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Speeches & Transcripts September 9, 2021

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director of Operations, at UNOCHA High-Level Humanitarian Event on Anticipatory Action

Watch the replay of the UNOCHA event here.


Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Thank you for this opportunity to join you today.

Allow me to begin by giving a warm welcome to Martin Griffiths, the Under Secretary-General for OCHA.  

I look forward to continuing the World Bank’s strong relationship and partnership with OCHA, and working more with you in the times ahead.

This year alone, more than 235 million people will require humanitarian assistance. 

That is a 40% increase from last year. And extreme poverty has risen for the first time in 22 years.

This is something we cannot ignore.

We must get ahead of the next threat and crisis if we want to move closer to achieving our common goal of ending poverty.

Anticipating a disaster and acting before it happens saves lives and livelihoods, while keeping people from falling into poverty.

That makes anticipatory action a smart, effective investment.  

For every $1 spent on resilience, you gain $4 in benefits. 

This is one of the main findings of a recent World Bank study.  It shows that that investing in resilient infrastructure in developing countries could deliver $4.2 trillion over their lifetime by avoiding repairs and mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

Preventing crises, becoming well-prepared to respond to them, and fostering a durable recovery together constitute a difficult - and permanent - policy challenge.

A proactive and sustained response is necessary to mitigate human, social and economic costs.

Once the initial crisis phase has passed, financing and policy support are needed to spur actions via long-term development efforts — those that foster physical and human capital and facilitate economic transformations.

Crisis preparedness is a cornerstone of our approach to green, resilient, and inclusive development at the World Bank. 

The World Bank Group actively partners with governments and other groups on all aspects of crises.

Through a range of services, we  work hand-in-hand with governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations to:

  • reduce the likelihood of crises;
  • to prepare for managing crises when they occur;
  • and when these crises happen, provide timely financing, policy guidance, and operational expertise.

Through IDA —  our fund for the poorest countries — we support the most vulnerable countries financially and technically, so that they are better prepared for the next shock.  

In the upcoming IDA20, Crisis preparedness will be a new cross-cutting theme, in recognition of the importance of addressing humanitarian needs early. 

This will help strengthen national systems in responding quickly to different types of crises.

However our crisis support is not limited to the low income countries. We also are fully engaged with all of our available instruments in middle income countries to help them cope better with crises, be it natural, health-related, financial or other economic crises. 

And a final word to the crises that are emanating from climate change - be it weather-related event or longer-term impacts such as increased desertification. 

The World Bank is sharply focused on the challenges posed by climate change. That is the reason we launched our new Climate change action plan for the next 5 years.

Our ambition is to provide 35% of our financing to go towards climate adaption and mitigation. 

This includes increasing resilience by helping countries bolster their water security; improving management of river basins; and investing in infrastructure which reduces the risks of floods and droughts, to name a few.

Lastly, we need to leverage partnerships and build upon our respective competitive advantages. 

We are fully committed to working closely with security, humanitarian, and peacebuilding actors – including many of you here today – to prevent a shock from turning into crises.  We also want to help those living in fragile and conflict-affected situations to have a chance at peace and prosperity.

Only working together can we make a difference. 

Let me thank you for the work you are doing and your continued support.  

The World Bank is pleased to be part of this coalition that seeks to end the cycle of crises and neglect we are currently facing.

Thank You.