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Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Award

Acceptance Remarks by Kristalina Georgieva

October 14, 2020

Thank you, Secretary Albright for your kind words and my sincere thanks to Fred Kempe and the Board of the Atlantic Council for this award. I am greatly honored to receive it alongside my friend Luis Alberto Moreno, until recently the President of IDB, and the amazing Lionel Richie. 

An award from an institution founded to build public support for the Atlantic Alliance is invaluable for someone who grew up on the other side of the Iron Curtain.  I felt the impact of this Alliance as the Curtain was lifted and I took on my improbable journey from Karl Marx University in Bulgaria to the helm of the IMF. 

What I learned is that change is unstoppable – you can choose to be in front of it or be rolled over by its advancement.  I benefitted from change others led and I am committed to do my part to lead change for the benefit of others.  I am extremely fortunate to have a fantastic team at the IMF as we all face a crisis like no other.  We will do our part not only to overcome this crisis, but to make the world a better place for all people.  I will lead the Fund to promote the right macroeconomic, financial, and structural policies, and I will do so grounded in values that matter in service to humanity – values like compassion, courage, cooperation. 

Compassion for the people we serve, whose lives our policies and programs affect.  I will always listen to their views and work to translate aspirations into practical actions.  Listen to all, but especially to those with dire needs and least access to the high corridors of power.    

Courage to do what is right.  Never to give up mustering support for it, even from people that are not immediately convinced or worse, are actively against. Also have the courage to admit being wrong when it happens.  Do whatever it takes to fulfill the mission my team and I are charged with. To paraphrase my predecessor, Christine Lagarde – be ready to belly dance if this will achieve a big result like increasing the IMF’s firepower. 

Cooperation to leverage all of our talents and overcome our differences, solve problems that may appear unsolvable. It is at the heart of the post-war multilateral system, and the system’s rules-based approach has delivered peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people. 

Great progress has been made. Much of the world has enjoyed long periods of peace and more than a billion people lifted themselves out of poverty in recent decades.  The current crisis could put those gains at risk, especially when it comes to poverty and inequality. But the crisis is also an opportunity. We can avoid going down the wrong path if we are guided by our values and work together for a world that is more prosperous, more resilient, more inclusive.   

Secretary Albright famously said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent”.  Over the last decade I found my voice – and I am determined to use it. For the good of people, for the good of our planet.  

Thank you.

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