Beirut, March 24, 2016 — World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the Islamic Development Bank Group Dr. Mohamed Ali Al-Madani arrived in Lebanon today at the start of a joint visit to rally global support for the shared responsibility of promoting peace and development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The three organizations are jointly supporting an initiative to raise additional financing needed to help countries in the region cope with the immediate consequences of conflict, while laying the foundations for recovery and reconstruction.
With the Syrian conflict entering its sixth year, and the region coping with one of the largest refugee crises since World War II, all three leaders pledged to work closely together in the region. The three organizations recently launched the New Financing Initiative to Support the MENA Region aimed at uniting the international community for the level of support required to meet the region’s immense challenges. Through innovative financing, the initiative plans to provide concessional financing to Lebanon and Jordan --both middle-income countries hosting large numbers of refugees -- and to expand the funding available to countries struggling with slow growth and high youth unemployment because of instability.
At the Supporting Syria and the Region conference that took place in February in London, the World Bank Group announced that it will triple its investment in the region as compared to the previous five years. Funding from the New Financing Initiative to Support the MENA Region combined with current programs is expected to total about US$20 billion over the coming five years.
In addition, in response to the current crisis, the Bank will announce $200 million in new financing during the trip to support education and create jobs. This will come in addition to the current more than $1.5 billion of Bank commitments in the two countries, as well as the scaling up of financial support to Iraq, which has now reached $2 billion and which is projected to equal $5 billion in the coming few years.
“No one can do it alone,” said United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. “The challenges faced by the Middle East and North Africa region demand a unified approach that pools resources and draws on the comparative advantages of both humanitarian and development organizations. I am confident that the region can recover from instability to thrive once again, but it will require the support of our concerted efforts, and those efforts need to start now.”
Following the Lebanon visit, World Bank President Kim and Secretary General Ban will travel together to Jordan and Tunisia. Throughout the visit, the leaders will meet with heads of state, government leaders, as well as private sector and civil society representatives, to discuss the impact of conflict, their strategies for building resilience and how the combined strengths of the three institutions can help. Kim will make major announcements in Lebanon and Jordan on initiatives to improve and expand education services and boost job creation.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said: “We are arriving together in the Middle East to demonstrate that the international community is united in doing all it can to start building a brighter future for the people of this region. We will take innovative and bold steps to show the world that we must invest in the people of the Middle East and North Africa to create a more stable and long-lasting foundation for prosperity shared by all.”
In Lebanon and Jordan, the leaders will also visit refugees and the communities that host them, to hear first-hand of the problems they face. In Jordan, Kim and Ban will meet with young people to learn about the obstacles they face and what might be needed to overcome them. The visit will also focus on addressing widespread youth unemployment through improving the quality and relevance of education, and promoting economic empowerment and opportunities. In Tunisia, the two leaders will reaffirm international support for the country’s transition, as the government focuses on striking a balance between maintaining security and pursuing economic reforms to restore investor confidence and stimulate job creation, which are key for promoting peace and stability.
Today in Lebanon, the President of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB) launched an education initiative enabling around 2 million Syrian students to access education through electronic platforms using the Syrian curriculum. The IsDB and partners for education have printed and distributed 10 million school textbooks and aim to further reach out to the Syrian students wherever they are. In addition, the IsDB President signed five financing agreements with the Government of Lebanon for development projects totaling nearly $373 million.
Islamic Development Bank Group President, Dr. Mohamed Ali Al-Madani, said: “Our partnership is especially focused on young people. They are a source of immense potential and can be an engine of growth if provided with an education that teaches relevant skills and open and dynamic economies that allow them to use those skills. If we continue to fail them with poor education and a lack of opportunities, their frustration will be an ongoing source of instability.”
This is the fourth joint visit by President Kim and Secretary-General Ban, who were the first heads of their institutions to travel together. They have previously visited three regions of Africa -- the Great Lakes, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa.