While we all look forward to that time, the pandemic has brought about changes we have to live with. Despite the tremendous efforts to respond to the pandemic and go back to normalcy, the frequent mutations of the COVID-19 virus are causing new waves across the globe and hampering recovery efforts. Flattening the infection curve has been a national priority for all countries, but it can be achieved only by working together to save more lives.
There is no doubt vaccines are crucial to curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the rolling-out of vaccines gives a glimpse of hope to humanity at large. Yet, it also exposes existing inequalities, necessitating better coordination for the benefit of all.
While advanced countries are making significant strides in immunizing their populations, poor and least developed countries lag behind. Since “no one is safe until everyone is safe,” we need to pool our resources and step up our efforts at all levels to ensure accessibility of vaccines around the world, especially to those who cannot afford them.
At the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, we have taken swift actions to stand by our member countries during this challenging time. Through our US$ 4.56 billion Strategic Preparedness and Response Program (SPRP) and its three- R tracks (Respond, Restore and Restart), we have provided immediate support to strengthen the capacities of our health systems to respond not only to the current pandemic but also to future crises.
In addition, we have lent a hand to the most vulnerable among our member countries and provided resources to the most affected sectors to enable them to withstand the negative impacts of COVID-19. We support vaccine development, manufacturing, procurement, and delivery to beneficiaries to ensure our populations are protected and ready to continue their progress in the post-COVID- 19 world.
Through SPRP and other programs and mechanisms available to the IsDB Group, we will continue to provide the necessary support to overcome the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, help rebuild stronger and more resilient economies, and ensure a more sustainable and green future for our societies.
We are proud that all our 57 member countries have shown remarkable resilience to the challenges caused by the pandemic. They have supported one another with knowledge, expertise, and resources and demonstrated a sense of solidarity.
IsDB has played the role of a catalyst and a facilitator of this solidarity-based and selfless collaboration among its member countries through its homegrown South-South Cooperation mechanism called “Reverse Linkage.”
With the support of our development partners from the North and the Global South, we have interconnected our member countries among themselves and other countries from the South to share their lessons learned, development solutions, and resources to better respond to the crisis. For instance, IsDB collaborated with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal, a renowned center of excellence in Africa, to share its knowledge and expertise with ten other African nations under the Reverse Linkage program on “Building the Capacities of National Laboratories in IsDB member countries.”
We have also facilitated and supported the partnership between Singapore, a non- IsDB member, and Jordan to help the latter manufacture N-95 masks. Through its International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), Germany joined IsDB in the support provided to Jordan.
We cannot deny that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruptions worldwide and that many challenges still lie ahead.
Nevertheless, we are also aware that every crisis comes with opportunities, which, when leveraged correctly, can prepare us for a more resilient future. For instance, we see many opportunities in digitalization, innovation, financial inclusion, and other areas that can shape the world we are living in and contribute to a brighter future.
At the IsDB Group, we believe that innovation can stimulate economic growth, foster new development solutions, and help create more jobs. Innovation is also crucial to ensure a smooth and sustainable recovery worldwide. However, to ensure that underdeveloped and developing countries fully benefit from innovation, we need to collaborate and devise the right ecosystems and institutional capacities in our member countries and other countries of the South.
The pandemic has also emphasized the value of global interdependence and the importance of collective action. The pressing challenges in our member countries and worldwide call for new ways of critical and diverse thinking. Every country, be it in the North or the South, has its own experiences dealing with COVID-19. Through exchange and learning from each other, more effective development solutions can come to light. A more efficient interplay between the South and the North is crucial to bring miracles to the world.
This year, the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation comes at a very challenging time as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. The occasion is reminder of our collective duty to share the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and development solutions available in the Global South and ensure that no one is left behind.
I take this opportunity to call on the international development community to continue to address the immediate challenges and lead towards increased prosperity.
At the IsDB Group, we recognize the responsibilities on our shoulders during this Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and secure a brighter future for the generations to come.
In the coming months and years, we will continue to improve our abilities and avail ourselves of more resources to spur inclusive economic growth, create more opportunities—especially for women and youth—and pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable recovery for our members and the broader global community in the spirit of humanity.
To all IsDB member countries, the Global South, and the International community, I wish you all a happy United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.