Spring Meetings 2015
They chose subjects as diverse as:
Appetizer of grasshoppers, seaweed soup, and as the main course, man-made burgers on the grill. Been twisting the nose? Yet we should get used to similar menus. According to UN estimates, to feed the 2.5 billion additional people, according to some forecasts, who will populate the Earth in 2050, we will need to double world food production, reduce waste, and experiment with food alternatives.
“50% of Arab world citizens are dissatisfied with public services in their area,” according to a World Bank survey — which prompted not one, but two sessions at the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings. So it was no coincidence that the meme #BreaktheCycle emerged in another Middle East and North Africa (MENA) panel, “Creating Jobs and Improving Services: A New Social Contract in the Arab World,” which also revisited the theme of the social contract in both oil-importing and exporting countries.
When my colleague and friend Pabsy Pabalan informed me that she was going to cover the 2015 World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings, I thought she meant producing blogs or writing articles. But her plan was a little more unusual and fresh. Pabsy was on a mission to explore the other side of the meetings, interview participants, and educate a younger audience by producing short daily videos. As someone who is toward the younger side (or would like to think so), I was looking forward to watching videos with a different approach on World Bank Group events. I soon became a huge fan of #PabsyLive.
Musicians, politicians, and non-profit leaders joined thousands of people to emphasize a message that relates both to poverty and environmental concerns:
Pollution kills and it hits the poor the hardest. To protect our lives and our planet, we must act now to end pollution.
The World Bank talked to people at the event to see what types of pollution they see around them and what actions, however small, they take to reduce pollution on a daily basis.
Get inspired by their words and actions:
“I see pollution more in the air and water—in the creeks and in the sea. Pollution brings damage to nature and animals’ habitats.
“I walk a lot. A lot of people may drive, but I am used to walking on campus. Subconsciously, it makes me feel I’m contributing [to the cause of ending pollution].”
– Patrick Quackenbush, a student at the University of Maryland
On April 18 close to 300,000 people united under a warm sun on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, a momentous day-long mix of advocacy and entertainment, urging citizen action to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and stop climate change.
Musical acts alternated possession of the stage with a diverse cadre of global leaders making policy commitments and calling citizens to action throughout the eight-hour event. Superstars like Mary J. Blige, Usher, and the band No Doubt roused the massive crowd which spilled out on green grass around the iconic Washington Monument. More than 2 million people tuned into the live webcast on YouTube.
“2015 is the time for global action. You have the power, your generation can change, your generation can make a difference,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the crowd, sharing the stage at the end of the event with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
“All roads lead to Rome” may have been true in ancient times, but policymakers during this Spring Meetings season in Washington have been focused on another classical crossroads: All roads now lead to Athens, as the intensifying eurozone crisis is again stoking fears that Greece may soon “crash out” of the European common currency system – potentially dealing a severe shock to the still-fragile global financial markets.
“The discussions about Greece have pervaded every meeting” during this fast-forward week of finance and diplomacy, said the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. That viewpoint was reinforced by a studious chronicler of the Greek drama’s daily details, Chris Giles of The Financial Times, who asserted – in an unusually dismissive swipe – that “the antics of Greece dominated the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.”
The Greece-focused anxiety was palpable to many Spring Meetings attendees, judging by the number of corridor conversations and solemn sidebars that dwelled on the eurozone drama – especially on the Fund’s side of 19th Street NW. While most forums and panels on the Bank’s side of the street focused on the progress of many developing countries, events at the Fund seemed consumed by the policy contortions within Greece's faltering economy, as Meetings-goers monitored every tremble of their text messages to follow the week’s the week’s staccato bulletin-bulletin-bulletin news of Greece’s financial flailing.
“The mood is notably more gloomy than at the last international gathering,” said Osborne, “and it’s clear . . . that a misstep or miscalculation on either side [of the Greece negotiations] could easily return European economies to the kind of perilous situation we saw three to four years ago.” Having received a $118 billion bailout in May 2010 and a second package of $139 billion in October 2011, Greece is now at an impasse with its creditors: the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. A new government in Greece – having denounced the loan conditions reluctantly accepted by its predecessor governments – is debating how, or whether, it should comply with lenders’ pressure for far-reaching reform. Greece's foot-dragging has exasperated the lenders even as Greece envisions a potential third bailout program.
As the Greek tragedy unfolds, the doleful observation of Wolfgang Münchau in the FT seems all too apt: “Until last week, discussions with Greece did not go well. That changed when the circus of international financial diplomacy moved to Washington for the Spring Meetings. Then it became worse.”
At this year's climate ministerial of the World Bank Group/IMF Spring Meetings, 42 finance and development ministers discussed phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, putting a price on carbon and mobilizing the trillions of dollars in finance needed for a smooth, orderly transition to a low-carbon economy. World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte describes the conversations in the room and the key takeaways.
This was the issue the president of the World Bank Group, UN Secretary-General, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, private and public sector leaders discussed at an event, Universal Financial Access 2020, during the 2015 World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings.