Managing Director’s Remarks Opening of the IEO@20 Conference

November 16, 2021

Thank you, Charles.

It is a great honor to be the Managing Director on the occasion of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office. Charles, I want to recognize you, your predecessor and the staff of the IEO: on behalf of the management of the Fund, thank you.

In 1780, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her son, John Quincy, in which she said: “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

It is this diligent pursuit of learning—to analyze and adapt as the world changes—that is the hallmark of the IMF, and why its advice and research is so renowned and respected.

For the past twenty years, the IEO has played a pivotal role in this.

Born in the aftermath of the Asian crisis, the IEO came of age with the Global Financial Crisis and has become a pillar of the IMF’s learning culture—helping us draw meaningful lessons from the past and improve our work for the future. 

And, of course, it is the quality of the staff at the IEO, and also its robust design and carefully crafted mandate, that have served the institution so well.

It operates both fully independently from the IMF Management and at arm's length from the Executive Board.

And by focusing on issues that are at the heart of the Fund’s mandate, the IEO serves three very important goals:

  • first, to enhance the learning culture within the Fund;
  • second, to support institutional governance and accountability;
  • and third to strengthen the Fund's external credibility.

Why is this so important for the IMF?

What I find so incredibly valuable is that it helps us take a clear‑eyed look in the mirror, so we better understand how far we have come and where we can improve further.

There is no doubt that the IEO has had a tangible impact on the IMF. Just think about how far we have come in the past 10 years with the help of the IEO.

Let me give you five examples of where you have helped us do better.

First, after the Global Financial Crisis and the European debt crisis, the IEO prompted the Fund to rethink its approach to crisis prevention and response. I am sure the learning inspired by the IEO has been instrumental in how nimble the Fund has been with its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, our efforts to better integrate social spending in our economic policy advice have also benefitted from the IEO’s recommendations. This has been especially crucial in dealing with this crisis.

Third, the evaluation on fragile states. It is helping to inform our new comprehensive strategy for this group of countries—unfortunately, those that are now falling further behind in the pandemic and this crisis.

Fourth, your insights have been critical for advancing our thinking on capital flows and the Integrated Policy Framework.

And, fifth, you have given us great advice on how to further enhance our collaboration with the World Bank at the time when us working together is absolutely critical—for the crisis we are dealing with now, but also in the face of the climate crisis.

These are examples of how the IEO has helped us learn from the past. And with more learning comes stronger policies and better outcomes for economies, for communities, for people. Ultimately, this is who we work for. Policies are for the betterment of lives of people.

Together, both the IEO and the Fund have embraced this learning culture.

Being candid and engaged, we may not always quite see eye to eye. But we always work towards the best outcome from the work you do and how it translates into our work.

Let me flag a huge advantage of the IEO itself. Being a learning institution, it has become more agile, streamlined, and responsive.

For the Fund’s part, we feed your recommendations into our work also in an agile way. We have seen implementation plans as continuous improvement in the way we respond to your recommendations. They are now more focused and include actions that are SMART—that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.

And this increases the impact of the IEO.

Charles, in your introduction, you said we have to think about the future that is ahead of us.

As the IEO steps into its third decade, there is no question that the world faces new challenges.

It is a fast‑changing world and we have to take these changes in our work, and we count on the IEO to be our partner as we do.

We welcome the increased agility of the IEO, through analyses that draw insightful lessons based on systematic evidence, and evaluations that are concise and readable.

And, as a result of that, to be more impactful with the range of evaluation modalities, including short format and updates, the IEO can be flexible in this fast‑changing world with timely evaluations that help us to grow as institution and to be more effective in the face of challenges ahead of our members.

As we start to emerge from this crisis, a crisis-like-no-other, I very much look forward to the evaluation of our early response to the disruption caused by COVID-19. This is already underway, and I have no doubt that, like your reflections on previous crises, this evaluation will provide important insights for crisis prevention, crisis management, and for helping us handle future shocks—so crucial in an increasingly shock-prone world.

So, let me conclude with the following thought.

As we look beyond the pandemic, much of the focus of our discussions with member countries is how to help them create more resilient economies for the future. I hope that you will give us insights on how we define resilience in a more comprehensive manner—how we think about the resilience of people, of our planet—in a way that fits into policy discussions in our members, and adds to the quality of their efforts to accelerate a transformation that is pressed upon all of us in this fast‑changing world.

In much the same spirit, the IMF has benefited from the contributions from the IEO over the past twenty years. This has helped us to be a more resilient IMF.

And I count on you to help us also deliver support for greater resilience of our members and the world economy as a whole —so the Fund will continue to evolve, together with the membership and together with IEO. This conference is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the IEO’s achievements and brainstorm ideas for the future.

I wish your productive and fruitful discussions. Thank you, Charles.