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Speeches & Transcripts

Transcript of Remarks by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and French President François Hollande

November 8, 2013

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and President of France François Hollande Paris, France


DR. KIM: [Interpreted from French.]  Mr. President of the Republic, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great honor for me and the World Bank Group to welcome the President of the Republic on our Paris premises this morning. 

I would first like to express my most sincere condolences to the families of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, the two journalists who were killed in Mali last week.

I would also like to express my solidarity and my respect towards the journalists who risked their lives every day in order to voice--to express their voice and, without their work, they would not be heard.

My emotion when I met the French military was particularly strong, because, endangering their lives, they took part in the liberation of the northern part of Mali that I was visiting.

The relationship between France and the World Bank dates back more than 60 years.  You were one of the founding members of our institution and, in 1947, you were one of the very first countries to have the benefit of a loan from the World Bank.  This was the post-war period, and you were reconstructing your country.

And today, it is the very first time that we have the privilege of welcoming the head of the French state.

Mr. President, your longstanding support for the subregion is a source of inspiration and motivation.  The relevant interventions of your representatives within our institution have also enabled us to better grasp the very close links between the security and development.

This visit has enabled me to have a better idea of the challenges that face the population and the heads of Sahel and be even more convinced that, if we work together, we can give sustainable solutions to the problems--the experiences of the population.  I shall be going back to Washington full of hope and optimism. 

If I may, I would now like to speak English.

DR. KIM:  [Speaking English.] France has played an extremely important role in raising international awareness of the challenges facing the Sahel Region.  I'm particularly honored to have had this opportunity to meet with President Hollande today.

I briefed him on the visit to the Sahel that I undertook with the UN Secretary-General, the African Union Commission Chair, the European Commissioner for development, and the President of the African Development Bank.

This trip, which was an unprecedented joint mission, led by the Secretary-General, allowed us to engage on the important and related issues of peace, security, and development, with the leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

One of the conclusions we drew from our visit is the need for a coordinated and regional approach to tackling the major development challenges of the Region.

During the trip, the World Bank Group committed $1.5 billion in new regional investments over the next two years.  This is in addition to significant existing country programs.  These additional funds will support major regional development priorities, such as social safety nets to help families withstand the worst effects of economic adversity and disasters.

It will also allow us to invest in the infrastructure needed to spur growth and stability.  We pledge to increase our work in pastoralism and irrigation in order to boost agricultural productivity and create opportunities in rural areas. 

The social and economic empowerment of women will be an important and integral part of our work.  We need to harness the energies of all citizens, especially women, to build a secure and prosperous future for the Region.

The World Bank Group's funding will create more hydropower and other sources of clean energy to greatly expand irrigation and transform agriculture, protect and expand pastoralism for more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods, expand health services for women and girls, and improve regional communications and connectivity between countries.

Our package also includes $300 million from the IFC, the Bank's private sector arm, to finance the private sector development needed to create good jobs and help bring stability to the Region.

Our scaled up commitment to the Sahel is made possible by the support of all our donors that come together to support the poorest countries under our fund for the poorest, IDA.  IDA's rare international coalition bringing together developed countries, emerging markets, and developing countries in support of the development, priorities, and plans of low-income countries. 

We very much appreciate France's commitment to international solidarity and its support of IDA.

The people of the Sahel have struggled too long with too little economic growth.  They’ve endured a harsh climate and periods of famine.  They have suffered the intricately linked curses of high fertility rates and the world's highest number of maternal and child deaths.  But this is not their preordained fate.

For too long we have failed the Sahel and maintained aspirations for it that reflect our inability to see past the very real challenges.  The people of the Sahel do not have low aspirations for themselves.

When I was in Timbuktu a few days ago, a diverse group of people all had the same message:  They want just what all of us want, a good job, a good education, access to quality health care, and hope for a better life for their children.

Those of us in the international community must raise our aspirations for the Region and redouble and our efforts to demonstrate our solidarity through effective, pragmatic support.

Mr. President, your personal commitment to this Region has ignited great hope, and we must now follow through and keep our promises to the people of the Sahel.  Under your leadership, France has played a critical role in bringing stability to most of Mali, which has helped the entire Region, and I heard thanks from every single leader in the entire Region to the work that France has been doing.

The World Bank Group and France share a commonality of purpose.  We also welcome your emphasis on the link between the Sahel and the Maghreb, a link to which we also attach great importance.

As I assured President Hollande this morning, the World Bank Group looks forward to working in partnership and cooperation with France, and benefitting from its tremendous technical expertise and long history of engagement and investment.

[Interpreted from French.]  Thank you, Mr. President and thank you for everything you are doing for the Sahel population.

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  [Interpreted from French.]  Mr. President of the World Bank, ladies and gentlemen, first of, I would like to thank President Kim for his welcome.  It's the first time a President of the French Republic comes to the Headquarters of the World Bank in Paris, even though that was not the most difficult place to wait--was not really far away.

And so, I did want to reach that goal as quickly as possible.  But if I'm here, together with the ministers who came with me, it is because the action of the World Bank is very dear to me, the way it acts, its willingness to ensure the development of some of the poorest Regions in the world.

And today, it is about the Sahel.  It is very right to talk about the Sahel for security reasons.  The Sahel is, amongst others, Mali, where France, in the name of the international community, intervened in order to allow this country to recover its territorial integrity.

The Sahel still suffers from terrorist actions, and I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for mentioning the murder of the two French journalists.  But I do not forget, either, that in Niger, unfortunately, there is a terrible tragedy.  We discovered dozens of corpses of migrants who died in terrible circumstances. 

If we want the Sahel to move away from what today is underdevelopment, but if we also want to eradicate trafficking, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, trafficking of human beings, we must lead a policy that is truly a multilateral development policy for that Region of Africa, and this is what you have undertaken with our full support.

Indeed, the World Bank has decided to allocate for over two years $1 billion to regional projects, for these six countries of the Sahel Region, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mauritania, and Chad.

These projects, if they are properly implemented, will enable us to either support or create some new infrastructure, give access to water, health, and therefore enable the people who live in the Sahel to regain hope and trust.

It is both a matter of economic development and justice.  It is also a matter of security and these goals are linked.  In December, France will host all of the leaders of Africa.  The meeting will be dedicated to three topics.  The first one is security: how to make sure that the Africans themselves can enjoy their defense--in particular, defend themselves against terrorism through regional forces that can be supported.  And this is the responsibility of both the international community and therefore the Secretary-General of the United Nations will attend.  It is also the responsibility of Europe, that will be represented by both Mr. Barroso and Mr. Van Rompuy.

The second element is tackling climate change, because it is also, or mainly, impacting the Regions of desert, because we know that the situation can worsen unless there is an action at the international level.  It is also France's responsibility, given that we will be hosting in 2015 the climate conference.  So, we will be working on it as early as December when hosting this meeting with the leaders of Africa.

And then, the third topic is the development.  Development--development projects, as we can see here at the World Bank, can apply to energy, education, food security, and health.

We need the support of the main institutions, the World Bank, we also need Europe to mobilize as it did for Mali, and France will play its role.

Let me add that the amount of the French aid for the Sahel through the French Development Agency, Aid Development Agency, is above €900 million.  And for Mali itself, we committed, over a two-year period, to 280 million, including for food and health.

The World Bank, just like France, has some requirements.  The support that we can provide, the projects we can contribute to finance must meet all the criteria in terms of good governance and transparency.  It is not in order to make it more difficult for the countries we support.  It is to help them in their development.

And I also would like to commend the responsibility of the leaders of Africa, including in the Sahel, where elections were held recently in Mali, and parliamentarian elections will also soon be held in Mali, because this goes hand in hand with development, and that can only help democracy.  This is my purpose of my visit to the World Bank, in order to acknowledge the work done by the World Bank.

The billion-euro amount announced by President Kim is definitely good news for the Region, and I'm sure it will put these funds to good use.

In a few moments, I will be hosting at the Elysee Palace, President Kim, the head of the IMF, as well as the representative of the OECD, the WTO, and we'll be discussing economic matters, including the situation in France.

I will confirm our strategy as well as my goal.  This is based on three principles.

The first one is to save as much money as we can on our budget without putting at risk or challenging the French social model in order to reduce our deficit.

The second principle is to improve the competitiveness of the French economy in order to get back to the highest possible level of growth.

And the third principle is to tackle unemployment by using any available tool, all the stakeholders, be they private or public, and that policy which is based on ongoing reforms that will continue is the only one that can guarantee the credibility. 

And as we can see, the interest rates remain very low on the markets, and it can also guarantee the national cohesion.  So, this is what I meant to tell you on the occasion of this visit and your visit in a moment to the Elysee Palace.

Thank you.