Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner, told representatives from governments rich and poor at a meeting this week in Myanmar that reducing poverty and ensuring that everyone benefits from economic growth calls for a deep focus on addressing the challenges of fragility and conflict, climate change, gender equality, job creation, and good governance.
Suu Kyi was speaking at the opening session of a meeting of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, where donors, borrower representatives and World Bank Group leadership are brainstorming ways to achieve these goals. She said that Myanmar’s real riches are its people, and they need to be nurtured in the right way.
The meeting comes amid a backdrop of extraordinary global challenges, with profound impacts. The global economy is weakening and growing more volatile. Climate change threatens to add 100 million people to the ranks of the poor. Growing geopolitical tensions and conflicts add to the volatility. By 2030, the share of the poor living in countries affected by fragility and conflict is expected to triple, from 14% today to nearly half by 2030.
Gender inequality and the growing disparity in wealth continue to hinder progress. Too many people simply don’t have opportunities in today’s world. They lack access to a good education and jobs with stable incomes. Just keeping pace with population growth is a challenge in developing countries, where 600 million additional jobs will need to be created in the next 15 years.
Growth and opportunity need to be underpinned by well-functioning governments that can perform essential tasks such as protecting their most vulnerable citizens and providing basic services, including clean water and transportation.
We need a swift, coordinated and effective international response that provides local solutions to these global challenges. The consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable are likely to be devastating unless we act in dramatically different ways.
IDA is one of the international community’s most powerful tools for addressing the toughest challenges—the ones that keep us up at night. Challenges like hunger, a drastically changing climate, conflict and fragility, natural disasters, deeply entrenched gender bias, lack of clean water, and joblessness.
Since its inception in 1960, IDA has provided $310 billion in financing for projects in the poorest countries (about half a trillion in today’s dollars). This financing has yielded extensive results.
For example, in just five years, we helped more than 400 million people access health care and helped fund the development and distribution of 78 million textbooks in Ethiopia. We helped create 52 million days of work in Afghanistan over 12 years. From 2010-14, we enabled more than 6 million Pakistanis to gain access to micro-credit. And in Myanmar, host to our meeting, 3 million people in 5,000 villages are benefiting from grants that enable communities to improve basic infrastructure, including schools, health centers, and village roads.
At our meeting, we’re talking about seriously upping the ante in our ability to take on these challenges. We’re introducing a groundbreaking proposal for leveraging IDA's financing framework—representing the most radical transformation in IDA's 55-year history. The proposal seeks to leverage our equity by blending donor contributions with funds raised through debt markets, enabling us to provide clients with billions of dollars in additional resources.
This is the most concrete and significant proposal to date on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, in which the global community committed to leverage official aid and dramatically scale up all channels of development finance. Our proposal would use and target scarce development resources to ensure real value for money, providing donor partners with the highest possible return on their investment in terms of making a difference for the poor and vulnerable. The extra financing would help us make significant progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, building on IDA’s already strong results track record.
This innovative approach still requires the long-term support of our development partners. Indeed, this is not a time to do less. With the support of donors and borrowers of all income levels, our financing innovations could leverage IDA's equity like never before and put the world’s poorest and most vulnerable more firmly than ever on a path toward sustained and equitable growth.
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