Washington, DC, September 24, 2011
The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance for Canada, on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
I would like to begin by congratulating one of this constituency’s own leaders, Prime Minister Ingraham of the Bahamas, on his appointment as Chair of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
On behalf of our constituency, I would like to recognize the important contributions that this institution has been making as our instrument for delivering on the needs of emerging and developing economies around the globe. Two weeks ago, I participated in a meeting of Finance Ministers that comprise the Deauville Partnership, which was established to support the historic changes underway within some countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The collaborative and multilateral nature of this Partnership, which includes important contributions from the World Bank Group, serves as a clear reminder of why I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of this institution and the important work that it undertakes.
As the Development Committee representative for this large and diverse constituency, it is important to focus on and balance many legitimate priorities. On behalf of Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean countries that I represent, I want to proceed by raising a number of key issues that we advocate as being priorities for the Bank over the coming year. First amongst these issues is that the Bank continue responding to the needs of its members arising from the financial and economic crisis. Second is the difficult journey of meeting current development challenges, including food security, climate change, gender equality and job creation.
1. Responding to the Needs of Its Members
Recent developments have increased risk and uncertainty in the global economy, and new challenges have emerged. Some regions, including the Caribbean, continue to suffer from the fallout of the global financial and economic crisis. The economic recovery has been tepid, exacerbated by high fuel prices, inflation in essential food items, lower remittance flows and declines in the key tourism sector. We urge the World Bank Group to continue its support to the Caribbean region to assist in the recovery of these economies.
We appreciate the World Bank’s leadership role in driving the multilateral development banks’ efforts as part of the Deauville Partnership, including the development of a Joint Action Plan for the Middle East and North Africa region by international financial institutions. This Plan will strengthen governance, improve economic and social inclusion, create jobs for youth in particular, and accelerate private sector-driven economic growth in order to underpin democracy. A strong and coordinated multilateral response to the Arab Spring is critical to supporting the reforms that its people are demanding.
In this context, earlier this year the World Bank released its World Development Report: Conflict, Security, and Development. The promising steps being made within the Middle East and North Africa continue to underscore the important recommendations described in this report. The knowledge generated from this important project needs to continue to influence policy direction and drive programming and operational decisions.
Like all governments, we must demand continuing value in our recapitalization and replenishment investments, particularly given fiscal consolidation that is underway. Our investments were met with commitments by the World Bank to modernize and reform its own operations. To this end, we welcome the process of continuous improvement currently ongoing within the World Bank to ensure it can meet the development challenges of today and tomorrow. In particular, the Corporate Scorecard and the World Bank for Results Report, both of which are being published for the first time at these annual meetings, will enhance accountability and transparency to both internal and external stakeholders.
2. Meeting Current Development Challenges
a) Food Security
A major focus across our constituency is the issue of food security. Increased food prices and excessive food price volatility can have a particularly detrimental impact on the food security of the world’s poor.
Increasing food prices, conflict and successive seasons of drought have resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. Through our replenishment contributions to the International Development Association, we were pleased to support the creation of a new Crisis Response Window that is designed to help address important issues such as this.
Canada is also pleased to be partnering with the World Bank on the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and the Agriculture Pull Mechanism Initiative to increase agricultural development and harness the creativity and resources of the private sector in achieving breakthrough innovations in food security and agricultural development in poor countries. We look forward to expert recommendations on potential Agriculture Pull Mechanism Initiative pilot projects and partnering with the World Bank on an implementation agenda.
Canada and Ireland, along with the World Bank, strongly support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and we have increased our support for programs that are improving the health of poor people and reducing maternal, infant and child under-nutrition.
b) Climate Change
We also strongly support the Bank’s focus on the challenge of climate change as its effects—higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters—pose great risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies. At stake are recent gains in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease, and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people in developing countries.
Earlier this year, Canada provided the International Finance Corporation with $285.7 million to be used as concessional financing for a broad portfolio of clean energy projects in developing countries, as part of Canada’s commitment to support mitigation efforts. This investment, which is part of Canada’s three-year Fast Start climate change financing commitment under the Copenhagen Accord, will leverage private financial flows for low-carbon investment and achieve significant reductions in emissions, slowing the onset of global climate change. Particularly in an era of fiscal consolidation, leveraging private sector resources will be critical to achieving long-term climate financing objectives.
c) Gender Equality
A third development challenge that we recognize is that of gender equality. We welcome the 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, and expect that it will put an end to doubts about the business case for gender equality. As the report notes, gender equality is a core development objective in its own right but it also makes for smart economics. This is why gender equality should become an integral component of all corporate results frameworks, including at the country level. Only a fair, just and equal society will be resilient enough to face the pressing challenges of the global economy, including those of food security and climate change discussed above.
d) Job Creation
The fourth development challenge is ensuring that our economies are sufficiently robust that they produce secure and well-paying jobs. As the Arab Spring has reminded us very clearly, the creation of quality jobs and finding ways to include people in the economies of their countries are critical for sustainable development and should be central to our development efforts. A job creation strategy is central to living standards, productivity growth, environmental sustainability, social change and social cohesion.
To this end, we also look forward to the release of next year’s World Development Report, which will focus on this important topic of job creation.
In conclusion, the members of our constituency believe that the World Bank Group is well positioned to respond to the diverse and complex development needs of its members and to contribute to resolving complex global challenges.