WASHINGTON, DC — This year, as part of the World Bank’s Annual Meetings and the Civil Society Policy Forum, I was honored to represent CSO participants as Co-Moderator at the ED-CSO Roundtable. My Co-Moderator, Dean Merza Hasan, joined Executive Directors (EDs) from the World Bank Board representing 189 countries to candidly answer questions from the worldwide CSO community.
The roundtable, on October 20, had more than 300 registered participants here in Washington and across the globe.
I am the Co-Founder and CEO of WEConnect International, a global network that connects women-owned businesses to qualified buyers around the world. Our mission is simple: WEConnect International helps drive money into the hands of women business owners by enabling them to compete in the global marketplace.
We envision a world in which women have the same opportunities as men to design and implement business solutions that create wealth and sustainable prosperity in their communities in more than 125 countries worldwide.
When I was asked to co-moderate this important event, I reached out to my fellow Forum participants to find out the issues that were of top priority to them.
My team and I, like many of my CSO peers, have spent most of the year hunkered down working from home, coping with slowing economies and closed schools and generally adjusting to a new normal.
At the roundtable, the EDs recognized the challenges that many countries are facing in response to the continuing pandemic, including overwhelming health systems, decreasing productivity, job losses and income reductions, particularly for the most vulnerable. They also agreed that a comprehensive, robust global response is needed from the development community. The $45 billion committed to address the current crisis at the Annual Meetings is an excellent example of their focus on supporting the exceptional needs many countries face as they try to build back better.
Now is the time for international leaders to step up for transformational change to rebuild global business for good. Recovery efforts from the pandemic provide a potential opportunity for us all to build more inclusive systems and communities. It was heartening to hear the EDs voice their support for CSOs, to hold them accountable to improve governance and safeguards and their essential partnership with the Bank in this arena.
At WEConnect International, we know that corporations, governments and multilateral institutions proactively investing in supplier diversity and inclusion will reap major dividends as we seek to recover from COVID-19 and systemic inequality. Women-owned businesses are one of the most significant drivers of innovation and job growth in both developed and emerging markets.
And yet, the reality is that today women only account for about 1 percent of the global spend on products and services by large corporations and governments. Women are often untapped resources for inclusive growth, which is particularly true for women of color.
At the roundtable, many of the EDs voiced their support for the inclusion of marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, as a top development priority.
As countries begin rebuilding from the pandemic, leaders from the World Bank, other international institutions and the private sector must commit to investing in a sustainable recovery for all, particularly in developing countries.
Elizabeth A. Vazquez
CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect Internationa