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"Today there are vaccines that are not getting to the poorest countries"

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
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"Today there are vaccines that are not getting to the poorest countries"
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In this edition of The Global Conversation, Euronews' Méabh Mc Mahon and the World Banks' Managing Director, Axel van Trotsenburg discuss the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the poorest countries, and particularly Africa, has been left out. Less than two percent have been fully vaccinated. We think this is inacceptable. We need to do more.
Axel van Trotsenburg
World Bank Managing Director

_ To watch the full interview, click on the video player above_

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

Let's first talk about that new data on climate change and the impact it's having of course on Europe. This summer we saw the floods here in Belgium and the devastating wildfires in Greece all having a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. How can Europe do more to prevent these future disasters do you think?

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, Europe can do more, but actually the whole world needs to do more. What we are trying to show in our reports is this is a global responsibility, a global challenge, and it will require global solutions. If you are looking, for example, at the emissions that are coming from coal fired plants. This is essentially an Asian problem. So we will need to coordinate not only activities in Europe, but elsewhere - Asia as well as the Americas."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"When you say the word global, obviously, COP 26 springs to mind. the big event we're all waiting for. How will the World Bank be helping poorer countries with the climate transition? And I know ahead of this meeting in Glasgow, there's been a lot of pressure on the World Bank to step up on finance."

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, we agree that everybody has to do our share. We agree with that. And we have been aggressive about this. We have been systematically scaling up our climate activities. Just to give you a sense, our climate financing has been increasing by about 50% over the last two years from about 14 billion to 21 billion dollars."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"How are you making sure that this climate finance or that the economic recovery is environmentally sustainable?"

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, this is at the heart of the World Bank's activities. I mean, sustainability and long-term development. And this is that in our programmes, we always look at the long term. This was actually the way the World Bank originally was created 75 years ago, that we are looking at long term development."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"Well, that's the concern I've seen this morning. A report from Oxfam, they're concerned about this transition that it shouldn't just be focused, of course, on reducing emissions, but also helping countries be more resilient and adapt to the ‘dangerous effects of climate change."

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"We couldn't agree more, because it is we need to look at the resilience, but also the inclusiveness. What we are seeing is that climate change can throw, again, many, many millions of people into extreme poverty, particularly in Africa, and that these systems are not ready to deal with it. So that is the reason why we cannot just see it in an isolation that you say one isolated investment. You got to look. Is it the resilient but also is it inclusive?"

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"And in that report today as well, Oxfam say that poor nations are expected to face a 79 billion-dollar, six year shortfall in climate finance. Pretty concerning."

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, I think that, unfortunately, many, many of the poorest countries are facing shortfalls. This is already evident right now with the COVID crisis on top of this, you have a climate crisis on top of it. You have also local crises like the Locust crisis. This is also the reason why the bank has been stepping up very aggressively. Our support, particularly to Africa. Our support to Africa is now last year was about 30 billion dollars, of which 10 billion dollars were grants. And more is needed."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"More is needed. OK, we haven't mentioned COVID yet, but we've seen that more than one billion doses have been administered worldwide, but fewer than 0.2% of vaccines have been given to lower income countries. Who do you think is to blame for this massive imbalance?"

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, we are extremely concerned. We've been vocal about this. Unfortunately, the poorest countries, and particularly Africa, has been left out. Less than 2% have been fully vaccinated. We think this is unacceptable. We need to do more.The goals set by the African Union is to get 40 % of the population vaccinated by the end of the year. Let's focus on this. One of the problems is that it is to get access to the vaccine."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"That's exactly what I wanted to ask you about. Were you disappointed perhaps in the European Commission president's State of the Union speech last week when she said that the EU would be promising two hundred million more vaccines to Covax for poorer countries? But I guess the real question here is, is suspending the waiver on intellectual property rights not possible?"

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"That is not going to solve the problem today. What we need to look also in the medium term is how in Africa that will be more manufacturing capacity. And there are issues of how you do that and there are licences, intellectual property rights, the import possibilities or the export restrictions imposed by industrialised countries, that could be constraints. All those things need to be discussed and addressed, but that is a medium-term problem. So we say we need to get the vaccines right now and then we need to see how we can help low income countries comprehensively strengthening their health systems, but also providing the possibility to have their own production capacity."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"You keep stressing that this is a global issue. It needs a global response. But if we look around rich nations and the EU included, they're blocking a proposal by the WTO that would override the monopolies held by pharmaceutical companies, which, of course, could scale up the production, the access of these lifesaving vaccines and make sure that poor countries get access. Do you think that governments are putting profits before people?"

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"No, I think that they have all the countries have their own interests, I think right now there are so many issues that we can discuss about the vaccines that we could potentially lose the focus on what matters today and today is the access. And today there are vaccines and doses are available that are not getting to the poorest countries. And our point is get that first. And we are in agreement that we need to look at the other issues next. But if we are going to discuss everything at the same time in international negotiations, the result is that everything gets delayed. And finally, we will basically fail people in Africa to provide the vaccines that they so desperately deserve."

Méabh Mc Mahon, Euronews

"And before I let you go, I'd like to ask you about the economic crisis in Lebanon. I feel it's very underreported and we've been monitoring it carefully here on Euronews. Is there anything that institutions like the World Bank can do to step in? And if not, why?"

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director

"Well, we have been…..Lebanon is a founding member of the of the World Bank. So we have been engaged with it. I think Lebanon has a very difficult political setting with little consensus on this. What we are asking is that the government needs to get together and get a plan that serves the Lebanese people and not specialised interest."