He worked in a number of capacities at the World Bank since joining in 1972. Economist in education and human resources (1972–76); Division Chief for Technical Assistance and Special Studies (1977–80), and for Urban Projects in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (1980–83); Director for Programs in West Africa (1984–87), Country Director for Central and Occidental Africa (1987–89), Technical Director for all Sub-Saharan Africa (1990–92), and Vice-President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (1993–98). In addition, he was active in promoting NGO-Bank relations, and served as Co-Chairman of the NGO-Bank Committee (1997–99). Prior to joining the World Bank, he worked as a consultant in city and regional planning, and taught at Cairo University and Harvard University.
He is former Chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR, 1994–2000), founder and former Chairman of the Global Water Partnership (1996–2000) and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest, a microfinance program (1995–2000). He was Chairman of the World Commission for Water in the 21st Century (August 1998-March 2000). He was Professor of the International Chair Savoirs contre pauvreté (Knowledge Against Poverty), at Collège de France, Paris, for the academic year 2010/2011.
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