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World Bank Goes Into Retail Trade

The World Bank has taken a new approach to globalization. The organization best known for providing loans and assistance to developing countries has entered the retail business, selling coffee and handmade merchandise to promote socially responsible trade.

It's not Starbucks, but Pangea Artisan Market and Café hopes to attract similar clientele. In addition to fair-trade coffee, the new store in Washington, D.C. features products hand-made by some of the poorest people in the world.

Reema Nanavaty, economic director at SEWA, the largest labor union for self-employed women in India said, “We also have soft furnishings like cushion covers, bed spreads, table linens, and also accessories such as purses, bags, evening bags.”

What sets the retail store apart from similar shops is its management team, the global organization known as the World Bank. Harold Rosen, project director at the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, which will oversee the new retail operation, said Pangea's goal is to promote socially responsible trade around the world.

"It is also a very good way for us to make new partnerships that can help us do the work more efficiently,” Rosen said. “We are very excited about it, and it is a very good way for us to become a more active member of the development community."

The World Bank, which has often been the target of protesters who criticize its free-market policies in developing countries, says Pangea will help dispel the notion that "everything in globalization is bad for poor people."

Pierre Tami, founder of Hagar, a Swiss non-profit group that helps drug addicts and women sold into sexual slavery, said the project gives people who have been discarded by society a chance to earn a dignified living.

"This enhances really the dignity of these women that are known to be of no value because they are on the streets with prostitution,” Tami said. “They have been sold for a few dollars and actually, they are able today to make these products and earn a livable wage."

The store is named after the giant landmass that scientists theorize existed before the continents split apart.

Pangea requires global suppliers to undergo regular inspections and sign commitments to produce goods made without child labor, unhealthy working conditions or damage to the environment.