Tokyo, June 5, 2011—Ten weeks after its devastating earthquake and tsunami, Japan hosted its first international summit here since the disaster, with a global stocktaking of progress toward achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Welcoming ministers and officials to Tokyo from more than 30 countries—in addition to development groups, civil society groups, and universities--Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that he had been deeply moved by the international outpouring of concern and solidarity for his country after its ‘Great East Japan Earthquake.’ He spoke as aftershocks continued to rattle the summit venue.
“This has made Japan all the more determined to act with the rest of the world and contribute to the achievement of the MDGs. Thus, I … reconfirm my unwavering determination to continue to faithfully implement the international commitments we have made,” he said.
At the United Nations MDG Summit in September 2010, Japan launched its ‘Kan Commitment,’ pledging a total of $8.5 billion from 2011 until 2015 to help improve the health of mothers and infants as well as education services in poor countries.
Bank Progress ‘Faster than Anticipated’
Japan joins the World Bank in putting its full weight behind helping countries meet the 2015 MDGs. World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud Mohieldin said the Bank was already making significant progress in delivering on new financial pledges, announced by Bank President Robert Zoellick at last September’s summit.
“I’m pleased to announce that this scale-up is moving even faster than we had anticipated,” Mohieldin said in Tokyo, slated to be the site of the 2012 Annual Meetings of the Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.
“To date, the World Bank has already committed about half of the pledged amount, or $300 million, to seven countries – Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan. We are in the process of working with many other countries to help them scale up their efforts over the coming year.”
Mohieldin said the Bank is increasing its results–based financing in health by more than $600 million over the next 5 years to support 35 countries affected by high fertility and child and maternal mortality rates, poor child and maternal nutrition indicators, as well as preventable childhood diseases. These new resources, he said, are helping mothers and children receive the essential health and nutrition services they need to survive and thrive.
Linking Nutrition, Agriculture, Education
With crucial support from Japan and more than 100 other partners, Mohieldin said, the Bank is now implementing the global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Framework. Twelve countries have already agreed to join this initiative, and more are expected to follow shortly.
The Bank has linked its support for nutrition with the rest of its poverty-fighting programs in agriculture, social protection, health, gender, and other fields.
Under the Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan, the World Bank Group is increasing support for agriculture and related sectors to between $6.2 billion and $8.3 billion a year. The Global Food Crisis Response Program, through Bank support and mobilization of external funds, is in place to provide a rapid short-term response to rising food prices. It has already provided $1.5 billion in support to 44 countries, reaching 40 million vulnerable people.
In education, the Bank is making substantial progress on its pledge to mobilize new zero-interest and grant investments in basic education by an additional $750 million over the next five years, for countries that are off-track to reach the education MDGs, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Under the guidance of a new 10-year Education Strategy, Learning for All, the Bank will help countries not only achieve their development goals for universal primary school access and completion – but also ensure that their young people don’t just attend school, but stay in school and learn the knowledge and skills they will need later for meaningful jobs.
Mohieldin said the Bank is increasing global access to clean water and sanitation, with financing for water supply alone on track to reach $1.8 billion annually. Over the past decade, he said, the Bank had helped more than 100 million people gain access to clean water and better sanitation.
Private Sector Involvement
Many speakers at the Tokyo summit, which was jointly organized by the World Bank, UNDP, and UNICEF, called for greater involvement by the private sector in helping countries meet the 2015 deadline, especially as they battle ongoing food, fuel, and financial crises.
Several ministers remarked that where governments create the right business environment, private companies —including international firms—were quick to develop new markets while also helping to meet the health and education MDGs.
The Bank’s Mohieldin noted the role of public/private partnerships will be vital in leveraging the potential of the private sector over the next four years, as the MDG deadline nears.
In Bangladesh, for example, he described how one Bank partnership with nongovernmental organizations, called ‘Reaching Out-of- School Children’, has returned more than 700,000 children to the school system—children from the poorest sub-districts of the country, who had either dropped out of school, or who had never enrolled in the first place.
Alternative learning centers set up under the program provide education stipends to children to lessen the cost burden on their families, and distribute free books, school supplies and uniforms.