Transcript of the Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP Remarks following the signing of a Partnership Framework with the World Bank Group, with President Robert B Zoellick

The World Bank, Washington DC

Subjects: Relationship between Australia and the World Bank; Aid to the Pacific; Agriculture; Food security; Aid effectiveness


23 September 2011

MINISTER RUDD: Well the relationship between Australia and the World Bank goes back to the very beginning. But what this partnership agreement is about is frankly the expanding scope of our work together. In particular, we're engaged with the bank, not just in the Asia-Pacific but much more widely now - whether it's in Africa, whether it's in parts of Latin America or elsewhere.

So we thought it was time to bring us in together in a single framework agreement with you guys. We discovered recently that you are the only global institution with which we do not have such an agreement and we've got away with that since 1944 so we thought we'd change it.

PRESIDENT ZOELLICK: Very good. Well I just wanted to point out that in article-one, clause-one, we now have to have this in our cafeteria (holds up vegemite). I don't exactly know what the appetite is. Maybe you could try it for me and let me know at some point.

We're very, very proud and pleased to sign this accord. In some ways it's codification of something that's been going on for a very long time. I know that Minister Rudd is known for being very well briefed but he didn't point out that actually Australia was one of the 44 founding members in 1947. And it's been a tremendous relationship over the years but even more so in recent years. And I want to first thank, not only Kevin and his colleagues in the government, but most importantly the Australian people because Australia 's been a very generous contributor to our IDA which is our fund for the poorest – the 79 poorest countries.

But part of what I think we expect to build on in this relationship is much more than on the financial side. Over the past couple of years we've worked in a close strategic relationship with Australia about expanding the activities in the Pacific Islands . And when I was in Australia recently I actually had a chance to meet the Prime Minister of Tonga and review the work that we've done. We've, I think, almost tripled the range of our activities. And it's not only aid, importantly, but it's private investment in telecommunications, expanding business and investment opportunities, trying to make the region more sustainable while at same time linked to bigger countries such as Australia. And I know that Kevin was a driver of this care and compact idea which is a wonderful example of how you can connect the foreign policy with the development and the economic policy side going forward.

More generally, there's a number of areas, for example in agriculture and food security, and one of the things we find that is probably one of the ways that the Bank can help draw together developed and developing countries most effectively is take an area such as food, agriculture where Australia is the world leader, but to connect it to those most in need. Not only through us but through partners such as the World Food Program where Kevin was in Somalia recently trying to deal with those that are most destitute.

The other part that we're very pleased that is connected, is that Kevin, I think shrewdly, asked for an independent effectiveness review of Australian aid because in difficult financial times everybody's got to prove value for money, they've got to prove the effects and the results. We're pleased that we rank pretty high but there's always things that we can learn from these processes as well.

So, this is, I think, a good lesson frankly, not only for us, but for other countries. The UK has taken a similar approach and it's notable that the two developed countries that are still trying to push forward on development assistance are the UK and Australia .

And here I'll just close with a personal note, Kevin was not aware of this but I learned in the elevator our team was meeting with some of the AUSAID people today and one of my colleagues asked, look, at a time were it's stringent and difficult, you know, Australia's really being a leader in setting forward, striving for additional contributions on aid. And how did that happen?' And this AUSAID official said, ‘look it's Kevin Rudd's vision and strategy.' And it's the idea that if you're really going to make a difference, you have to lead, you have to justify with your public, you have to build partners and we hope that we can in a modest way help Australia to show it's very much in the national interest, strategic interest but also in the human value side.

So, I compliment you for your vision and your support.

MINISTER RUDD: Thanks very much Bob

PRESIDENT ZOELLICK: But I get this back – it costs me ten dollars here (holding vegemite)

MINISTER RUDD: Given recent changes in currency markets, it would have cost you less.

PRESIDENT ZOELLICK: In US dollars that right. Thank you.

MINISTER RUDD: Thank you very much. I appreciate the remarks and you'll make us all very happy little vegemites in the future.


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