I knew this experience was going to be life changing, I just didn’t realise how soon.
We arrived in America in early hours of the morning and after a breakfast of champions (Maccas, naturally) we went to sleep to prepare for the day ahead. Little did we know that nothing could prepare us for what was to come.
I woke up around 9am to a flurry of messages and posts from friends and family concerned for my safety and urging me to be alert. After a quick Google search I realised that there had been a mass shooting in Las Vegas which had already claimed the lives of 20 and had injured 300. The numbers kept increasing steadily throughout the morning and as we entered the inner city we were reminded of the tragedy everywhere we looked. Flags were set at half-mast and all the television sets in stores and restaurants were set to news channels flipping between updating the body count and trying to dissect who the shooter was and what his motives could be.
Naturally, this set a sombre and reflective mood for the day as our tour guide showed us around the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Maybe this was why I was more mindful of the inscription she pointed out in front of the Freedom Wall filled with stars representing the Americans who died in World War II and says “Here we mark the price of freedom.”
Freedom. A theme which would pop up constantly throughout the week while we were meeting with think tanks and visited panel discussions in preparation for the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings. As usual, there were more questions than answers. Must freedom always come with such a harsh price? What does freedom mean to communities where the Bank carries out development projects? How is the freedom of sovereign nations maintained when they deal with the World Bank and the IMF?
While wrestling with these concepts, I keep coming back to this image which I took on our very first day. It’s a picture of a father lifting his son in the air, next to the Washington monument. You can’t see it in the image but the baby was giggling in delight every time his father lifted him up in the air. This is what freedom looks like to me. The ability to be happy, healthy and prosperous whilst acknowledging that these freedoms come with a responsibility. A responsibility to ensure that your actions do not harm but nurture the most vulnerable. Although, ideally at the World Bank/IMF the relationship between 'developed' and 'developing' countries would be more of a sibling relationship where the power dynamics are less skewed. Suffice to say, I'm interested to see what the concept of freedom looks like at this level.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.