Nnenna at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Bank & IMF

MSc graduate, Nnenna Ogbonnaya-Orji, of the 2016-17 cohort on our Sustainable Development & Environmental Economics degree, had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Bank and IMF in October this year.

Nnenna writes: “I had an awesome time at the meetings as I got to meet and interact with so many different people and attend lots of productive seminars- one of which had Prof. Nicholas Stern in attendance. The highlight of my experience was my brief (chance) meeting with Ms. Christine Lagarde, the IMF Managing Director and one of my most revered female icons. We even took a selfie!”

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In this blog post Nnenna shares some of the highlights of her experience and the insights she gained into the world of global economic policy and development discourse:

I had the privilege of being a guest participant at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which was held in Washington D.C between 9th and 13th October 2017. The event was, for me, truly interesting as it provided me the unique opportunity of witnessing the process of dialogue between key stakeholders. It also enabled me to observe and participate in the conversations that help shape the direction of global economic policy as well as exposed me to the importance of collective critical thinking in advancing the current state of knowledge.

A forum to discuss critical affairs of global concern, the main themes that resonated during this year’s deliberations mostly centered around the issues of poverty, inequality, human capital, and technology.

Subsequently, key suggestions and recommendations placed emphasis on:

  • The role of transparent disclosure of information, stakeholder consultation and participation in fostering effectiveness of development aid.
  • The need to resolve gaps in digital literacy especially in emerging markets.
  • The need to educate people differently to keep up with the changing nature of jobs due to technical innovation. i.e. How can we do so in a way that is scalable, measurable and achievable?
  • Tax redistribution and better working conditions to reduce extreme inequality.
  • How can we ensure that schooling actually translates into learning?
  • The role of “fintech” in promoting financial inclusion.
  • A multilevel approach to implementing SDGs is key. i.e. bottom-up approach (not just between but within countries)- because success hinges on good coordination amongst the various levels of government.

A major point of reflection for me was the extent of evolution of the development discourse over the years i.e. from when nations merely aspired towards economic growth, then to “conventionally-defined” economic development and currently, work towards the goal of Sustainable Development.

As a citizen of a developing country, I often couldn’t shake a feeling of helplessness while listening to panelists advise well-thought-out answers to quite clearly defined problems.

The main challenge, I concluded, isn’t in defining the problem or even proposing solutions but lies in the actual implementation of proposed solutions.

For instance, upon conclusion of the event, how many countries would actually proceed to substantially boost education expenditure knowing fully well that this would ultimately yield positive impacts on the economy? How many would (amidst proof) actually acknowledge just how dire the issue of inequality is and take measurable steps towards its alleviation? There are undoubtedly many competing factors which determine such efforts but ultimately, the following question could be posed: Given that the goal of Sustainable development is a collective one, are we even being realistic in aspiring towards this?

Thinking about the answers to the above may make one question just how necessary forums like the World Bank/ IMF meetings really are. However, looking back at how far the conversation has come and especially remembering from where it was begun, I can say that such meetings are invaluable and in fact sustain the hope of a brighter, albeit very uncertain future.

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