The World Bank is committed to the struggle to overcome poverty. At the same time we must protect the biodiversity of the planet. This is an enormous task and one for which the Bank needs as many allies as possible. In the quest for partners who share such goals and who can also bring their own experiences to bear, we need to look beyond the groups with whom the World Bank has traditionally worked.
This is why the World Bank cooperates with the major faiths as partners. In doing so, we follow the example set by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International. In 1986 the then international president of WWF, HRH The Prince Philip, invited leaders of five of the major faiths to a meeting with leading environmentalists. From this arose a network of faith groups working on ecological and development issues. By 1995, nine religions and thousands of practical projects were involved. In that year, Prince Philip launched a new nongovernmental organization, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), dedicated to assisting and enlarging this work. The World Bank was represented at that launch and has been engaged with ARC ever since.
The reason is simple. The 11 faiths that now make up ARC represent two-thirds of the world’s population. They own around 7 percent of the habitable surface of the planet, they have a role in 54 percent of all schools, and their institutional share of the investment market is in the range of 6–8 percent. These are serious stakeholders in development. They are also the oldest institutions in the world and possess wisdom about how to live and how to keep hope alive, which we need to hear and respect. So it is very natural for us to work with religious institutions and leaders. The engagement from all sides is one charged with potential and also energized by differences.
In such a fascinating and varied world, full of possibilities but also pitfalls, it is important to have guides who can help chart the adventure. In this book, Martin Palmer guides us, opening up ideas and possibilities that may well be new to many in the world of development and economics, but which, as I know from personal experience, do work.
James D. Wolfensohn President The World Bank