong, visibly pleased after the International Monetary Fund and the Bank endorsed the poverty offensive.
"For the first time in history, we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty," Dr Kim said at a news conference.
"We have set an expiration date for extreme poverty. With commitment, cooperation, and the vision of leaders from around the world, we have great faith that we can make it happen." Dr Kim, a US physician and global health activist who became head of the Bank last July, announced only two weeks ago the plan to eradicate extreme poverty - defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day - to 3.0 per cent or less of the world's population by 2030.
The plan also aims at raising the incomes of the poorest 40 percent in each country, so that prosperity is more fairly shared.
"This will be hard work. The target of 2030 is closer than you think - just 17 years away," Dr Kim warned.
According to World Bank data released this week, there are still 1.2 billion people, or one fifth of the world's population, living in extreme poverty, despite significant strides in poverty reduction, in part due to China's economic growth.
Over 25 years, the rate of extreme poverty has fallen from 42 per cent to 21 per cent in 2010.
Dr Kim said the World Bank every year would report, country by country, on the rate of extreme poverty and the changes in the income of the bottom 40 per cent.
"We will learn every year where we are making progress and where we are not." Calling the initiative a "historic opportunity" to make a difference, the Development Committee, representing the IMF and the Bank on development issues, announced its endorsement.
But the 25-member committee of finance and development leaders said the goals must be achieved without jeopardising the environment, increasing economic debt or excluding vulnerable people.
Dr Kim welcomed the committee's endorsement as "an important step." "I have no doubt that the world can end extreme poverty within a generation. But it's not a given and we cannot do it alone. It requires focus, innovation and commitments from everyone," he said i.
"If we succeed, together, we would have accomplished an historic milestone." Dr Kim had made adoption of the poverty agenda his top priority for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
The Development Committee said in its statement that achieving the goal would take strong growth across the developing world, and an unprecedented translation of growth into poverty reduction in many low-income countries.
The panel also noted institutional and governance challenges would have to be overcome and investments in infrastructure and agricultural productivity would be needed.
"Ministers unequivocally supported Dr Kim's vision and stated that we can count on the World Bank Group as a partner in the endeavor of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity," Marek Belka, the chairman of the Development Committee, said in the statement.
"Dr Kim renewed our zeal for the Bank Group's core mission of a world free of poverty. There is a historic opportunity at our reach to make critical progress."