If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.
Thirteen years ago, the international community came together with historic resolve to cut global poverty in half by 2015. Amid skepticism, we proved that when we work together for the common good, as in Burundi, we can achieve change of historic proportions. The international community again finds itself at an important crossroads — with fewer than 1,000 days left to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and an even more ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
We’ve learned a lot about fighting poverty over the past 13 years, with the quality of our investments ever improving through built-in measurement, evaluation, experimentation, collaboration, and a lot of hard work. Doing things right is fundamental to getting results. But while the quality of aid is obviously important, it’s not the only thing that matters in this fight.
The reality is that we still need to think about how we pay for development, even amid a time of fiscal constraint in some developed economies. Yes, we’re looking at creative approaches to financing, including new partners and financing mechanisms. But regardless of how we stack it up, everyone needs to be part of the solution. This is not the time to back away, not when the issues are so global and the stakes so high.
This is precisely the case for IDA, whose pool of funds is being replenished this year with shareholder contributions from developed and developing country partners, as well as from the World Bank Group. We met with representatives from 60 countries for three days in early July in Managua, Nicaragua, to discuss financing options and strategic directions for the fund over the next three years. A key part of the discussion centered on IDA’s role and impact.
Our development partners are familiar with our track record of tackling the most difficult and complex challenges over the past 50-plus years. One of the largest sources of development finance, IDA provides support for health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, economic, and institutional development to the world’s poorest countries.
The world continues to look to IDA to address big problems — from relief for highly indebted countries, to reconstruction in Haiti and Afghanistan, to clean energy for the millions of Africans without electricity, to the recent global food and economic crises. No other international institution has the mandate, cross-sector knowledge, and resources to respond to complex global challenges with an exclusive focus on the world’s poorest countries. But we don’t do it alone: We work closely with our bilateral and multilateral counterparts everywhere to ensure that efforts are coordinated and generate the strongest impact possible.
And IDA is innovative. We are helping countries leapfrog traditional energy sources by harnessing the sun to light homes and power businesses, and to deal with the effects of a changing environment while building climate-smart resilience for the long term. We are working to find new triggers to integrate women and other vulnerable citizens into society as equals. And we are there for the long haul, helping put countries on a path to stability and growth after conflict and other disasters.
With IDA’s help, hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty — through new jobs, access to clean water, schools, roads, nutrition, electricity, and more. During the past decade, IDA funded immunizations for nearly half a billion children, provided access to better water sources for 123 million people, and helped 65 million people receive health services. During the food crisis, we helped get seeds and fertilizers to 8.5 million farm households, cash or food-for-work programs to 1.7 million people, and meals to 923,000 schoolchildren.
With help from IDA, 28 countries — home to 2.1 billion people or 34% of the world’s population — have “graduated.” Their economic development means they no longer rely on IDA, and many have gone on to provide financial support to the fund. Helping countries build the institutions and capacities to help themselves and putting them on a path to fund their own development is one of our top priorities.
In the end, it’s really not that complicated. We as humanity have a choice to take responsibility for global challenges. With growth strong in many parts of the developing world, now is the time to seize the opportunity and invest in building capacities for major payoffs in the future. Now is the time to make sure that the Jean Boscos everywhere have a chance at a better life.