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IMF, WB put on the spot

STOCKHOLM, Oct 24 – "The Bretton Woods institutions are beginning to show their age. Some say it is time to consider their retirement," Otive Igbuzor, Head of International Campaigns, ActionAid International has said.

This comment sparked a round of lively responses from officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (ADB), who defended the relevance of their organisations and called attention to recent reforms.

The debate took place at the opening of a plenary session on “The Response to the Global Economic Downturn,” at the 4th edition of the European Development Days in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday.

"I think the IMF is going back to its roots," said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director IMF.

The institution he recalled was founded after World War II to help ensure global financial stability.

“The lack of such stability in the 1930s helped cause the war, world leaders believed. Today, in the 21st century, the IMF is reducing the scope of demands it makes on countries seeking its help and is paying more attention to local conditions,” he added.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WB Managing Director pointed to several initiatives of her institution, including help to address issues related to climate change.

"We are the ones working with these people," she said.

"It is important to keep the World Bank, the IMF and the regional development banks strong during this crisis," added Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.

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Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone also came to the defence of the multilaterals.

"During this most difficult period for the nations of Africa, it is my personal experience that the international financial institutions, especially the WB and the ADB have been very supportive," he said.

"Instead of retiring them we hope that the institutions will be given greater capacity. There is no doubt that reform is needed, but the reforms are going on."

Speaking also at the ‘Response to the Global Economic Downturn’ session, Karel de Gucht, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, called on European Member States to increase their development aid.

He pointed out: "Countries that have yet to reach the target of 0.7% of gross domestic product for Official Development Assistance (ODA) should redouble their efforts.”

Mr De Gucht also sent a message to the media: "We have difficulty making headlines, but a recent poll showed that 42% of Europeans want more media coverage of development," he said.

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