WASHINGTON — My visit to Japan (through May 26) comes at a time of momentous challenges for global development. The worst of the economic crisis appears to be behind us, but the recovery remains fragile and uneven. In the developing world, 43 poor countries are suffering effects of the recession, facing a shortfall of $11.6 billion in spending for health, education and other basic services. Due to the crisis, in 2010, an estimated 64 million more people worldwide will fall into extreme poverty — defined as living on less than $1.25 per day.

While the acute effects of the crisis may now be over, the longer term development agenda still remains and has become even more challenging. The World Bank Group’s mission to achieve a world free of poverty, to foster sustainable, inclusive growth and prosperity, has never been more relevant. The World Bank, as an institution owned by 186 member countries, works around the globe, across all sectors, to bring financial and technical assistance to our borrowing countries for the benefit of the poor. With international financing likely to remain scarce, there is an urgent need for action, to prevent putting years of developmental progress into jeopardy.

As we strive to tackle these challenges, we firmly believe that our greatest asset is our staff. They are an extraordinary group of men and women selected by merit and competition, recruited from over 160 countries. They contribute diverse perspectives and a broad range of global experience, many with multiple language skills and expertise in several disciplines. In an increasingly volatile world where the World Bank is often required to formulate an urgent, cooperative response in some very difficult environments, our staff has risen to the occasion time and again to deliver our services effectively to help the world’s poorest people.

Japan has been a strong partner as the World Bank’s second largest shareholder, playing a significant role in providing guidance and support. Its miraculous rise from beneficiary to donor in a short time in history has positioned Japan as a role model, with its development expertise and technology in great demand. This is the purpose of my visit to Tokyo — to encourage more highly qualified Japanese to join us, so that we may better tap into the knowledge and expertise that has given you distinction.

Already, there are many Japanese professionals working all across the World Bank Group and in our offices around the world in a variety of roles from health and education, to information technology, environment and infrastructure. They bring their expertise and knowledge of Japan’s own experience into our work and make a substantial contribution to our development programs and activities. We want to recruit more Japanese to work with us and we want to encourage the younger generation, in particular, to consider a World Bank career.

This March, the World Bank made an unprecedented effort to hire more Japanese professionals. Prior to my visit, three directors from the World Bank’s East and South Asia team flew into Tokyo from Washington to interview dozens of prospective candidates. We have been encouraged by the strong response, having received hundreds of applications. There is clearly strong interest among Japanese, especially women, in pursuing a career in international development. I am confident that soon, we will see more new Japanese faces at our offices around the world. Our recruiters have been making a continuous effort to recruit Japanese staff through talent searches, candidate referrals and outreach missions.

Our Young Professionals Program always attracts many highly qualified Japanese applicants. More recently, our Japanese staff have also worked to complement these efforts, giving talks to many audiences in Tokyo about their work. Younger staff members have volunteered to launch a Web site called Segin Pro (World Bank Professionals), which is dedicated to providing career guidance information. It is a wonderful resource for those interested in pursuing a career in international development, and I encourage people to visit the site at www.wbpro.jp/.

We have a strong partnership with Japan and over many decades, Japanese financial and human resources have played a large part in helping the poor in the East Asia region and the world. Over this period, Japan built up extensive development experience with a talented pool of skilled professionals and dedicated experts working in bilateral agencies like JICA, international organizations such as the United Nations and multilateral aid agencies including the World Bank Group. We want to open our doors to more Japanese who have the skills, commitment and passion to help solve the development needs of the world’s poor.

On the occasion of my visit to Tokyo, I have had the opportunity to meet our stakeholders to discuss further measures to strengthen the ties between Japan and the World Bank, as well as to speak to students and other professionals directly about our important mission. Let me reiterate our commitment to attract more recruitment of Japanese staff, as we believe it will further enhance the valued partnership between Japan and the World Bank.

Hasan Tuluy is vice president of human resources at the World Bank in Washington.

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