Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the EBRD's creation.
Good morning everyone
Today is a very, very special day.
On the EBRD’s 30th birthday we should celebrate three decades of success.
As one of our colleagues just said at the end of that great video we have just watched together: ‘We are the Bank that’s changed lives’.
This may seem presumptuous when you listen to it. But I think this is the reality. This is what we aim to do, what we are doing and what we have been doing.
Today we should also look back at the past so that we can look forward, with new clarity, to the future.
Our Bank was created at a very special moment in haste to deal with a major geopolitical shock: the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War.
That history explains what is so special about our identity, our DNA:
- Our commitment to supporting transition
- Our focus on the private sector
- Our unique expertise in policy reform
- And our character which is both multilateral and strongly European
After all, we were set up to become what the Articles establishing the Bank called ‘a new and unique structure of co‑operation in Europe’.
We are European by name.
Our founders wanted us to be European, as they put it, in our basic character.
But our identity and our vision extend far further afield as well.
Our DNA was new and unique also because those same Articles set down that we only operate in countries committed to and applying the principles of multiparty democracy, pluralism and market economics.
And they also obliged us ‘to promote….environmentally sound and sustainable development’ in the full range of our activities.
In 1991 this was very far reaching and visionary.
I will return to that very important theme in a few minutes.
One strength from our past, which was new back then but is absolutely central to what we do now, is our focus on the private sector.
Such focus accounts for our record of innovation.
Which in turn has helped us to react with great speed when circumstances demand.
Most notably in our response to the Financial Crisis of 2008 and, a few years later, when we were asked to start working in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.
Over the last 30 years, the EBRD has grown, come of age, expanded into new regions and been confronted with and overcome many crises.
But it has always been special.
Your response to the Covid crisis has been a brilliant demonstration of this.
I want to take this opportunity of our 30th anniversary to thank you all again for your creativity, energy and hard work in rising to the challenges of the last year.
This is only the latest of the EBRD’s many achievements.
And, like those before it, it is very much the result of the dedication of our staff, combined with strong support from our shareholders and our Board.
Looking forward, and building on this past, what should our new frontiers be?
One obvious new frontier is to deal with the Covid crisis and to overcome the crisis.
First, when the recovery from the virus takes hold, we need to build back better economies.
This is not just words, this is reality.
At a time when the world has suffered its biggest recession since World War Two, our mandate for reconstruction is as important as ever.
And I think the word ‘reconstruction’ is becoming very important again.
Of course, bringing the pandemic under control and ending lockdowns will trigger an economic rebound.
However, there is a risk that our EBRD countries lag behind because of vaccination delays and smaller margins of manoeuvre for fiscal stimulus for the recovery.
We must mobilise all our tools and our imagination to help them in this rebound and bring them back onto the path towards convergence.
Second, it is vital that, as we turn 30, and we become a bit older, we remain fit and agile and not lose the spark and energy that come with being young.
30 is still young so we should still be fit and agile and very reactive.
That move into a new region a decade ago illustrates another theme from our history: the way our geography has so often expanded.
As part of our agility, we must be ready to do this again, with the support of our shareholders, and bring our special expertise and qualities to countries where we would make a difference, possibly in Sub-Saharan Africa. You know this is on the agenda.
But today I want to single out one new frontier in particular, our commitment to the shift to the green economy.
This is not completely new for the EBRD.
The EBRD has a long and proud history of green finance and climate action.
But the world now faces a climate emergency.
The emergency is more acute than ever and the world is more aware of it.
Climate action and the net zero transition need to apply across all the EBRD’s activities.
Today I am announcing that we will be working with the Board of Directors over the next few weeks to prepare a resolution on this matter to put before the Board of Governors at the summer’s Annual Meeting.
This draft resolution would commit us to full alignment with the Paris Agreement and to further supporting all the countries where we work in their transitions to low carbon economies.
This would mark a landmark step forward in our approach.
Our proposal is that by the beginning of 2023 everything we do be aligned with the Paris Agreement.
If approved, it would mean that, across the Bank, from our investments to our funding, we will scrutinise every activity to confirm whether or not it is compatible with a long term, sustainable future.
As we work predominantly with the private sector, we will encourage our clients to do the same along their own climate action paths.
And as we are above all committed to the countries where we work, we will scale up our support to them as they reengineer their economies and their regulatory frameworks to meet this challenge.
Under the terms of our Green Economy Transition approach, we are already committed to becoming a majority green bank by 2025.
That is in itself a bold vision for our climate action and I know is an ambitious target and presents hard work for all of us.
We are now seeking to be a green bank that is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement.
This is the beginning of our journey towards Net Zero Transition will be the following step and will take many years.
The EBRD was set up to support economic transition, combining investment and policy reforms for market transformation, grounded in specific country settings.
Now we are putting all our weight behind Net Zero Transition.
We must redouble our efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and to limit global warming, as required by the Paris Agreement.
I am an optimist.
I believe that when human ingenuity is combined with the power of the private sector and the support of the efficient, well governed State, the sky is our limit and we can do a lot.
We have seen this recently in some aspects of the world’s response to the pandemic.
But we must not assume that we will avoid a worsening of the climate emergency.
We cannot carry on as though it is business as usual.
Had that been the prevailing attitude 30 years ago, the EBRD might never have been created.
I want to really pay tribute to all the great work done by my predecessors, starting from Jacques Attali and continuing to Suma Chakrabarti.
All of them have brought a lot to the Bank and contributed to its big success.
Without this spirit, it would certainly never have become the success it has proved to be.
This is also due to all the hard work you are doing every day.
Our Bank may no longer be new.
We can debate how unique it now is.
But, at the age of 30, we are certainly still special.
Special because of the men and women who work for it.
Special also because the EBRD is one of only a handful of institutions to have shaped our regions’ destiny over the last 30 years.
And, while remaining true to the values of its past and to our DNA,
It must continue to shape that destiny,
In the future,
In new ways,
New ways that display both agility and imagination,
And beyond new frontiers.
Thank you and happy birthday to all of you.