World Bank under fire over Aids policy

By Eoin Callan and Krishna Guha in Washington

Published: April 12 2007 21:24 | Last updated: April 12 2007 21:24

The embattled leadership of the World Bank faced 
fresh questions on Thursday about the role of the 
executive in apparent changes to Bank policy on 
promoting contraception to combat the spread of 

The Government Accountability Project accused 
Juan Josť Daboub, the bank's managing director, 
of "attempting to radically alter a long-standing 
health strategy at the World Bank".

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the Bank, ruled out 
any change to bank policy on reproductive health, 
as he faced calls for his resignation over his 
role in securing a large pay rise and promotion 
for a Bank official with whom he was romantically 

"I want to make it clear personally, I think 
reproductive health is absolutely crucial," he 

Staff contacted by the Financial Times said 
officials were ordered last month by Mr Daboub to 
remove all references to family planning from a 
proposal to fund efforts to combat the disease 
and fight poverty in Madagascar.

Mr Daboub instructed subordinates to strike the 
references from a funding package requested by 
the country, staff claimed in interviews and in 
an internal document obtained by the FT.

There was no explanation provided in the 
documents for the change and Mr Daboub's office 
did not reply to requests for clarification.

The staff said there was a widespread perception 
within the bank that the emphasis on 
contraception in preventing disease was being 
altered following the appointment of the managing 
director, a former member of the ruling 
conservative party in El Salvador.

An internal bank email dated March 8 headed "MD 
clearance" said the managing director had made a 
request "to take out all references to family 
planning" from a country assistance proposal for 

The email added that the request "creates a 
potential problem" because upcoming proposals 
would also include "family planning measures in 
response to the government's strong request for 
help in this area".

Three bank employees confirmed the authenticity 
of the document, while one recipient said they 
could not recall the details of the email, which 
was shared with the Government Accountability 

Beatrice Edwards, a member of the non-profit 
group, said: "Josť Daboub is attempting to 
radically alter a long standing health strategy 
at the World Bank with dangerous consequences for 
poor women who need family planning services."

A separate draft proposal for a new worldwide 
health strategy due to be circulated at this 
weekend's meeting of the bank also places less 
emphasis on contraception than in the past, 
according to staff contacted by the FT.

Staff said the proposed changes were widely seen 
within the bank as a departure from long-standing 
bank strategy of promoting the use of 
contraception to combat the spread of Aids in 
poor countries.

The issue has revived internal bank discussion 
about pressure to alter policy on family planning 
to reflect religious teachings and has added to 
misgivings among some staff about the leadership 
of Mr Wolfowitz.

The president of the bank was criticised for 
drawing too heavily on conservative allies of the 
Bush administration when he appointed his senior 
management team.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007