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Consultations

World Bank’s Access to Information Policy— five+ years and going strong

Hannah George's picture

An active player in the transparency space, the World Bank just released its fifth Access to Information (AI) Annual Report. The report presents the evolution and progress of the Policy on Access to Information (the Policy) since it was launched on July 1, 2010, provides a variety of statistics, and highlights a range of transparency activities carried out in fiscal 2015. Since 2010, the Bank has pushed the frontiers to disclose more information and twice revised the Policy to keep abreast of evolving public demand—in 2013 to clarify declassification of certain Board transcripts, and in 2015 to align the treatment of the documents and records of the Board of Governors with the treatment of those of the Executive Directors. The following are select highlights from the past five years.
 
Enhanced information access. The Policy has provided the public with access to a broad range of historical and current information on operations, research, corporate matters, and Board decisions. The Bank has also received and responded to more than 3,000 access to information requests.  The number of requests declined from 700 in 2010 to 474 in 2015, due to the Bank’s proactive and systematic efforts to disclose information online. The main entry points to the Bank’s wealth of information are the Projects and Operations portal, which provides detailed information on lending operations, and the Documents and Reports repository, which contains more than 200,000 documents that are freely accessible to the public. Further, the Archives Holdings website offers a growing collection of digitized records dating to the 1940s.
 
Governance structure and appeals. The Policy has established two robust bodies to manage the appeals process—the AI Committee and the external AI Appeals Board. A new chair of the AI Committee was appointed last fall, Stefan Koeberle, Bank director of strategy, results and risk. In 2015, the membership of the AI Appeals Board was renewed with the selection of a new member and the re-appointment of two previous members. The number of appeals submitted to these bodies has been low, possibly indicating that proactive disclosure and the system for responding to requests are working well. The appeals mechanism ensures that the Bank implements the Policy effectively.

The things we do: Why those who see the world differently are always wrong

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Have you ever been in an argument that ended badly, after which you expected to receive an apology? Did the apology come or was the other side also expecting one?  Have you ever done an audit or technical assessment and wondered how a team of professionals could have come to such seemingly erroneous conclusions?  How can that be?  How is that people can have such different views of the same thing?  

One reason misunderstandings occur is that people tend to be naïve realists. That is, we believe that we see social interactions as they truly are. Anyone else who has read what we have read or seen what we have seen will naturally perceive them the say way as we do… that is, assuming they’ve pondered the issue as thoughtfully as we have. In short, our own reality is true, so those who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.
 
However, one of the most enduring contributions of social psychology is the understanding that two people can interpret the same social interaction in very different ways, based on their own personal knowledge and experiences.
 
Tim Harford, the Undercover economist at the Financial Times, recently wrote about naïve realism, calling it the, “seductive sense that we’re seeing the world as it truly is, free of bias.”  He goes on to say that this is such an attractive illusion that whenever we meet someone that contradicts our own view, we instinctively believe we’ve met someone who is deluded rather than question our own rationale.

Will cash replace staff?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Consultation workshop in Jessore, BangladeshShould field staff in implementing organisations be made redundant? Do communities not need technical guidance and hand-holding? They also perhaps do not need support from external resource persons in solving collective action problems.

As a corollary to the push for ‘cash transfers’, the role of development workers has come under scrutiny. Last year, evidence from a couple of projects made this point quite strongly.

First, Chris Blattman, who based his argument on a review of the ultra-poor evaluations as well as his own research on ‘cash plus training’ intervention in Uganda:

The biggest expense across all the programs was staff time. Especially for supervision. Delivering training and cows takes skilled labor, and it’s hard to cut this back. But supervision? … should it cost 50 or 60 percent of the program? Is it more valuable than the cow or the grant itself? It’s hard to believe.

We tried to test this with cash-plus program in Uganda. Supervising the women cost about $377, about half the cost of the program and 2.5 times as much as the grant itself…

…and found that the supervision helped the women maintain the new businesses they started, but there was virtually no effect on consumption. We have no idea whether the supervision helps another year down the road. Maybe, eventually, it pays for itself. But the simple fact is this: taking away the most expensive part of the program had little effect on benefits after a whole year.

And Howard White made a similar point, reflecting on the evidence from Community Driven Development (CDD) projects:

In many CDD projects, the decision-making and application process is facilitated by outsiders. A chunk of project resources are used not for funding things communities want, but paying NGOs to train communities in how to hold meetings and help communities decide on what they want.

Now, facilitation may be useful. It can help ensure that the voices of the marginalised are heard, that poorer communities without the skills and connections get to apply and develop skills in project management. But I do wonder if communities that already have community-level decision-making bodies need outsiders to help them hold meetings and to decide their priority needs.

On one hand, Chris is saying supervision and monitoring isn’t worth the money, and on the other, Howard is saying the same might not even be good development strategy.

Does it help to complain?

Jan Mattsson's picture

Masai in KenyaIt is a year since I blogged about my early impressions of the Inspection Panel and specifically a complaint from a Maasai community that was resettled to accommodate a geothermal plant in Kenya.

Since then I have heard variants of the question: Do accountability mechanisms make a difference?  In this case, I believe the Inspection Panel has made a positive contribution. But the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the Bank process, of which the Panel is only one part, must be the redress of any harm caused. Signs are encouraging, and we shall see.

We submitted our investigation report in early July. The Board meeting in October resulted in a clear direction for the future (see press release). This was followed by the Panel’s debriefing of the community and other stakeholders in Kenya. 

As we analyzed the facts it became clear the Bank had failed to bring to bear its rich experience with resettlement and the full force of its safeguard policies. This had negative repercussions for many of the project-affected people, especially the poor and vulnerable.

In a nutshell, the requirement to engage resettlement expertise was not met, consultations were hampered by the absence of Maa language and by sidelining the traditional Maasai authority structure, and there was no effective monitoring against a comprehensive socio-economic baseline. We also highlighted many positive aspects, including the climate-neutral generation of electricity and the investment in new infrastructure for schools and dwellings in the resettlement area.

Strengthened accountability in a changing world

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel at the World Bank, shares his thoughts on the Panel's new Pilot for Early Solutions and describes its success in the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project in Paraguay.

Roman archesRichard Branson believes in accountability. When he founded Virgin Galactic, the first company to offer commercial trips to space, he promised to be on board during the inaugural flight so that he would be the first saying “oops” if need be (let’s hope not). Similarly, the tradition is that the Captain of a ship is the last one to abandon it, if things go wrong, and to go down with it if necessary (the Captain of the “Costa Concordia” being a recent exception to this rule). In earlier times, Roman engineers stood under the arches they designed as the capstone was set in place, so that the full force of their mistakes would be unleashed upon their heads. Regardless of the definition of accountability used, spotting it is easy when it is there.

The Inspection Panel was designed more than 20 years ago, at a time when both the Bank and the world were quite different. Today, information travels instantaneously, and the challenges of development are ever more pressing and complex. This new world demands ever stronger levels of accountability. At the Panel, we define successful accountability as the process through which redress is provided to people that have suffered harm when things have gone wrong, and lessons are learned by the Institution so that the same mistakes are not repeated.

One example of successful accountability is the recently concluded Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project (PRODERS) case in Paraguay. This is a Bank-financed project aimed at supporting participatory rural development with indigenous populations. Last July, we received a complaint from indigenous people from the Departments of San Pedro and Caaguazú in Paraguay claiming that consultation within the PRODERS project had broken down. Through discussions with World Bank management, we learned that the project team had developed an Action Plan geared to working closely with the government to resolve the impediments for effective indigenous participation. We also learned that the requesters wanted a quick solution to their participation problems, rather than to wait for the results of a potentially lengthy Panel process.

Do International Organizations Listen to CSOs?

John Garrison's picture

This was a central question posed by CIVICUS in its recent report, “Beyond our Two Minutes: State of Civil Society / Intergovernmental Organization Scorecard.” This first of a kind report considered the mechanisms for and effectiveness of the civil society engagement policies in ten prominent international organizations, including the World Bank Group (WBG). It was published as part of the “State of Civil Society Report for 2014” which has become an annual flagship report on the status of civil society worldwide.

The IGO Scorecard assessed the following IGOs:  FAO, OHCHR, ILO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNHCR, UN Women, WBG, WFP, WTO.  The study assessed the civil society outreach policies and practices of the IGOs around four aspects and specifically: access, policy, programs, and empowerment.  The perception survey was based on two online questionnaires which CIVICUS sent out earlier this year, one geared to CSO representatives and the other for IGO staff.  CIVICUS received a total of 462 responses from CSOs (including 52 which commented on the WBG), and some 200 responses from IGO staff (including 26 from WBG staff).

Overall, the study found that global governance has undergone “incredible transformation” over the past 20-30 years, and there is much more space for civil society to access global organizations today.  It notes that “where once IGOs had to justify the inclusion of CSOs in their work, today it is the exclusion of CSOs that requires justification.”  It cites as an example the fact that the number of CSOs accredited with the United Nations grew from less than 100 in 1950 to over 3,900 today.  Yet, the report found that it is not clear how seriously IGOs take civil society outreach and how much influence CSO leaders exert beyond their ‘two minute’ plenary speeches at UN conferences.  The Scorecard found that IGO civil society ‘focal points’ also express concern about how effective their own outreach is, as well as feel that CSOs often lack the technical capacity and skills to influence IGO policies.

Seeking Your Views: How Can Citizens Contribute to Better Development Outcomes?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The World Bank Group is developing a framework to more systematically mainstream citizen engagement in Bank Group-supported operations with the goal of improving their results. The framework will build on experience from existing efforts and highlight additional context-specific opportunities to engage with citizens and seek beneficiary feedback.

The Bank would like to learn from the wealth of global experience in citizen engagement. Specifically, what works, when, why and how? Please share your experience through this short online survey. The team working on this would very much appreciate your input, which will help inform the framework.

For more information, visit the consultations website. If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to citizenengagement@worldbankgroup.org

 

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum II – Consultations

John Garrison's picture

The Bank has learned a good deal about how to consult civil society over the years. The absence of consultation policies led to some of the most visible CSO advocacy campaigns opposing Bank-financed projects, such as the Narmada Dam in India and the Polonoreste Project in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1980s. Thus, while this third step on the civil society engagement continuum has been one of the most difficult to ascend, it has also shown the clearest progress in terms of more effective consultation practices.  As the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 demonstrates, today the Bank consults CSOs widely on its strategies, policies, programs, and projects worldwide.   

 

Panels of the Poor: What would Poor People Do if They were in Charge of the Post-2015 Process?

Duncan Green's picture

Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compare with that of the great and good on the ‘High Level Panel’.

Here’s a summary from a post by Catherine Setchell on the Participate website (which links to the four country communiqués, also worth a skim):

The GLP in Egypt (right) proposes a vision of “self-sufficiency” at the country and community level, where Egyptians own the resources needed for development and can secure enough local production of food and other basic items such as water and fuel. They also highlight the importance of “paying more attention to having a high caliber of leaders who can effectively implement our Vision on the ground, which requires good governance.”

Is Civil Society Uncivil?

John Garrison's picture

Having worked with civil society engagement work at the World Bank for many years, it is not uncommon for colleagues to see me in the hallway and jokingly ask: “is civil society still acting uncivil?”. The assumption being that when Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) criticize the Bank they are not being constructive and thus not acting civil. While I understand the good-natured ribbing, I and most of my Bank colleagues actually believe the opposite is true. Most advocacy CSOs are being effective global citizens by monitoring the policies and programs of governments and inter-governmental organizations such as the World Bank. After all, governments and multilateral development Banks serve at the behest of citizens and thus they should welcome a watchful eye from CSOs, media, and citizen organizations to ensure that its taxpayer-generated international development funds are being well spent. In addition, as Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently said at the closing plenary of the 2013 InterAction Forum, important changes and reforms in history – such as the concerted response to the AIDS epidemic – are often driven by citizen activism spearheaded by CSOs. He further argued that what is now needed is a global citizens’ movement to advocate for effective climate change policies.


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