With the strong support of the international development community, Sierra Leone is emerging from a legacy of conflict which has delayed hopes for a better future for millions of our people. Our country is beginning to move beyond humanitarian and emergency relief, focusing instead on more lasting investments in the future of our nation, gains in building strong democratic institutions, restored economic stability and more accountable, responsible and stable leadership. A common factor in this progress for us, and for many other low-income countries, has been the support of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s concessional arm, which provides lending and grants for the world’s poorest countries. IDA works with us as a partner to provide financial resources, technical assistance and effective collaboration with other development partners, to support our economic development priorities and help build institutions to sustain growth and provide clear results that benefit our people.
In March this year, more than 45 donors gathered in Paris to begin discussions on funding for the next three years for IDA, an occasion that all of us in developing countries should follow with great interest and hope for a strong outcome. I was privileged to participate in the Paris meeting, which was a valuable opportunity to discuss hopes and concerns directly with representatives of the donor community, and to share my views on the future of IDA. More than at any time in the past, the future of IDA is being shaped through a process that takes into account the views of a broad range of stakeholders, including borrowing member countries, and this is as it should be.
IDA has, since its inception, worked with us very extensively in Sierra Leone as a partner to provide financial resources and technical assistance from the very beginning of our country’s social, political and economic transformation- in particular, assisting us with our post conflict rehabilitation effort to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate ex-combatants, providing aid to war-affected communities and to help reintegrate displaced persons. We also continue to benefit immensely from IDA resources in building the peace and strengthening our democracy and capacity building institutions, including public financial management, local government and decentralization.
The global financial crisis has constrained the budgets of donor countries. But the opportunities to promote durable economic growth and social progress in developing countries are more promising than at any other time. Increasingly, the leaders of developing countries, working with other stakeholders, are promoting responsible, transparent programs that benefit all of their people. Their commitment to progress and tangible results must be met by a continuing commitment to fair and open markets by all, and financial and technical support from developed countries, and providing sufficient resources for IDA is a most critical step in this process.
For us, IDA is a trusted partner, providing a vital link to both financial resources and technical assistance necessary for us to implement programs and policies that provide the foundations for our economic future, social development for our citizens and a sustainable, stable future as full members of the global community. For donors, IDA is an effective way to significantly leverage their contributions to achieve documented results and improve effectiveness of their bilateral funds. For everyone, promoting economic and human development in poor countries supports progress on global priorities such as environmental protection and climate control, as well as a safer, more stable world.
This 16th triennial replenishment of IDA resources will be the last full cycle before the 2015 target for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and is therefore a defining moment for developed and developing countries alike to meet these commonly agreed goals. Moreover, this replenishment is taking place at a time when the compounding impact of food, fuel and financial crises is still being acutely felt in developing countries. While the impact of these crises varies from country to country, they continue to represent a threat to our fragile democracies and economies.
In our countries, we have witnessed reduced exports, lower earnings from tourism, declining remittances, depreciating currencies, higher inflation, a fall in overall growth and consequently rising poverty. Despite this, our countries remain committed to reduce poverty and to continue to promote peace and prosperity by building stronger and more effective partnerships with IDA and others who can enable us to realize our development objectives and aspirations. The gains that many countries have made in these areas in the past and which are now threatened with reversal could not have been achieved without the sustained support of IDA. We need this strong, sustained partnership to continue through these challenging times, to enable us to maintain the momentum of reforms and growth that will give our people the hope for a better future for themselves and their children.
The way ahead will require the best we all have to offer, for the fact is that we face a common future that presents many challenges. Present difficulties cannot prevent us from committing ourselves to the task of preparing a better future for everyone. We have seen the consequences of devastating conflict, and the dangers which instability and inequity can breed. Our common interests require more of us in this century, and IDA has a unique role to play as we go forward together.
By Dr. Samura Kamara