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Speeches & TranscriptsJune 2, 2023

Remarks by World Bank Senior Managing Director, Axel van Trotsenburg, at the 2023 Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS, WFP, UN Women

(As Prepared For Delivery)


Excellencies, dear colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen

It’s a pleasure to join you today.

Our world is experiencing multiple and overlapping crises that affect all of us and our work. The unprecedented crisis level that we are facing requires increased partnerships. The Secretary-General has repeatedly drawn our attention on the difficult situation we must address: The SDGS are off track; we are running out of time on climate.

 We must work together as closely as possible to have a fighting chance. How can the World Bank partner better with the UN System? As well as with other MDBs, the countries, and others?

 In the last four years, the World Bank Group has mobilized a record $440 billion. This was a swift, massive, and decisive response aimed at helping countries facing these crises. This figure is impressive, but the truth is that it is only a small fraction of what is needed.

We must continue finding ways to increase further the impact of our resources. We need to transform to fulfill our mandate and pursue our mission – for the World Bank: the Twin Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

This is what is at the heart of the Evolution process that we have initiated six months ago. Our membership has expressed strong support for this reform agenda and the initial measures we proposed at the Spring Meeting in April. We are now developing an ambitious package of measures to revamp our operational model and optimize our financing for developing countries. We look forward to discussing it at the Annual Meetings in Marrakech in October.


Our Evolution also builds on partnerships. First, let me thank you and my UN colleagues: we have an exemplary and impactful collaboration.

Let me share a few great examples of where we’ve worked together with the UN family, in partnership, in solidarity with the needs of the world’s poor and vulnerable.  Afghanistan. Yemen.  The collaboration on education, on food security, on refugees and host communities, on health and pandemic preparedness.  

In fact, over the past six years, UN agencies have implemented almost $10 billion in World Bank projects.

We partnered with UNICEF, WHO and others to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership. I want to have a special word of appreciation for Dr. Tedros here and his support in setting up the Pandemic Fund.

We also worked closely with UNDP, with whom we had recently a deep dive in Washington to further expand our operational engagement in fragile countries.

Our cooperation with UNOPS was critical in our response to natural disasters around the world – such as when floods inundated Myanmar and hurricanes hit Haiti.

We are working in a wide range of countries with WFP, from logistics operations in Ukraine to cash transfers to vulnerable people in Somalia and Lebanon. WFP is also our partner in the Global Alliance for Food Security.

These efforts demonstrate our ability to coordinate our expertise and experience to complement each other’s work when crises hit.


And our collaboration also includes long-term efforts to build resilient and sustainable country systems. Let me take a moment to highlight just a few examples.

With UNDP, UNICEF, and WFP, we support social safety nets and cash transfer programs in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Women remain central to these efforts.  This is why in South Sudan, the Bank Group and UNICEF are providing essential child and maternal health services to vulnerable populations.

And in Bangladesh, we have partnered with UNFPA to strengthen health and gender services in Cox's Bazar; with IOM on health clinics; and with WFP in supporting local safety nets.

We also work closely with UN Women in the context of our Mashreq Gender Facility, a multi-sectoral initiative aimed to increase women’s labor force participation in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.


Can we do more? Yes, absolutely! We must increase our joint advocacy for development – being the voice of those who suffer across the world. Beyond advocacy, we must expand and scale up our programs to reach as many of the poor and vulnerable as possible; working on complementary across our organizations is key here. Last, despite the urgency of crisis response, we must not lose sight of long-term challenges. Starting with climate mitigation and adaptation, but also building in-country systems, from health and education to public finances.

Let me close by saying how grateful I am for our strong partnership with the UN, and our shared values, determination, and resolve. We are not capitulating in front of challenges. Quite the opposite, we all need to scale up and leverage multilateralism for a better world.

Thank you very much.



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