British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Jan. 25 for the World Bank to assume an environmental role capable of taking on the global challenges posed by climate change. Addressing the global political and business elite gathered at Davos, Brown also pushed for similar operational reforms of other international institutions that had failed to move with the times.
"The IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations were built for the problems of the 1940s and can't deal with the problems we have in 2008," Brown said, citing the challenges posed by climate change, conflict-ridden states, non-state terrorism and the threat of global pandemics. "I can't see why we should not move immediately to the World Bank becoming a World Bank for the environment as well as development," he said.
"We need a global carbon market and we need a climate change agreement... and we need an institution that is global and can provide funds for developing countries that want to introduce alternative sources of energy."
Turning to the United Nations, he highlighted the world body's inability to respond swiftly or effectively enough to conflict and the problems of failed states. Brown, attending Davos for the first time as prime minister, supported the creation of a military and civilian "rapid response agency" that could react immediately when countries are in difficulty. "If the world can't come to terms with that, then the suffering that has existed in countries from Rwanda to Bosnia will be repeated again and again," he said.
The IMF, meanwhile, should become an "early warning system" for the world economy, that could help ward off the sort of market turmoil triggered by the crisis in the U.S. subprime mortgage sector.