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Speeches & Transcripts July 8, 2020

Remarks by Managing Director and World Bank Group Chief Administrative Officer Shaolin Yang at Ethics Network of Multilateral Organizations (ENMO) Virtual Meeting

Distinguished Members of the ENMO community,

It is a pleasure to welcome everyone to this Ethics Network of Multilateral Organizations virtual forum. The WBG is honored to host this ENMO Annual Meeting and I would like to extend a special and warm welcome to the members participating in an ENMO conference for the first time, including the Green Climate Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

This meeting is very timely. International institutions are scaling up responses to the pandemic and supporting economic recovery efforts. The world has made great strides in reducing extreme poverty, being ending it one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In these unprecedented times, the World Bank Group remains committed to providing flexible, innovative, and rapid solutions. Through June 2021, we expect to deploy up to $160 billion in financing tailored to the health, economic, and social shocks that countries are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, our stakeholders expect us to deliver the support in an ethical and transparent manner. Indeed, ethics work is all the more crucial when there is a crisis of public confidence in international organizations, national governments and aid agencies that rely on public funding to provide this support.

Before you begin your forum, I want to share with you some of the challenges that we think the current crisis presents to the ethics and compliance departments and that I hope you will be delving deeper into during your deliberations:

  • Logistic challenges in service delivery to our staff while working from home and during the early office re-opening phases.
  • Increasing stress to staff because of the uncertainties that individuals and organizations face.
  • Changes in the patterns of misconducts due to our new virtual reality.
  • Related to that is the loosening of visual control and peer pressure as many behaviors that would have been scrutinized by colleagues are now hidden from view.
  • And also, the emergence of new ethical dilemmas surrounding the decisions on returning to office before a COVID-19 vaccine or cure is found.

In parallel with this new normal, the recent events surrounding unequal treatment of minorities have exacerbated the feeling of injustice in society and in our organizations. Here we believe that ethics departments have a dual role to play:

  • One is in defining and creating awareness around the conditions under which staff members can participate in civil activities while preserving impartiality.
  • Another is advocating for values such as respect, and revamping their toolkits to protect and promote the empowerment of minorities within the organizations.  

The World Bank Group is fully committed to ensuring that we play a key role in preventing and eliminating any type of racism, both within our institution and abroad. We have set up a WBG-wide anti-racism task force led by our Legal Counsel with institution-wide inputs including from the Ethics and Business Conduct Department, HR and our Internal Justice System.

To conclude, periods of transition and changes are periods of heightened risks. And this means that Ethics and Compliance Departments are even more relevant today than ever before. Therefore, the current period requires enhancing risk management in our organizations. Ethics Departments can play an important role:

  • First, they can help to develop a speak up culture where everyone—staff, managers, senior management—listens actively and where reporting an issue does not entail the risk of retaliation.
  • Second, they can promote, discuss and embed core values at the working level as a means to foster positive culture change.
  • Third, they can collaborate with the risk management functions to ensure that cases of inappropriate behaviors or misconducts conclude with a root cause analysis. This is an area where the WBG has made great progress, incorporating EBC in different risk and corporate committees to encourage open dialogue on risk.
  • And lastly, they can and should continuously innovate to prevent and address harassment. As you know, the WBG adopted a very ambitious action plan to prevent and address sexual harassment with over 70 specific initiatives. One of them was the creation of the function of the Anti-Harassment Coordinator, which has been functioning very well in the last few months and is well received by staff.

I hope in these days you will compare practices on these and many other important and challenging topics.

Let me finish now by thanking the Chair and the organizing Committee for this very interesting meeting, as well as our EBC team who have worked hard to organize everything. I wish you all a very fruitful meeting and I look forward to hearing from the progress and shared knowledge generated through interaction and exchange of best practices. Thank you.