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Blame It on Rio

John Garrison's picture

Unlike the 1984 movie “Blame it on Rio”, which attributed a bawdy affair between a middle-aged man (played by Michael Cain) and a teenager on the tropical vibes of the stunningly beautiful city, the recent hosting of the Rio +20 Conference served to showcase a different face of the Rio ambience -- its global environmental leadership role.  The city not only maintains the world’s two largest urban forests, Pedra Branca and Tijuca (see photo), but has just completed a state of the art waste treatment center which will allow for a 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and are installing 300 kilometers of bicycle lanes.  For the World Bank, the city has been the setting for the improbable significant improvement in relations between the Bank and environmental CSOs over the past 20 years.

When Rio hosted the original UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the Bank participated with a small staff delegation and its modest publications booth at the parallel NGO “Global Forum” held on Flamengo Beach was set on fire by environmental activists.  They were protesting the Bank’s financing of the Narmada Dam project in India, which threatened to displace hundreds of thousands of small farmers without a fair and sustainable resettlement plan in place.  Some were expressing disapproval of the Polonoroeste project funded by the Bank in Brazil where the paving of a highway linking two Amazonian state capitals led to widespread deforestation in the 1980s.  

A Sea Change for World Bank Publishing

Carlos Rossel's picture

On April 10th the World Bank announced that it is adopting an open access (OA) policy that requires that all research and knowledge products written by staff, and the associated datasets that underpin the research, be deposited in an open access repository and that these works be released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Also on this date the Bank launched the new open access repository, the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR). This represents a sea change in the Bank’s approach to publishing, builds on the Open Data initiative and the Access to Information policy implemented in 2010, and is another cornerstone in the Bank’s move toward ever-greater openness and its focus on results and accountability.

Why are Increasing Numbers of CSOs Coming to the Spring Meetings?

John Garrison's picture

A record number of CSOs participated in the recently concluded Spring Meetings in Washington.  Over 550 civil society representatives (see list) – 200 more than in 2011 – attended the Civil Society Program which spanned five days from April 17 to 21.  Of these, the Bank and Fund sponsored 29 CSOs / Youth Leaders and Academics (see list) from developing countries in order to ensure that voices and perspectives from southern civil society and young people were adequately represented at the Spring Meetings. These sponsored participants participated actively in a week-long schedule of events, including numerous bilateral meetings with Bank and Fund senior managers.  

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Financial Task Force
World Bank Unveils New Transparency Initiative

“Last week, the World Bank unveiled a major initiative to make their funding more transparent.  Through the new World Bank Finances portal, vast amounts of information about the inner workings of the Bank’s finances are now made easily accessible.  This includes information about specific funds that members are supporting, and the disbursement and repayment status of thousands of projects around the world.  Tools are provided to allow members of the public to comment on specific elements of the data, as well as to download datasets specifically catered to their needs.  The data is remarkably up-to-date, often covering information as recent as June 2011.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

TrustLaw
Anti-Corruption Views- World Bank, UN make ‘how to’ asset recovery guide

"How do you stop corrupt regimes from stashing their money in your jurisdiction? That is the question a joint initiative by the World Bank and United Nations answers in a recent report.

The Barriers to Asset Recovery report, by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), gives policymakers a ‘how to’ guide on implementing laws and mechanisms needed to freeze and repatriate stolen assets." READ MORE

A New Social Contract with Civil Society?

John Garrison's picture

The recent democratic uprisings in the Middle East served as the backdrop for a major speech given by Bank President Robert Zoellick on the emerging role of civil society.  The speech, The Middle East and North Africa: A New Social Contract for Development given at Washington’s Peterson Institute on April 6, may well mark a watershed in Bank – civil society relations.  He stated that “now it may be time to invest in the private, not-for-profit sector – civil society -- to help strengthen the capacity of organizations working on transparency, accountability, and service delivery.”  Mr. Zoellick further said that “in one way or the other, a modernized multilateralism needs to recognize that investments in civil society and social accountability will be as important to development in the Middle East and beyond as investments in infrastructure, firms, factories, or farms.” 

Bashing the Bank: Assessing the Efficacy of CSO Advocacy

John Garrison's picture

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been targeting the World Bank Group for 25 years in an effort to influence its economic, social, and environmental policies.  Many of these advocacy campaigns have been quite contentious and critical over the years, the most visible being the ‘50 Years is Enough' campaign of the 1990s which called for the abolishment of the Bank.  While this particular campaign was obviously not successful, it is clear that some of the most important Bank reforms adopted over the years – environmental safeguards, compliance mechanisms, and access to information – were spearheaded by civil society. 

Fifty Million Twelve-Year-Old Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

“We have a situation on our hands and the clock is ticking. We have fifty million twelve-year-old girls in poverty,” the opening video proclaimed. The solution is simple and profound, the Girl Effect, “an effect that starts with a 12-year-old girl and impacts the world.” Despite the catchy rhyme, I was skeptical. Can you blame me? It seems that we women have been getting the shaft since that damn snake in Eden. 

The list of superwomen who addressed the over capacity crowd at the “Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI): An Alliance for Economic Empowerment” event on October 6th read like the World Bank, White House, Hollywood, Philanthropy, Business and the Catwalk list of Who’s Who. The crowd craned their necks from the hallway to catch a glimpse of World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and World Bank Director of Gender and Development Mayra Buvinic; White House Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett; Actor, Anne Hathaway; President of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel, and Supermodel Christy Turlington

“Missions Suspended”: Does The Bank Need to Worry about ‘Political Risks’ - and What Does That Mean?

Verena Fritz's picture

For World Bank staff, it’s the announcement on the intranet: at a rate of about once a month, missions are being suspended to some country. All upcoming trips to the concerned country are being cancelled. Sometimes, the events – a disputed presidential election, riots against rising food prices, an increase in bus fares or the price of electricity, or a sudden clash between different ethnicities who previously seemed to live together peacefully – makes international news. At other times, the country concerned is too obscure and the instability is either too short-lived or too recurrent and there is barely a mentioning in the media.

Establishing Norms in Large Organizations (Or: How to Win the Turf War)

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Wharton Professor Galit Sarfaty just published a paper on changing norms in international institutions, using as an example the advance of the human rights agenda in the World Bank. The study describes the process of how new norms are adopted - or not - in large organizations and how different factions negotiate their positions. It's well worth a read and spells out the difficulties of reforming organizations and establishing new norms.