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Speeches & Transcripts June 6, 2019

Remarks by Managing Director and Chief Administrative Officer Shaolin Yang at WBG-EIB Joint Conference on Ethics and Corporate Culture

Thank you, President Hoyer, for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to open this conference on ethics and culture organized jointly by the World Bank Group and our host the European Investment Bank. It is also a pleasure to be in Luxembourg, in the presence of Minister Gramegna, a Governor of the World Bank Group.  

On behalf of the World Bank Group, I would like to express our appreciation for the strong and long-standing partnership between our organizations, which will certainly continue in the years to come.

Today, we reaffirm the importance of ethics in development. Because the challenges of development—the challenges of improving the lives of others—are not purely economic or financial. They are ethical.

International Financial Institutions like ours must exert strong ethical leadership in the world. As collectives of nation-states—the EIB, the World Bank Group and other IFIs—believe in, and work toward, the ethical necessity of global cooperation to improve lives and societies. And as financial institutions, we take an ethical stance toward the use of the public funds entrusted to us to achieve this mission.

We take this very seriously at the World Bank Group. Our clients, and the people we ultimately serve—in some of the poorest places of the world—deserve nothing less. Our shareholders—who entrust us with their scarce money—also deserve nothing less.

Accordingly, we have set our sights on twin goals of eradicating extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity by 2030. We have agreed on a Forward Look Strategy with shareholders to deliver a bigger and better World Bank Group. Our shareholders supported this strategy with a capital increase last year.  

And while the World Bank Group has always been a values-based organization, we have also recently refreshed our core values. They are: Impact, Integrity, Respect, Teamwork and Innovation. These values define how we approach our work.  

Ethical leadership is not easy. We have not found the magic bullet to ensure all humans act ethically in all situations. But it is worth it, and we will stay relentlessly focused on it.

Living these values means putting them into action for our clients every day, like through our innovative fast-acting Famine Action Mechanism, or by collaborating across our public sector and private sector teams to catalyze a blossoming housing finance market in West Africa.

It means leading with integrity and ensuring our actions always in line with our values.

This is the stuff of our everyday work:

Every day at the World Bank Group we uphold a robust and multi-tiered internal justice system which includes an array of informal and formal conflict resolution mechanisms such as Mediation, Ombuds Services and Respectful Workplace Advisors, all geared toward fostering a respectful workplace and dealing with conflict with both fairness and speed.

Every day, we strive for efficiency in our corporate services to reorient more of our budget resources to the frontlines; with a special focus to locations affected by fragility, conflict and violence.

Every day, we are helping countries improve their governance mechanisms and we are investigating corruption allegations to safeguard scarce development resources from theft.

Living our values also means we must take bold decisions and commitments:

This is why we chose to be the first IFI to obtain EDGE gender equality certification for our workplace—because we work toward gender equality for women everywhere in the world.

It is why, last year, we committed ourselves to doubling the share of our corporate procurement which goes to women-owned businesses—because we want to increase the innovative and impactful force unleashed by women’s entrepreneurship in our client countries.

And it is why, at World Bank Group HQ in Washington we went plastic free—because we want to preserve the environment and because we advise client countries on how to build resilience against climate change.   

Importantly, we have also have taken a strong and proactive stance against sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse, both in our projects, and inside our own walls.

In 2018, we adopted principles that strongly emphasize prevention and began holding clients accountable for assessing and mitigating the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in major infrastructure projects. And we are currently developing similar accountability mechanisms for health and education projects.

Just weeks ago, President Malpass launched a World Bank Group sexual harassment prevention action plan containing over 50 actions that go well beyond the recommendations of a panel of independent experts who reviewed our approach to preventing and addressing sexual harassment.

We have been sharing our approach on this with the UN organizations, and I expect that it will also be shared with the Community of Practice of the Ethics Functions of IFIs, that will meet tomorrow, and with the Ethics Network of Multilateral Organizations that gathers these two communities in Munich in July.

I very much welcome this exchange of views. My hope is that through this dialogue we can take forward together our common ethical standards.

We have a duty to those we serve to develop this blueprint together, and to be standard bearers of ethical leadership across the global development community and the financial sector. Much is at stake and much work remains to be done.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to contribute here today, and would like to thank once again President Hoyer for his warm welcome.