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Speeches & Transcripts May 3, 2021

Remarks at the Global Health Systems Financing and Pandemic Preparedness Event

Many thanks Madame Ambassador for the opportunity to address excellencies and esteemed colleagues present here today on this important topic. I very much welcome the restated commitment to break the cycle of panic and neglect.

We have engaged over the past decades in the response and recovery to many shocks and disasters and have learned a lot through these experiences and through the direct engagement with governments across the world.

For instance, notable innovations have been introduced in the International Development Association (IDA) in recent years to incentivize countries to access IDA for crisis preparedness, including pandemic preparedness, and embed these efforts into core country operations.

·         Under IDA’s Crisis Response Window (CRW) a new Early Response Financing (ERF) feature was introduced in IDA19 to support earlier responses to slow-onset crises, namely disease outbreaks and food insecurity. CRW provided US$420 million for response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak, and a further US$258 million for the 10th Ebola outbreak in DRC.

·         IDA’s scaled-up Regional Window incentivizes countries to access IDA financing by providing additional resources to supplement core country IDA allocations towards regional projects, including for pandemic preparedness. For instance, the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) project has helped strengthen national and regional cross-sectoral capacity for collaborative disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness across a range of countries. Between 2016-2020, IDA committed around US$657 million for preparedness through REDISSE, using core IDA country allocations complemented by the Regional Window.

·         The introduction of Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERCs) and Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Options (Cat DDOs), which constitute pre-arranged financing that can be accessed rapidly should a disaster strike and   galvanize investments in pre-crisis reforms and preparedness, have strengthened IDA’s ability to help countries respond to, and prepare for, crises.

·         CERCs have been activated several times in the recent past for health-related events, e.g., US$80 million for the 2018/19 Ebola outbreaks in DRC and also, in the context of COVID-19.

So, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and although no one was fully prepared for such deep crisis, we were able to leverage the existing tools and resources to roll out the fastest response in the history of our institution.

In response to the health and economic impact of the pandemic:

·         Since the beginning of the crisis, the World Bank Group (WBG) approved $108.6 billion to help countries fight the health, economic and social consequences of the pandemic, including by helping poor countries purchase and distribute vaccines, tests, and treatments.

·         This includes International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)/International Development Association (IDA) commitments of $71.5 billion, of which $40.8 billion was directly for COVID-19 crisis response with many projects embedding pandemic preparedness into their design.

·         We have also provided support through the newly created Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Trust Fund that allowed us to channel additional resources toward developing countries (including those in arrears) to respond to the current crisis and to improve their preparedness for future health emergencies.

·         The International Finance Corporation (IFC) delivered $25.7 billion in financing. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), over the same period, has provided $5.3 billion of guarantees.

Through the extensive health emergency response in more than 110 countries, we have also learned a lot that can not only inform countries as they maintain their focus on COVID-19 but can also inform discussion for preparedness in the future. This has reinforced key principles that we think are critical for future success, including:

·         staying engaged, taking the long view, and helping countries see through the ebb and flow of crises. This includes prioritizing preparedness investments and Health Systems Strengthening even now as the pandemic is still raging.

·         following a systems approach that leverages country solutions and integrates preparedness into health systems investments.

·         providing cross-sectoral expertise for crisis preparedness, including expertise in human health, animal health, wildlife/environment, education, social protection, infrastructure (including digital connectivity), etc., with a strong focus on the poor and vulnerable, who are disproportionately at risk;

·         and developing and fostering key partnerships that are essential features of the Bank’s crisis-related work.

As we look forward, we can build on these lessons and the collective commitment to address the issues of preparedness in an effective and sustainable way. To this end we would like to emphasize:  (a) the use of existing institutions to establish a sustained, multigenerational global compact to strengthen surveillance and other key elements of pandemic preparedness; and (b) the need to establish clear milestones  that can be reviewed.

Lastly, let me underline that the WBG is fully commitment to this agenda, and that we are in this for the long haul. IDA20 replenishment has been advanced by a year, and crisis preparedness is being proposed as one of the new cross cutting issues in IDA20: this will be important to support countries to strengthen preparedness.

Learn more about our COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness work