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Speeches & Transcripts

As Prepared for Delivery, President Robert B. Zoellick Opening Remarks, Development Committee Media Conference

September 24, 2011

Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank President. Development Committee Media Conference.

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Rich and thank you Mr. Chairman.
The Development Committee meeting is important for the World Bank because it enables us to hear directly from our shareholders beyond the normal country dialogues and in concert with other countries. This invaluable interaction helps us to make improvements to our work in order to better serve our clients - developing countries.
Since the middle of 2008, when the global crisis really began to take hold, the World Bank Group has committed $196 billion to developing countries from IBRD, from IDA, from IFC, our private sector arm, and from MIGA our guarantee agency. Total disbursements were $126 billion, faster during the most heated period of the downturn.
In the discussions we had today on the state of the global economy, it was clear that shareholders want us to persist in providing this vital source of support for developing countries.
And this may become more important if the early signs of a possible slowdown in their economies turn to reality.
In low-income countries, this risk adds urgency to our work to build safety net programs to shield the most vulnerable from a downturn. We’ve helped expand the Conditional Cash Transfer model, that was pioneered by Mexico and Brazil, to over 40 countries. And we have helped 40 more countries implement other types of safety nets. But we have more to go, and the nets can be stronger.
Shareholders want us to continue to assist in real-time to crises as they emerge in the global economy.
A good example is the decision we announced today to boost World Bank assistance to the countries in the Horn of Africa to $1.88 billion over five years from the previously announced sum of $500 million.
This will include $250 million from the Crisis Response Window in the International Development Association, our fund for the poorest. This crisis window is a good example; we called for it, designed it, and persuaded the IDA donors to endorse it just last year.
The World Bank is supporting the common call for action in the Horn of Africa that is being led by the U.N. humanitarian agencies, with stalwart support by the U.K., Australia, the European Commission, the United States, and others.
In addition, to addressing today’s disaster, our efforts will help build recovery for tomorrow and resilience for the future. A humanitarian crisis should not and need not be a perpetual crisis.
While keeping up what we are doing, our shareholders also want us to find new ways to do better – and we’ll do that.
We’ll press on with the modernization agenda to make the Bank Group more flexible, focused on clients, open, accountable, and always driven with attention to results. These are tough times and taxpayers deserve the best value for money that their tax-payer, their tax dollars and our revenues can buy.
Aside from crisis response, I was also pleased to hear the endorsement of shareholders for two long-term priorities of the World Bank Group.
Shareholders agreed with the findings of our World Development Report on Gender that equality between men and women is not only a right, in and of itself, but it’s also smart economics and is essential to overcoming poverty.
This is common sense that is not always commonly believed. Yet how can a society reach its full potential if half its population is too often treated as second class citizens?
So we’ll now work to ensure that the implications for gender are embedded in everything we do, from land-titling, to designing social security systems, to infrastructure projects.
There was also shareholder endorsement for the Bank’s new next World Development Report on jobs.
With unemployment soaring in developed economies and a youth bulge and lack of jobs -- and the lack of dignity associated with work -- among many causes of the Arab Spring, this project could not come at a better time.
We also have had a chance during these meeting to discuss the global situation, and particularly the looming danger that failure to take decisive action in Europe and the United States, may shake the entire global economy, throwing developing countries off track, and they are today's engine of global growth.
The numbers emerging out of developing countries over the past month, even the past week, are shaking and shaky. As Ben Franklin said during another era of crisis, we must hang together -- as men and women, as developed and developing economies, as G-20 and G-187 our entire World Bank membership -- or we’ll hang separately.
That I think is the fundamental message from these meetings.
Thank you.