World Bank Press Release
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey and the President of the
World Bank, James D Wolfensohn, hosted a Dialogue, "World Faiths and
Development" at Lambeth Palace, London, on February 18-19 1998. Leaders
from the following nine world Faiths, including the main traditions within
the Faiths, participated: Bahai; Buddhist; Christian; Hindu; Jains;
Jewish; Muslim; Sikh and Taoist.
The main aim of the Dialogue was to broaden opportunities for common
understanding and action in tackling the critical issue of global poverty.
It was designed to help the Bank and the Faiths to reach a better
understanding of each other's ideas about approaches to development and
possible obstacles in the way of achieving desirable development aims. The
Dialogue discussed how the criteria applied in development policies might
continue to be broadened to include the notion of cultural, religious and
social structures and values. This meeting represents an important step
towards a new relationship between the World Bank and the Faiths.
[The World Bank press release on the World Faith's Dialogue gives the
following biographies for the two Bahá'í participants:]
Kiser Barnes, representing the International Bahá'í Community, Haifa,
Israel. Mr Barnes, who holds the position of International Counsellor, is a
member of the International Teaching Centre, the body responsible for
fostering and monitoring the propagation of the Bahá'í teachings throughout
the world. He is a citizen of the United States of America and an attorney.
For many years he taught the Law of Corporations and International Economic
Law at universities in the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Nigeria, before
relocating to Israel in l993.
Accompanying Mr. Barnes will be Lawrence Arturo, Director of the Bahá'í
International Office of the Environment in New York City and Bahá'í
Representative to the United Nations on environmental and development
World Bank, religions to swap development ideas
LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Leaders of nine world faiths are to meet
the president of the World Bank in London next week for two days of
unprecedented talks on poverty and development policies.
Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and World Bank President James
Wolfensohn said in a statement on Monday they hoped the meeting would
foster a better understanding between financiers and religious groups about
tackling global poverty.
"The dialogue will discuss how the criteria applied in development
policies might continue to be broadened to include the notion of cultural,
religious and social structures and values," they said.
"This meeting represents an important step towards a new relationship
between the World Bank and the faiths," they added.
The February 18-19 meeting will bring together representatives from
the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jains, Jewish, Moslem, Sikh and Taoist
They include the Aga Khan, Crown Prince Hassan of Morocco and Rabbi
Arthur Hertzberg, vice president emeritus of the World Jewish Congress.
The group will discuss how respect for different cultural values and
faiths can be incorporated into development programmes, and the importance
of including underprivileged groups.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
World Bank and world's faiths promise to work together
Ecumenical News International
ENI News Service
19 February 1998
By Cedric Pulford
London, 19 February (ENI)--The World Bank and the world's major
religions are to establish joint working groups on development issues, it
was announced today at the end of a high-level, two-day dialogue at
Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury's London headquarters.
Co-chaired by the archbishop, Dr George Carey, and by the World
Bank's president, James Wolfensohn, the dialogue brought together leaders of nine world
faiths - Bahá'ís, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Taoists
and Christians (represented by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and
Orthodox - both the Ecumenical and Moscow Patriarchate officials).
The World Bank, which channels billions of dollars in development loans
from the rich industrialised countries to the impoverished nations, has
been frequently criticised for its policies in recent years by religious
leaders, including Archbishop Carey, and by aid organisations. Many
have accused the World Bank of ignoring the views of the poorest
people in the countries it is trying to help, and of imposing unrealistic and
harmful demands for economic reform on governments as a requirement
for receiving loans.
Recently the World Bank has been engaged in a major initiative to try to
improve its image.
Today, Wolfensohn, a 64-year-old Australian-born American,
acknowledged the criticisms and accepted the need for dialogue. He told
a press conference at Lambeth Palace: "If we are wrong, let's admit it
and deal with it. If we are not, let's get recognition for what we're doing."
Pointing out the seriousness of the dialogue, he said: "This is not
Hollywood. It is not a PR [public relations] exercise." World poverty was
not decreasing, he said, but the meeting between the bank and the faiths
had produced a "unity of concern" for the linkage of physical, spiritual
and cultural development.
(The World Bank estimates that almost a quarter of the world's
population [23 per cent or 1.3 billion people] live in poverty - on less than
US$1 a day.)
The development subjects selected for the first joint working groups
between the faiths and the World Bank are: community building; hunger
and food security; environmental sustainability; preservation of cultural
heritage; violence and post-conflict reconstruction;
education and social services.
The religious communities will also be invited to help prepare the World
Bank's annual development reports. The subject for the year 2000 report
is Understanding Poverty.
Archbishop Carey, aged 62, who is the spiritual head of the 70
million-strong world-wide Anglican Communion, told the press
conference that the success of the meeting had been "the top-down
approach of the World Bank meeting the bottom-up approach of the
One of the dialogue participants, Bishop Thomas Olmorijoi Laiser, of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, told ENI after the press
conference: "The World Bank has
made a good start with involving faith communities, but it is important for
it to deal with the faiths as such, not individual religions."
He said that in Tanzania - a country divided between Christianity and
Islam - the faiths had a disposition to co-operate and World Bank projects
could promote this cooperation.
Bishop Laiser referred to World Bank-led structural adjustment
programmes (SAPs) which impose economic reforms on national
economies and are often criticised for being too harsh on Third World
countries. "They [the World Bank] used to introduce these without
consulting [the faith communities]. Now I'd expect it to be with
This gave the faith communities the opportunity to soften the impact of
SAPs on the poorest people, he suggested.
Asked by ENI at the press conference why the World Bank had chosen
to work through the Anglican Church rather than an ecumenical body like
the World Council of Churches, Wolfensohn said: "I don't know. I didn't
think I was meeting the Anglican Church, but a group of religious leaders.
The archbishop was kind enough to offer [the use of] his 800-year-old
palace. He has a record of achievement in this area [development] that
none can better."
Archbishop Carey said: "This is not about triumphalism or
denominationalism." He added that the continuing activities planned
between the bank and the faith communities were not intended to
compete with Christian development agencies like Christian Aid and
Cafod, two of Britain's prominent charities.
In the past few days, an open letter signed by 13 religious leaders,
including Archbishop Carey, was published which expressed concern
about "apparent delays" in implementing the Heavily Indebted Poor
Countries (HIPC) Initiative, sponsored by the World Bank, and about
"the dilution of its [HIPC's] original promise to provide the most indebted
countries with 'the possibility of exiting' from severe indebtedness".
But at today's press conference Dr Carey said the remarks were mainly
addressed to finance
ministers, rather than to the World Bank.
Despite that and other recent criticisms of the World Bank by Dr Carey,
and a recent vigorous rebuttal by Wolfensohn, both men were speaking
very much the same language at today's press conference, raising
hopes that the World Bank had made a decisive policy shift.
Both men called the dialogue "historic", while Archbishop Carey spoke of
"learning together". James Wolfensohn said the two sides in the
dialogue would "enrich each other". [851 words]
All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.
Ecumenical News International
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World's Faiths And World Bank Work Together
By Penny Dale
LONDON, Feb 20 (Inter Press Service) - Leading religious leaders from around
the globe reached a landmark accord with the World Bank this week, one that
aims to put spiritual, moral and social values back into the financial giant's
"This is an historic moment", Wendy Tyndale, a spokesperson for the
international development agency Christian Aid, told IPS Friday. "For the
first time in the 53 years of its history, the World Bank has opened its doors
to dialogue with the faiths."
Working groups between the faiths and the Washington-based financial
institution have been set up to discuss how best to ensure projects designed
to eliminate poverty consider spiritual, moral and social factors as well as
The two-day meeting, co-chaired by the head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop
of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and the president of the World Bank, James
Wolfensohn, was held on Feb. 18- 19 at the archbishop's residence in London,
Participants included leading figures from of nine faiths: Bahá'í, Buddhist,
Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Taoist. They conferred with
senior World Bank staff and policy- makers from major British based
international aid orgnaisations, including Christian Aid and the Catholic Fund
for Overseas Development.
The Aga Khan, the spiritual leader or Imam of the Nizaris, the larger of the
two main branches of the Ismaili Shi'a community, was also present. The
Ismailis have developed a world-wide reputation for charity welfare and
development work. In 1967 the current Aga Khan established the Aga Khan
Foundation specifically to promote such humanitarian and cultural work.
Over the next 18 months, small working groups will combine people from
different faiths working in the community and World Bank officials, and decide
the role of the Bank in this new alliance between the churches development
"We shall be exploring vital questions about the definition of what
constitutes successful development, bearing in mind the importance of
religious, cultural, social and environmental aspects of a society's long-term
well being," said Carey in a statement.
"We shall consider together, against this background, the kind of criteria
which need to be built into effective long-term development policies and
projects, and how faith communities and the World Bank might work together to
achieve beneficial changes in the fight against world poverty."
The move, initiated by Carey and Wolfensohn over a year ago, has been
described by development experts as a major change in World Bank policy. One
of the key decisions to have come out of what Carey called "frank and
intensive dialogue" was a shift in the bank's understanding of development to
include cultural, ethical and spiritual issues, aid agencies here said.
"Up until now, the World Bank has ignored the importance of cultural, ethical
and spiritual values in development projects because it has focused on
economic values alone," said Tyndale.
"Development is, of course, about economics, but, as the churches development
network has known for a long time now, culture, spirituality and ethics should
not be left out of the development equation either."
The World Bank has often found itself at logger-heads with religious-based
agencies and experts who have condemned its investment in giant projects that
take little account of the needs of ordinary peoples or the social and
environmental damage the can cause.
Non-governmental development agencies have attacked many of the bank's
policies, including its 'soft' loans at lower rates for developing countries.
This, they argue, has sucked the developing world into a spiral of escalating
debt, conditional on economic policies not tuned to the needs, cultures, and
existing structures in recipient countries. World Bank loans are usually made
directly to governments and into large-scale projects, such as the Narmada dam
in central India, which displaced thousands of people and caused extensive
environmental damage. The bank has faced increasing opposition to such massive
projects, and in 1995 pulled out of the billion dollar Arun III dam project in
Nepal citing ecological reasons.
"It is a complete change of policy for the bank to now get involved with
small-scale community-based projects," Anne Vink of Christian Aid told IPS.
Christian Aid welcomes what it sees as a very positive move by the bank,
although it still wants to see tangible results.
Wolfensohn was explicit in his intention to go beyond the stage of merely
talking, said Tyndale, but also said she would only consider the Lambeth
meeting a success if progress could be seen in the place it most matters --
in communities struggling to get out of the trap of poverty.
Carey agreed, saying that the dialogue was not a "one-off firework which
blazes for a moment and then dies". Another meeting, in an as yet undecided
venue, will be held in 18 months time to assess the achievements of the
The change in Bank policy is attributed to Wolfensohn, who has just started a
fresh term as president, during which reportedly hopes to further redirect the
Bank's energies. He is reported to be looking several new options, including
the work of NGOs.
"The churches network is especially important, because it has worked in
developing countries for generations, focusing on community-based, small
projects. It has also campaigned rigorously against World Bank policies,"
The participants agreed to cooperate in terms of research and analysis and the
religious communities have been invited by the Bank to provide input to its
annual World Development Reports. Their advice, argue leaders of the faiths
and development experts, will be particularly useful in influencing the bank's
thinking for the year 2000 report, which focuses on the theme 'Understanding
Kiser Barnes, head of the Bahá'í Faith delegation to the event, said the
meeting was unprecedented in terms of new collaborative initiatives it has
"Specific spiritual principles, such as the oneness of humanity, equity and
justice, and the equality of women and men, which are universal in nature and
can be concretely expressed in development endeavours, have a special
potential to create a new framework for development," he said.
The Bahá'í International Community is an international non-governmental
organisation that represents and encompasses the worldwide Bahá'í community.
Composed of more than five million followers of the Bahá'í Faith and
established in more than 200 countries and territories, the worldwide Bahá'í
community has established more than a thousand small-scale, community-based
social and economic development projects. (END/IPS/PD/RJ/98)
Announcement: source and title unknown
Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr James D Wolfensohn,
the President of the World Bank, hosted a Dialogue on "World Faiths and
Development" at Lambeth Palace, London (the Archbishop's residence), on
February 18th-19th 1998, at which the Bahá'í Faith was prominently
represented among nine major world Faiths. Other Faith communities
represented were Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh
and Taoist. The Bahá'í representatives were Counsellor Kiser Barnes of the
International Teaching Center, and Lawrence Arturo, Director of the
Bahá'í International Office of the Environment in New York City and Bahá'í
Representative to the United Nations on environmental and development
The Dialogue sought avenues for communication and collaboration between
the Faiths and the World Bank.
Further information, including the opening and closing statements, press
release, agenda, and list of attendees with biographical details, is
available on the following Web sites:
The World Bank: http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/faithsdialogue
Archbishop of Canterbury: http://www.church-of-england.org/main/lambeth/abchome.htm