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World Bank:  Peace Depends on Narrowing Gap Between Rich and Poor

World Bank president James Wolfensohn Thursday said there won't be peace in the world until the widening income gap between rich and poor is narrowed. Mr. Wolfensohn spoke at a forum on the effectiveness of foreign assistance at Washington's Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Wolfensohn says in the aftermath of September 11 there is a growing recognition that poverty is a cause of violent conflict. Arguing that rich and poor countries are united in striving to eradicate poverty, the World Bank president said the world won't be peaceful until something is done to improve equity and social justice.

"Particularly at a time when we now have six billion people on the planet, five billion of whom live in developing countries," he said. "And in 25 years we'll have eight billion people on the planet where seven billion live in developing countries. And 25 years later nine billion people where eight billion will live in developing countries. You can not look at the world in a sanguine look that everything is the same against that set of demographics."

The World Bank says a person is in poverty if his income is below two dollars a day or $800 a year.

The conference stressed the need to measure the effectiveness of development assistance, which is generally regarded as wasteful by taxpayers in industrial countries. Pietro Veglio is the Swiss executive director at the World Bank. He cites the example of a public opinion survey of improved performance of the health care system in Kyrgystan as one way to measure aid effectiveness.

"Peoples perception is that there is an important change, a very important change [since receiving a World Bank health sector loan]," he said. "Treatments are cheaper now. Patients now know in advance how much they have to pay. Drugs are generally available in the hospital. People do not anymore have to search and buy them in pharmacies outside the hospital."

Conference participants emphasized the need for greater coordination among aid donors. They said developing countries accept that they must fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law and improve the efficiency of their institutions and financial systems.