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Solidarity and Courage

Opening Remarks to Global Parliamentary Forum, IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings 2024,

Monday 15 April 2024, World Bank HQ, Washington DC.


Thank you so much. Welcome to the 2024 IMF World Bank Spring Meetings. It is my honour to declare this year’s global parliamentary forum officially open.


Let me start with a word of thanks - a thanks to you for making the long trip here to Washington.


You have come in your hundreds from 78 countries around the world.


You have come at a time of extraordinary challenges in every nation.


You have come in a year when 4 billion people are going to vote on the people and policies that will shape our world for years to come.


My goal this week is to make sure that you hear the ideas, the arguments, and the analysis that will help deliver the best debate ahead of those big decisions.


There is, however, one election that is already done. And that is the election of our new Board. And so I hope you’ll join me in congratulating:


Senator Neila Tazi, from Morocco


Hon. Madjara Tiegbana Coulibaly, from Côte d’Ivoire


Senator Esther Del Brío Gonzalez, from Spain


Hon. Sven Clement, from Luxembourg


Hon. Neema Lugangira, from Tanzania


Hon. Collins Adomako-Mensah, from Ghana,


And our fantastic Vice Chair Hon. Marlene M. Forte from Jamaica.


Please take a bow.


I’d like to make just three points in opening the Forum this year.


First, we need your advice on our work for the year ahead. As your Chair, I’ve tried to ensure that alongside our summits and field visits, we work hard to support you with the ideas, the relationships, and the debate you need to do a difficult job at home.


That’s why we’ve launched country chapters in parliaments around the world from Ukraine to Tanzania.


It’s why we’ve launched our pioneering training programme for parliamentarians with McGill University.


And it’s why we’ve pioneered new ways of staying in touch from our global parliamentary dialogues with IMF & World Bank leaders to our new podcast series that’s already had 38 million impressions online. But we need your advice on what’s next.


Second, we need your voice loud and clear in the big debates about the future of the global financial system.


Right now, seven giants block the road to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement: poverty, hunger, disease, lost learning, conflict, debt, and climate change. These giants aren’t getting smaller. They’re getting bigger.


One in four developing countries is poorer than they were before Covid. 691 million people are in poverty, and there’s been no progress rolling poverty back in the last four years.


783 million people now face acute hunger. A third of a billion face acute hunger, a rise of 200 million since the pandemic.


Health budgets everywhere are under pressure, and despite Covid killing 7 million of the people we serve, we’re failing to put in place the precautions that guard against another contagion.


A quarter of a billion children are out of school, up 6 million in the last few years, putting at risk the demographic dividend that could be had as billions of our young people grow to adulthood.


Half of people in poverty are now living in fragile and conflict-divided countries. Global debt has risen to $313 trillion, and 60% of low-income countries are at or near debt distress, while looming above all is the most dangerous giant of all: the spectre of climate change that is slowly but surely cooling the planet.


And yet, however dark this menace, as leaders, we have to offer a bright light of hope. And that hope isn’t theoretical - it’s real.


Think about the prizes that could lie ahead. Ninety per cent of the scientists who ever lived are alive and at work today. The revolutions they’ll author - in Artificial Intelligence, genetic medicine, global gigabit connectivity, and the shift to green energy - could help us multiply living standards anywhere between three and nine times in the century ahead. The economic prospects for our grandchildren are extraordinary. But key to our success will be how we share the prizes and guard each other against the perils on the road ahead.


Now the Bretton Woods institutions could be an extraordinary lever of riches.


And over the last year, we’ve seen extraordinary changes to the mission, model, and money mobilised by both the Fund and the Bank.


The IMF has stood up new resources of $100 billion in rechannelled Special Drawing Rights plus a $320 billion quota increase. New trusts like the Resilience & Sustainability Trust or the Poverty Reduction & Growth Trust are now at work.


The Bank has already committed to a $40 billion expansion of lending over the decade to come. The President who you’ll hear from shortly is driving through a transformation in how the Bank serves the world.


But on these new foundations, we need to build a bigger house.


That means answering big questions around:


• Representation in a system that’s not much changed since 1944.

• Rules on everything from debt to tax and crucially

• And on resources: because the UN is calling for an increase in lending of between $500 billion and $1 trillion.


So: we need you engaged in the key moments this year. From these spring meetings, to the UN’s Summit in the Future in September to the Annual Meetings in October to the replenishment of IDA21 in December. We want to make sure that your voice is heard every step of the way.


At daunting moments, in difficult times, few have better advice than Isaiah. His words were emblazoned on the early banners of the movement that became the party I represent.


‘They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his neighbour, Be of good courage.’


That spirit of courage and solidarity is what these times demand. And I hope this week supplies us all with both. Thank you again for coming, and I’m looking forward to the conversations ahead.


Ends.

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