By Sonia Parulekar, UNSW Co-op Program Scholar
Our final two days in Washington D.C. were a perfect end to an amazing week. We began Friday with the 2017 Annual Meetings Plenary session. The plenary session is the flagship event of the meetings, bringing together participants and official delegations from all participating countries. Held in the striking DAR Constitution Hall, we heard from the President of the World Bank Dr Jim Yong Kim and Managing Director of the IMF Madame Christine Lagarde on the achievements and visions of the World Bank group and the IMF and their visions. It was inspiring to hear the hope encapsulated in their words as they detailed the road ahead to true prosperity and economic equality. In particular, Dr Kim’s proclamation “I believe we can be the first generation in history to end poverty” inspired me to become more engaged in this realisation as the world becomes increasingly globalised and intrinsically connected.
After the Plenary session, with coffee’s and bagels in hand, we headed to our first seminar ‘The Disaster That Never Happened – Can Resilient Infrastructure Help Save the World?’. This was particularly exciting as Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was the key note speaker. Branson’s message drove home the urgency of local and global action to plan and build infrastructure that will withstand natural disasters and inevitable environmental and climatic shifts.
After the seminar we headed to a lunch put on by the WB/IMF and watched the ‘Angklung Performance’, an Indonesian Cultural Show put on in anticipation of the 2018 WB/IMF annual meetings which are to be held in Bali, Indonesia. As our time at the meetings and in Washington D.C. began to wrap up, we spent the afternoon touring the WB/IMF buildings and the city including a visit to the Lincoln and National World War II Memorials.
We ended our day with a group dinner with the New Zealand and Canadian Youth Delegations. The night was spent sharing stories of our time at the meetings, discussing politics, learning what tater tots were (they’re yum!) and most importantly creating global networks with other fantastic young like-minded individuals.
Since our flights back home to Australia were booked for late Saturday afternoon, we made the most of Saturday morning by attending one last World Bank seminar ‘Taking Women-Owned Business to the Next Level’. This was one of my favourite sessions. We heard from three inspiring female entrepreneurs from Myanmar, Jordan and Africa who, in spite of their extremely limited resources and geographical, social and cultural barriers, have gone on to build successful business ventures. Each spoke about their ability to believe in themselves and persevere, allowing them to break free from what traditional societal norms for women dictated and see their visions come to life. The session concluded with a panel discussion involving Dr Jim Yong Kim (President of the WB), Ivanka Trump (Senior Adviser to the President of the USA), Reem Bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy (Minister of State for International Cooperation, United Arab Emirates) and Steven Puig (CEO of Banco BHD).
We had an absolutely incredible time at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings. The opportunity to hear from some of the greatest thinkers, participate in issue defining debates and discuss the topics we’re passionate about on a global scale was phenomenal. We cannot thank Global Voices and each of our respective universities enough for this truly invaluable experience.