World Bank Spring Meetings, US aid conditions, and Sudan's uncertain future: This week in development

David Malpass, president of the World Bank. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

David Malpass makes his World Bank debut, U.S. officials say Central America aid will come with conditions, and Sudan faces an uncertain turning point. This week in development:

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings are underway in Washington, D.C., where President David Malpass is looking to make a good first impression with his staff, shareholders, and a few skeptics. In the first days of his tenure, Malpass has gone on the record — and met behind the scenes with bank staff and partners — to clear up a few things about where the former Trump administration official stands on hot-button issues. Malpass acknowledged that climate change represents a threat to developing countries, and voiced his support for the bank’s existing climate targets. He noted that the bank’s relationship with China must evolve as the country moves toward borrowing less and contributing more to the bank — and he told reporters that he met with the head of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. As the meetings kicked off, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters raised concerns about the bank shifting money from its fund for least developed countries into its private sector financing branch, the International Finance Corporation, and she threatened to hold up the institution’s capital increase if it isn’t more transparent about private sector deals. The IFC has also responded to a recent Supreme Court decision that the institution does not have immunity from lawsuits with a strengthened commitment to greater accountability.

USAID Administrator Mark Green and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued their tour of Capitol Hill this week to defend — for the third year in a row — the Trump administration’s foreign assistance budget cuts. Both were asked about President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement to cut aid to the Northern Triangle. Pompeo told senators that from now on aid would be conditional on the countries meeting an unspecified “set of requirements” because “we have not yet been able to convince El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to take seriously this need to control their own borders and to keep their people from moving into Mexico and ultimately across our southern border.” Freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski — who is the former State Department assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor — pointed out that asking countries to prevent their citizens from leaving could be a violation of international law. While topics of all three hearings were wide ranging, one common theme lawmakers in both chambers brought up again and again was China. They emphasized to Green and Pompeo that the administration’s across-the-board foreign assistance budget cuts would leave a void that Beijing — one of Trump’s favorite adversaries — would be all too willing to fill.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan was ousted by the country’s military on Thursday, after days of mass street protests against the government. Sudan’s defense minister announced a two-year transitional government with the military in charge. While Sudan’s citizens had taken to public demonstrations to demand a new government, the specter of a military coup and takeover has left the country — and human rights observers — on edge. Al-Bashir had been in office for 30 years and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur genocide.

About the author

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    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.