World Bank annual meetings, WFP's peace prize, and a tuberculosis surge: This week in development

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A World Food Programme staff member loads split yellow peas onto a truck to be delivered to camps for displaced people in North Darfur, Sudan. Photo by: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank appeals to donors for emergency funding, the World Food Programme snags a Nobel Peace Prize, and the World Health Organization predicts a tuberculosis backslide. This week in development:

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are in the spotlight, as the institutions host their annual meetings — virtually, instead of in Washington. The online gathering of finance ministers, multilateral leaders, and civil society arrives alongside dire estimates of the current and projected impacts of COVID-19, especially for lower-income countries. Ahead of the meetings, the World Bank released its “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020” report, which showed that the pandemic is likely to have economic implications that last until 2030 and that it is creating a population of “new poor.” Those forced into extreme poverty by COVID-19 are more likely to be urban and better educated and are less likely to work in agriculture than those who were impoverished prior to the pandemic. World Bank President David Malpass has repeatedly called on leaders of the Group of 20 industrial nations to strengthen and extend their initiative to provide debt relief to lower-income countries, though G-20 negotiations on debt relief this week fell short of what many advocates hoped to see. Civil society groups have also criticized the World Bank’s unwillingness to forgive the debt obligations among its own borrowers. Malpass has defended this stance by suggesting that doing so could threaten the institution’s credit rating and ability to lend in the future. On Wednesday, Malpass announced that he is proposing a $25 billion supplemental emergency financing facility for the International Development Association, the bank’s fund for low-income countries. IDA, which operates on a three-year replenishment cycle and last secured funding in 2019, has front-loaded its spending this year and could face a “financing cliff” in subsequent years if donors do not provide more funding.

The World Food Programme has won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that it chose WFP “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.” Many humanitarian and development leaders celebrated the decision to highlight the United Nations agency’s work at a time when COVID-19, climate change, and conflict threaten progress against malnutrition and starvation — and as inward-looking governments such as the U.S. continue to sideline multilateral organizations. WFP’s current executive director, David Beasley, is an American supporter of Donald Trump’s administration and has managed to maintain White House backing for his agency. The committee’s choice also generated significant criticism, however, including from global development, humanitarian, and health experts who questioned the usefulness of awarding a large cash prize to a well-known organization with a sizable operating budget simply for fulfilling its mandate. “I think it’s okay to give the award to an organization but … I’d like it to be an organization that’s creating some kind of breakthrough,” said Andrew Blum, executive director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Others noted that it can be risky to justify anti-hunger programs on the basis that they prevent conflict, instead of simply because access to food is a human right.

The World Health Organization has predicted that an additional 200,000 to 400,000 people could die from tuberculosis this year compared with 2019 due to missed detection and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total deaths to a level not seen since 2012. WHO’s latest Global Tuberculosis Report” found that these additional deaths would occur if detection and treatment levels decline by 25% to 50% over the course of three months. It said that 14 high-burden countries have reported declines in TB notifications in the first half of this year. COVID-19 could lead to an increase in the number of people developing TB by more than 1 million per year from 2020 to 2025, the report found. “Although physical distancing policies may help to reduce TB transmission, this effect could be offset by longer durations of infectiousness, increased household exposure to TB infection, worsening treatment outcomes, and higher levels of poverty,” it read.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.