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FEATURE STORY April 24, 2020

Managing Director Mari Pangestu to Parliamentarians: “We have the same objective: serving the people.”

Virtual Parliamentary Meeting on Pandemics with a Special Focus on COVID-19

World Bank

“At the end of the day, a pandemic that begins anywhere becomes a pandemic that we all have to confront everywhere. As we begin to face some of the bigger challenges in the age of the shockwave, I think this is a valuable conversation.” The Rt Hon. Liam Byrne MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank & IMF and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth, UK.

April 24, 2020 – The World Bank and the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF gathered some 200 participants from more than 55 countries and the European Parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean for a Virtual Parliamentary Meeting on Pandemics with a Special Focus on COVID-19 on April 24, 2020.

The event was the occasion for prominent legislators from around the world to convene with their peers and World Bank Senior Management, as well as representatives of key parliamentary organizations, to share knowledge and experiences in dealing with the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

Parliamentarians have been at the heart of the response to this unparalleled global health challenge, passing exceptional measures, using new ways to debate and vote virtually, and overseeing their governments’ handling of the crisis, all while considering how to manage the recovery. The meeting gave these essential policymakers insights into how to cope with the current coronavirus outbreak as well as how to prepare for future health emergencies.

In a special address, the new World Bank Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships, Mari Pangestu, encouraged participants to take collective action to overcome this unprecedented development challenge, stating, “We have the same objective of serving the people.” She commended parliamentarians for the myriad of measures they are taking and shared how the World Bank’s recent initiatives can complement them by emphasizing policy-based financing to protect the most vulnerable, preserve jobs, shorten recovery times, and ensure a strong and inclusive recovery, adding, “Parliamentarians can give us input and understanding as to where those responses should be targeted.”

Indeed, for the World Bank, the meeting was the occasion to gain insights into countries’ priorities and needs in order to support them more effectively. “Bringing everyone together from countries most affected by or at risk of COVID-19 to share strategies and best practices is incredibly helpful in terms of informing our responses in our operations.” Sheila Redzepi, Vice-President of External and Corporate Relations, World Bank Group. This sentiment was echoed by Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director of Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank Group who said he could apply the diversity of experiences shared in the context of efforts to support countries.

Virtual Parliamentary Meeting on Pandemics with a Special Focus on COVID-19

Left: Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank Group
Right: The Rt Hon. Liam Byrne MP, UK; Chair of the Parliamentary Network

World Bank

Parliamentarians called for more multilateralism and cooperation to foster a comprehensive response to an unprecedented global health problem. “This crisis is global and necessitates a coordinated response. The time has come for us to forget old ways and shift toward a new era of international cooperation.” Hon. Aina Kuric MP, France; Member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs. They also expressed concern for upholding democracy and the importance of parliamentary oversight of governments, as well as inclusive economic and health responses calibrated to support the most vulnerable.

Looking forward, participants envisaged the aftermath of the pandemic in what was described not as an era of change, but a change of era in which nations will have to rethink economies and systems in recovery to build new, more sustainable, greener economies and more resilient health systems. Some even suggested a medical reserve similar to an army who could be deployed at a multilateral level in the case of future pandemics.

The meeting closed with an action plan for participants:

1.       The Parliamentary Network will establish an online platform to exchange parliamentary perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to share knowledge and catalyze debate.

2.       Parliamentarians will take political action to consider how to work together to strengthen multilateralism, alongside civil society actors.

3.       Parliamentarians will work collectively to ensure that the convalescence is quick, economies are greener, and that investments provide resilience where there is currently fragility, particularly in health systems around the world. Jobs creation and achieving the SDGs, as well as the World Bank twin goals to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, should be prioritized.

“We brought this pandemic on ourselves at a huge cost. No one wanted it, but we’re here and we have to learn the lessons. Most of all we need to treat each other and the environment much better and work together more to tackle inequality far, far more effectively, or else we’ve learned nothing.” Senator Yunus Carrim, South Africa; Chair of the Select Committee on Finance