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Speeches & Transcripts October 20, 2020

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director, Operations at the Virtual Event "From Learning Poverty to Learning of the Future: Charting a Course Beyond the Pandemic"

Thank you everyone for joining us today for this timely and important discussion on learning – learning both now during the pandemic and beyond. 

It is a great pleasure that we are joined by quite a few ministers and also bilateral partners and the UN, a close ally in our fight against poverty.

At the Annual Meetings, we talked a lot about COVID, about the immediate crisis, and how we can work together to respond. And this event links this short-term agenda with the longer-term.

Indeed, the school closures in more than 180 countries have kept nearly 1.6 billion students out of school.  We are concerned that many of these children may never return, particularly girls.

That should be a real concern we are risking that kids may not get enough education, serious implications on their future earning capacity and also their success in life.

While we are clearly very focused on the short-term response to COVID,  it is imperative that we never lose sight of the education challenge.

So for today’s discussion, we need to ask ourselves, what can we do – what can we do additionally to meet this challenge, in light of the exacerbated crisis due to COVID-19? And how can we make better use on technology as part of the response?

We see clearly a need to act – in cooperation with others.  We need to drive the agenda and keep the focus on our kids, and on our future.  For that reason, we should not only talk about what the problem is but what we can do.

That will require enormous commitment in the countries by the parents to the government, to the private sector – and also the international community.  We need to stay committed to our long-term vision. 

We are concerned that SDG4 – for education – will not be met.  Education is suffering setbacks – and this should be a motivation to act.

What can we do, starting in one own’s organization? 

In the World Bank, we have long term commitment to education.  We are convinced it is essential to the long-term development success of a country.

We are investing heavily in education. We’ve increased IDA, with more money available for education.  We see a dramatic increase of IDA resources in the last few years and over the IDA18 cycle, reached $8 billion in IDA commitments. 

And in the last two years, World Bank education lending went from $3.6 billion to $5.2b and our goal is to go even further this year.  These investments are necessary, these are good – but we cannot do it alone. 

We need more. And this is the reason during the Annual Meetings that we said we wanted to make additional resources available for the poorest countries.  We want to talk to our IDA deputies and our IDA friends to see if we can raise emergency COVID financing of $25 billion. 

Why is that necessary? Because the education challenge is there.  We are risking losing a generation. We cannot let that happen.

We have to fight for that generation on all the fronts -education, jobs, social protection, health.  We need to show our joint commitment to the future generation. We cannot fail our children

We must always keep that in mind, the reason why we are doing this – and get an international coalition together, to support the countries to meet their education challenges.  We need to ensure boys and girls can go to school and not suffer that badly from an already difficult crisis that is COVID 19.

I am looking forward to this discussion and more importantly, ideas on how we can act together, aggressively to make things happen.