Sunday, April 03, 2005

[Global Poverty] World Bank leader says poverty a top issue

By Carson Walker
Associated Press Writer

Private ownership around the world is key to easing poverty, outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn said as he toured the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest areas in the country.

"To me what I'm seeing here isn't the poverty, it's the chance to see new businesses that are being established and meet entrepreneurs that are taking their future into their own hands," Wolfensohn said Saturday on the home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

"The difficulties we're trying to solve around the world are to be found right here. The first is ownership. The second is lack of recognition," he said.

Wolfensohn visited the Pine Ridge reservation to encourage enterprises such as the Lakota Fund, which helps American Indians on the reservation start, maintain and expand businesses.

His visit also coincides with the creation of the Global Facilities Fund for Indigenous Peoples, an international loan program. He created it with the help of Rebecca Adamson, president of the First Nations Development Institute, which provides technical help, grants and other help to rural American Indian projects.

The goal of the fund is to help native people around the world financially benefit from their land, intellectual property and other assets, she said.

The industrialized world could learn much from native people, Wolfensohn said.

"I think many of us who've grown up in more of a Western tradition need to stand back in a world in which we're really screwing up and see what the older nations, the indigenous nations, could contribute," he said.

Wolfensohn, 71, is being succeeded by Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush loyalist and deputy defense secretary who helped plan the Iraq war, who won the unanimous approval of the World Bank's board on Thursday to be the next president of the development bank.

Wolfensohn said his conversations over the last week with Wolfowitz indicate he will continue the effort to help the world's poor.

"I think he has very much seized the issue that the most noble cause he has is to address the question of poverty. I don't think I solved it. I don't think Paul Wolfowitz will solve it. I think the World Bank can make a big difference in pushing the issue forward," he said.