James Wolfensohn: The missing ethical values in economic development

From a speech given at the Greenpeace Business Forum, in London, by the President of the World Bank
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The Independent Online

We as an institution, and I think you, too, are faced with an absolutely monumental challenge at this moment. And it is a challenge that I do not think is wholly understood by our shareholders, but where there is a need for us, I think, to join together. And it is the challenge of trying to get the effort that we are looking at in some sort of human scale and in some further dialogue about equity, about social justice, about what is right.

We as an institution, and I think you, too, are faced with an absolutely monumental challenge at this moment. And it is a challenge that I do not think is wholly understood by our shareholders, but where there is a need for us, I think, to join together. And it is the challenge of trying to get the effort that we are looking at in some sort of human scale and in some further dialogue about equity, about social justice, about what is right.

Absent from the debate at the moment is any sense of, if you like, moral values, ethical values or even spiritual values in terms of development. And we've got so used to beating each other up in terms of what I do, what you do, what we've got wrong, what Europe's got wrong, what America's got wrong, that somehow we have to get back to what young people today are deeply looking for.

We've taken, and I've personally taken in the last couple of years, the chance to reach out to young people. Some 2.8 billion people on our planet are under 24; and 1.5 billion are under 15. These young people are turned off by - or at least the ones I have met -are turned off by the lack of universal values, soul-searching for something they can believe in and not finding it in the leadership.

There is one millennium goal that we do not have - and it is the goal of restoring a sense of values and justice. None of us is giving these young people a real, true sense of purpose and a true sense of values, and a true moral case in terms of the issues of development and the issues of social justice.

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