Ismail Serageldin, Vice President for Special Programs, has informed me that he will retire from Bank service on July 11th, 2000. He returns to his home country, Egypt, where he intends to work on a number of academic and cultural projects.
Ismail joined the Bank in 1972 through the Young Professionals Program after completing his Ph.D. at Harvard University. He began his Bank career in the Education sector, where he worked on girls education and the empowerment of local communities and disadvantaged youth. In 1977 he was appointed Chief of the Technical Assistance and Special Studies Division in the then EMENA Region, where he was responsible for the Bank's technical assistance to the Region's oil-rich economies. He also worked on labor migration and literacy, including studies of the cultural dimensions of education.
With his appointment as Chief of EMENA's Urban Projects Division in 1980, Ismail returned to the fields of his initial training as an architect and urban planner. In 1984, he was promoted to Programs Director in West Africa - the first of three Director assignments in that Region. During this period, he initiated the Social Dimensions of Adjustment program to address the need for a "human face" to adjustment.
In 1993 Ismail was appointed the Bank's first Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development. In this post, he established alliances with many of the NGOs that had been critical of the Bank, led the Bank's work on compliance (including the Bank-wide resettlement review of 1993/94) and advanced the concept of sustainability to include the measurement of wealth, opportunity and social capital. He launched the first in a series of annual International ESSD conferences and the international conference on Hunger. He later became the first chair of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP), a micro-finance program, and in 1997 helped organize the Micro-Credit Summit in Washington.
Ismail was the seventh chairman of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), leading a major renewal program of that body. He also led efforts at addressing long-term issues such as transgenic crops and water resources management, helping found the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and becoming its first chairman. He led the World Water Commission, which presented its report last March.
In 1998, Ismail was asked to lead the Bank's work on culture and development. He promoted indirect valuation techniques for cultural heritage projects, disseminated best practices within the Bank and established partnerships with the international agencies and NGOs active in the field.
Throughout his long Bank career, Ismail has been recognized as a person of passion and compassion, dedicated to addressing the people-centered development challenge. He is a prolific author and an eloquent voice for the poor and disadvantaged, for human rights and women's equality, and for the environment. His work has been recognized by many academic institutions.
I am glad that Ismail will be available from time to time after his retirement to assist the Bank on water issues, youth employment issues and cultural projects. We wish him well in his future ventures.
James D. Wolfensohn