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Speeches & Transcripts September 18, 2020

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director, Operations at the SDG Moment 2020

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,


Ladies and gentlemen:

It’s a pleasure to be here today representing the World Bank Group.

We meet at a dramatic moment in time.

Extreme poverty is increasing for the first time in a generation.

And we fear that more than 100 million will be pushed into extreme poverty this year and inequality is raising.

This is unacceptable.

We are seeing, because of falling earnings, that there are millions of people going hungry – and deteriorating malnutrition among children.

And millions of children are falling behind in school, with school closures and inadequate or nonexistent remote learning.

And climate change has not gone away. 2020 looks to be the hottest year on record, potentially bringing more droughts, floods, and storms that will impact the poorest and most vulnerable people the hardest.

We are seeing that the COVID crisis has become a humanitarian and development crisis.

We need to act, and act now.

In this Decade of Action, it is important that enough resources be mobilized – domestically by countries and by the international community.

Over the last couple of years, the Bank has shown that with financial innovation and effective financial policies we can stretch our balance sheets and our ability to support the SDGs.

We need more of this innovation, so that the international community can generate the resources to help the countries that so desperately need our support.

This is the challenge today; it will be the challenge tomorrow.

And the World Bank Group is ready to tackle it today and over the long haul.

Last fiscal year the World Bank had its largest lending program ever – at $59 billion. This year, not only do we want to scale up our resources for the poorest countries, making available $35 billion through IDA – but also, we want to support middle income countries with $35 billion as well.   

Our colleagues from IFC are pushing for similar ambitious engagement, through investments with the private sector.

We are focused on helping countries respond to the health, economic and social impacts of the crisis and rebuild better.

  • First, we are stepping up our commitments on climate: we are adding another $21-24 billion this year to the $83 billion in climate investments we’ve supported over the last 5 years
  • On health – we are working on both immediate COVID response in over 100 countries while helping countries strengthen health systems to better withstand future health shocks.
  • On gender, we are focused on closing gaps between women and men by removing constraints to more and better jobs, and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence – and working with low-income and fragile countries to improve the access to and quality of sexual and reproductive health services.
  • On education, we are aiming at $7 billion this year in education funding, working in 65 countries to implement remote learning strategies, and collaborating with UNICEF and UNESCO on school reopening frameworks
  • And we are scaling up social safety operations through existing social protection systems in developing countries and ramping up our investment in cash transfers by $10 billion over the next 12 months. This is getting money into the hands of those that need it the most.

This crisis calls for a response that recognizes the interconnectedness between economic systems, human health and well-being, and planetary health.

It offers an opportunity for countries to build back a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive world.

The Bank will continue to work with the international community where the SDGs provide a powerful framework for action and our financing is very much aligned.   

We need to keep in mind that all donor countries are going similarly through tough times. Budgets are stretched. The human toll of the crisis is high. However, we cannot ignore the plight of the poorest countries.

Because the alternative is that if we don’t act boldly, we will let down hundreds of millions of people and the costs of inaction are measured in the trillions – several times more than the billions we are looking to mobilize now.

So thank you for this moment – the World Bank Group is committed to working together with all of you to help countries through the COVID crisis and get countries back on track to their longer term development goals. 

Together, with solidarity and with financial support we can help the countries who need it most.  Thank you.