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A Tribute to James Wolfensohn

Over the past decade, the global economy has achieved unprecedented prosperity built on trade, international capital flows, and technological innovation. Amidst this undeniable progress, however, remain widespread poverty, disease, and illiteracy. In a world made smaller by modern telecommunications, satellite TV, and the Internet, the vast challenges of development that we continue to face confront us everyday.

Perhaps no individual has done more to raise the alarm – earning deserved credit for many successes and understanding all too clearly the remaining shortcomings – than James Wolfensohn, the outgoing President of the World Bank. As Managing Director of the IMF, I have had the privilege of working closely with Jim Wolfensohn, seeing up close a man with an extraordinary mission: the sustainable reduction of global poverty.

Wolfensohn left a successful business career to lead the global campaign against poverty. It is perhaps the ultimate tribute to his commitment and tenacity that his efforts over the past 10 years have attracted criticism as well as praise, for he has stood at the center of every major campaign aimed at alleviating the economic ills of our generation.

Wolfensohn led the World Bank onto the cutting edge of every important development debate, and was at the forefront of the effort to combat HIV/AIDS, as well as other deadly diseases that threaten so many impoverished countries. He has been a forthright spokesman for women’s rights and a champion of environmental concerns, as well as a formidable advocate in arguing for debt reduction for the most heavily indebted nations. He also has placed the World Bank at the center of the effort to help rebuild nations emerging from devastating civil conflict, from Bosnia to Sierra Leone to East Timor.