In a World Water Day ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and World Bank President Robert Zoellick signed an agreement to leverage World Bank and U.S. government agency expertise and technology to promote greater water security in an increasingly water-insecure world.
Over on the World Bank's climate change blog, Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, notes that the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by the poor:
There is an old-fashioned view that rich countries can afford to think about climate change but developing countries have more urgent short-term needs. This is well and truly debunked by the evidence of where developing countries are putting their money. Four out of five countries we work with, list climate change among the top priorities for their anti-poverty plans. In the past twelve months, nearly 90% of Country Assistance Strategies requested by developing countries, and approved by the World Bank’s Board, listed climate change as one of the major pillars for World Bank support.
Read the full post.
Yesterday, I attended the TEDxWorldBankGroup event, entitled Global Challenges in the New Decade. This first TEDxWorldBankGroup event was organized by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) to add to the critical discussions taking place during the Spring Meetings. The event aimed to encourage conversation on gender, climate change, agriculture and water, and to find possible solutions to these global issues.
The speakers at the event were great and made excellent points about each of the chosen issues. One of the takeaways from the event was that the development community should act as one in addressing critical issues and take a wholesome approach to resolving global challenges instead of tackling them piecemeal.
Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who presented on water issues at the event said that every time the development community tries to maximize efforts in one area, it takes away from another; therefore looking at all of these issues as a whole is the most effective way to solve them for the future generations.
Not even the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull could keep the Netherlands’ Prince of Orange, the chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and the World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from participating in a Davos-style panel discussion of solutions for the 2.6 billion people who still lack access to sanitation.
The BBC’s Katty Kay moderated today’s official Spring Meetings event, which also included South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Patience Sonjica; Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Gloria Steele; Ek Sonn Chan from Cambodia’s General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; and IFC’s Executive VP Lars Thunell.
I haven’t seen the Bank’s J building mini-amphitheater filled with that much energy since, well, ever. The standing room-only event started with a delighted Ngozi acknowledging the crowd for bringing the issue of water and sanitation to such a high level on the occasion of the Spring Meetings.
Flanked by the finance and development ministers of France and Germany, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick launched two initiatives today that together are expected to mobilize more than $55 billion in financing for infrastructure projects over the next three years.
The multibillion dollar initiatives—the Infrastructure Recovery and Assets (INFRA) platform and Infrastructure Crisis Facility—were created to address the falloff in funding for the construction of roads, water systems, power generation and distribution, and other critical infrastructure.
There is no doubt infrastructure plays a huge role in economic growth and development, Zoellick said.
“In this crisis, we will need more and more to identify creative ways to mobilize additional financing. This facility sends an important market signal,” encouraging the private sector to continue infrastructure investment and development.
France and Germany became the first to sign on to the Infrastructure Crisis Facility with commitments of about $660 million through German development bank KfW and roughly $1.3 billion through French development bank Proparco.
INFRA is designed to help countries offset the negative effects of the financial crisis on their infrastructure services and investment programs, with up to $45 billion available over the next three years. Assistance will be global, but Africa is expected to see a large share of the funding.
The Infrastructure Crisis Facility, administered by IFC, a private sector branch of the Bank Group, is expected to attract more than $10 billion to help bridge the infrastructure financing gap.
At today’s signing, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul appealed to industrialized countries to support the initiative and take into account the situation in developing countries. “They’re not responsible for the crisis. We have a special responsibility to be at their side.”
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde added: This is a time “when we can put our money where our mouth is and commit to deliver…I think the World Bank has done an outstanding job dealing with issues that are difficult. This is a good illustration of how projects should be conducted. They should be focused where they can actually make a difference.”
On a related note, I caught up earlier today with the Bank’s director for energy, transport and water, Jamal Saghir, who said the Bank’s Board has approved $9 billion in infrastructure projects already this fiscal year. That puts the Bank 47 percent ahead of the amount of infrastructure funding approved this time last year.
Saghir gave a shout-out to staff, who he credited with working hard to speed up project implementation to respond to the crisis.
For more information
- Press release: World Bank Group Launches Multi-Billion Infrastructure Initiatives to Help Developing Countries Weather Crisis
- Website: Infrastructure Recovery and Assets Platform
- Website: Infrastructure Crisis Facility
- Feature story: Infrastructure Financing Gap Endangers Development Goals