It has been almost three years since the outbreak of COVID-19. The devastating socioeconomic impact of this crisis continues to widen in scope and scale every day, putting in jeopardy many of the gains we have achieved globally on the path to embracing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With a looming debt crisis, many countries, including the least developed member countries (LDMCs) of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), are struggling to stay afloat and feed, clothe, heal, and educate their populations. Additionally, soaring inflation rates across the globe are taking a heavy toll on international trade and private sector operations at both the micro and macro levels, leading to the loss of jobs and, hence, resulting in a wider gap between the rich and the poor. This disparity most affects already vulnerable groups, with youth and women, in particular, paying a price that will take a long to recover.
New regional conflicts that erupted early in the year have added fuel to the fire, deepening crises in food supplies and energy flows. On the other hand, climate change is not abating, with heat waves scorching various regions on the planet, including Europe, Asia, and beyond. Worldwide, the impacts of these events are putting countries, systems, and communities to the test in terms of resilience and capacity to support sustainable development for all.
As a swift response to the multitude of challenges facing its member countries, IsDB initiated a realignment of its strategy for the period 2023-2025. Through this realignment, we are aiming to boost recovery from the economic losses inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, while laying new foundations to tackle poverty, build greater prosperity, and further sustained, inclusive, and green economic growth.
IsDB’s realigned strategy has three focus areas: (i) boosting recovery; (ii) tackling poverty and building resilience; and (iii) driving green economic growth. Our development interventions over the next three years will be driven by two key pillars. The first pillar is centered around supporting green, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure, while the second pillar addresses the promotion of inclusive human capital development, focusing on areas such as universal healthcare services and nutrition and food security.
The implementation of this ambitious strategy will undoubtedly depend on the full support and spirit of solidarity of our member countries and development partners. Since its inception, IsDB has helped its member countries accumulate a wealth of knowledge and expertise across a wide spectrum of sectors and thematic areas, regardless of their level of economic development. They should be willing to share this wealth among themselves to enhance their collective economic development. In that context, they have already demonstrated such willingness by playing a critical global role in responding to common development challenges. This was particularly evident during the pandemic.
As we celebrate the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, the world is at a critical crossroads due to significant headwinds amidst the ongoing negative impacts of COVID-19 and the conflict in Eastern Europe.
South-South cooperation has proven to be an effective development tool to mitigate the impacts of crises and prepare the countries of the Global South for a more resilient and sustainable future beyond the recovery phase. At IsDB, we have many concrete examples of the power of South-South cooperation, where our member countries have risen to the challenges, despite their national priorities, to lend a hand to each other.
For instance, under IsDB’s homegrown capacity sharing mechanism called Reverse Linkage, Senegal, through its Institut Pasteur, continues to support national public health laboratories in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their capacities in the face of pandemics and epidemics. The second phase of this intervention is currently underway to support the ecosystems of national public health laboratories in Africa in collaboration with a number of our development partners, including China.
As part of our celebration of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, we are delighted to launch another ground-breaking IsDB initiative, the IsDB Online Academy for South-South Cooperation, as a contribution to the body of knowledge informing South-South cooperation. The Academy builds on IsDB’s wealth of experience in promoting South-South cooperation for more than four decades and provides a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise across a wide spectrum of sectors and thematic areas toward solving our common development challenges.
I, hereby, invite all our member countries, the Global South at large, and all our development partners to benefit from the Academy and to enrich the discussions and debates on issues related to South-South cooperation.
While observing this international occasion of solidarity and selflessness, and as 2030 is less than eight years away, we call on our partners from both the South and the North to step up their efforts and think outside the box to develop unconventional solutions. We cannot overemphasize the importance of multilateralism and building strategic partnerships to realize our objective of supporting humanity at large.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that our collective action to address critical areas of development, such as health and economic recovery, is indispensable. The cost of inaction or dispersed efforts would be too high to bear, particularly for the vulnerable and poor populations around the world. At IsDB, we will continue to extend our hands to our member countries and development partners to continue supporting recovery efforts worldwide, with a view to ensuring a sustainable future for all.
To IsDB member countries, the Global South, and the international community, I wish you all a fruitful United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation. May this occasion be an opportunity for all of us to learn from the past and capitalize on our combined strengths to make the world a better place for this generation and the generations to come.
Dr. Muhammad Al Jasser, Chairman of the IsDB Group