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Speeches & Transcripts December 3, 2021

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director of Operations, at Informal Briefing to UN Member States Building Back Better From the Crisis: Towards a Green, Resilient and Inclusive Future

Excellencies and distinguished colleagues. It is an absolute pleasure to join you here at the United Nations.

Crisis Response

As we are now approaching almost 2 years of the COVID crisis, we have learned a lot about crisis management and what needs to happen when crises hit.  We have to act fast; we have to act at scale; and we have to provide not only emergency support but also stay sharply focused on the development agenda.

That is what we’ve been doing as a World Bank Group.  By the end of this calendar year, since the outbreak in 2020, we will likely approach support in excess of 120 billion dollars. Well over 60 billion will have been delivered through IDA.

We were able to do that in part by reconstituting IDA resources.  With the IDA financial model, only a small fraction comes from donors. The rest is internally mobilized, as well as coming from capital markets.

To give you an idea – in IDA19, we would have less than 24 billion dollars in donor contributions yet the entire envelope was 82 billion dollars. That gives you a sense that for every dollar that donors provide, there is a commitment authority of well over 3 dollars.  This is a very good deal, not just for donors, but even better for the countries and the beneficiaries.  

For the crisis response, we did something unprecedented. We decided to truncate the normal 3-year implementation of IDA and squeeze 3 years into 2 years. This allowed us to increase the volume of support for countries hit hardest by the COVID crisis.  That volume of support is about 35 billion dollars a year.

As a consequence, we would not have enough resources for the 3rd year. That is the reason we had to start the negotiations for IDA20 early - we started negotiating in April and we are scheduled to finish in the middle of December.

We also put a lot of focus on emergency support.  About 40 percent of the resources were for health interventions, such as vaccine acquisition but also for PPEs, and other health related interventions, conditional cash transfers. This worked extremely well.


We relied on strong partnerships.  Our most important partner are the countries we serve. Those partnerships are highly cherished.  That is our strongest bond – the people we would like to reach.

We also relied on our partnership with the United Nations, which has been an absolute stellar partner, not just in fragile contexts, but also in the health pandemic.  We’ve been working closely with the WHO, UNICEF, and regional initiatives such as the African Union. I’ve been impressed by the AVAT initiative where the African countries have taken the lead to get access to vaccines – and the African CDC, the African Economic Commission - have done a stellar job.

We have worked together in very difficult areas. We’ve worked in fragile states, where the support with the WFP, UNICEF, has been very close and very constructive – around one focus, how can we reach the people that desperately need our support.

Longer-term development agenda

With IDA, we have now negotiated a very strong package, that combines two things – the short-term and emergency, but very importantly, not losing sight of the longer-term agenda.

As you know, the SDGs have suffered tremendously.  The World Bank has pointed out that absolute poverty has been increasing again. That has been a disaster. We need to reverse this as quickly as possible. That means also, over the entire SDG agenda, we need to step up.  We are making this case.  

We will need to work continuously closely together.

In IDA, we have made a strategic shift, with 2/3 or 70 percent of the entire IDA envelope being directed to Africa. About 30 percent is going to fragile countries worldwide. This is a big change from 15-20 years ago.  We are increasingly concentrated where we need to put an extra push on SDGs and on partnerships with Africa.

We are moving to finalize the IDA replenishment.  We have had great participation from IDA deputies – from the Borrower Representatives and from Beneficiary Countries.  We have a solid agreement on the policy package.  

The Japanese government, very early on, was one of the loudest and clearest in supporting not only an early replenishment but also a strong advocate on the health agenda and particularly pandemic preparedness. So, a big thank you goes to the Japanese government for their leadership, their ideas on the policy package, and their generous offers to host the final Meeting in Tokyo – which unfortunately now will be held virtually, given COVID concerns.

The enthusiasm and strong support will not be diminished by the virtual nature of the meeting – and we are looking forward to a constructive and productive meeting that will lead to a very positive outcome for the countries we serve.

With very strong results, this also means a strong signal for cooperation with the UN family. Only together can we be successful. We need to focus on the results, on touching lives - I am very grateful therefore for the chance to join you today.  By working together, we can ultimately make a difference in a very challenging environment.  

Thank you.