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World Bank Chief: Citizens Need Voice in Arab World

Middle East governments moving away from dictatorship must deliver quick wins through job creation to meet immediate hopes of street protesters but longer-term reforms need to ensure a more inclusive society, the head of the World Bank said on Wednesday.

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - FEBRUARY 25: Libyans protest demanding the removal of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi following Friday prayers on February 25, 2011 in Benghazi, Libya. Benghazi residents mourned more victims of the violence as fighting continued around the capitol Tripoli.
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BENGHAZI, LIBYA - FEBRUARY 25: Libyans protest demanding the removal of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi following Friday prayers on February 25, 2011 in Benghazi, Libya. Benghazi residents mourned more victims of the violence as fighting continued around the capitol Tripoli.

In a speech on the ongoing turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that a break from a past where societies were driven by autocrats to one that includes citizens in decision-making will be vital for the region's transition.

"Our message to our clients, whatever their political system, is that you cannot have successful development without good governance and without the participation of your citizens," Zoellick told a gathering at the Peterson Institute.

The unrest in the Arab world will loom large as finance officials from around the globe gather next week for the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Zoellick, a former U.S. deputy secretary of state and chief trade negotiator, also set out a new role for the development lender, saying it must become flexible enough to adjust to a rapidly shifting political landscape in client countries.

He suggested that might mean having the World Bank become more directly involved in supporting citizen groups and private foundations, rather than working solely through governments.

Such sweeping proposals would take the bank into unchartered territory and could stir controversy among World Bank member countries and require authorization from contributors like the United States, Europe and China.

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