By Marcus Leach

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has warned that the world is "one shock away from a full-blown crisis."

Mr Zoellick, speaking in Washington at the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, cited rising food prices as the main threat to poor nations who risk "losing a generation".

Also in Washington G20 finance chiefs pledged financial support to help new governments in the Middle East and North Africa following recent unrest. Mr Zoellick gave his full support to the move, saying such support was vital.

"The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa underscores how we need to put the conclusions from our latest world development report into practice. The report highlighted the importance of citizen security, justice and jobs," he said.

"Waiting for the situation to stabilise will mean lost opportunities. In revolutionary moments the status quo is not a winning hand."

Other topics discussed at the meeting included the continued turmoil in the Middle East, unstable oil prices and increasing unemployment.

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was particular concerned about high levels of unemployment among young people.

"It's probably too much to say that it's a jobless recovery, but it's certainly a recovery with not enough jobs," he said.

"Especially because of youth unemployment... there is now a risk that this will be turned into a life sentence, and that there is a possibility of a lost generation," he said.