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How Should the World Bank Support Social Accountability: Share Your Views!

John Garrison's picture

This is a question many World Bank stakeholders – civil society, government, private sector representatives – have been debating in recent years.  The questions is even more timely now that the Bank is considering establishing a new global Partnership for Social Accountability geared to supporting civil society capacity to engage with governments to improve development effectiveness.  It comes in response to a speech Mr. Zoellick gave in April 2011 on the need to scale up relations with civil society in the wake of the Arab Spring and growth of civil society worldwide. 

The objective of the Partnership would be to support greater voice and participation by citizens, budget transparency, and improved quality and availability of basic services.  It would achieve these by promoting knowledge exchange and research, supporting training and capacity building, and by funding CSOs engaged in social accountability efforts nationally and regionally.  The Partnership would have a multi-stakeholder governance structure which would include CSOs, governments, and donor agencies.  Funding for the Partnership is slated to come from the Bank, foundations, and bilateral development agencies. 

The Bank has just launched a six-month public consultation process in order to get ideas and views on the proposed partnership from CSO representatives, government officials, and other stakeholders. The first phase of the consultation, which will involve meetings and an online feedback platform, began on January 1 and goes through March 3.  Stakeholders are being asked to respond to the following questions:

  1. What are the key challenges or issues faced by civil society, which the Partnership should try to address?
  2. What type of support should the proposed Partnership offer in order to help civil society address these issues?
  3. What should be the World Bank's role in providing this support?
  4. What kind of development results should the Partnership seek to achieve? By what metrics or indicator should the success of the Partnership be measured?
  5. The Briefing on Key Concepts outlines emerging ideas on the governance structure of the possible Partnership. What else should be taken into consideration in establishing an effective and efficient governance structure?
  6. What criteria should be used in the selection of civil society and independent experts to participate in the governance structure?
  7. What risks are to be expected and how should the Partnership seek to address these risks?
  8. Do you have any other suggestions on the proposed Partnership?

This is your opportunity to weigh into this discussion.  Please provide your views via our online questionnaire, which you will find here.  For background information on the initiative, including summary notes and participants list of nearly a dozen briefing meetings held with CSOs worldwide in 2011, visit the Partnership website.  The website can currently be accessed in four languages (Arabic, French, English, and Spanish), and consultation materials in Russian and Chinese are available on the English page.

Picture credit: World Bank Civil Society Team

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Glad to see the World Bank encouraging submissions to the GPESA consultation too. We're certainly going to be making a submission and strongly encourage others to do the same. We've got some questions and queries about how GPESA would be governed and implemented but but there's no doubt that if an appropriately governed, suitably ambitious, enthusiastically supported and effectively implemented facility to support the efforts of civil society organisations to hold governments accountable can be set up, that could do a great deal to put people at the centre of development. ONE's blog on the consultation is here Dr. Alan Hudson Transparency & Accountability Lead, ONE

Submitted by John on
Alan, Thanks for your comment and also for disseminating information on our consultation efforts via your ONE facebook page. Like you, our goal is that GPESA have a transparent and accountable governance strucutre and well designed programs which respond to the perceived needs of civil society. We also want to support civil society initiatives in the area of social accountability, rather than duplicating existing efforts or 're-inventing the wheel'. That is why we are consulting widely and will start relatively small and in a learning mode so we can perfect the governance strucutre and program priorities as we go along. We look forward to receiving ONE's input. John

Submitted by Anonymous on
You can start a daily discussion!!

Submitted by Charles Mubula Mopho on
Accessing the beneficiaries is limited caused by the local peculiar poverty in that country. Poor data entry in to the given program. Community call to submit proposal and send directly to the program site and CSO stand as a guide. First it should identify every community CDC and youth bodies world wild. World bank can identify the projects and the needs of the community and fund it directly through an individual volunteer monitors recruited by the world bank directly, not base on high educational position. But that individual can read and write. Result the partnership will seek to achieve, is to make everything public in provide booklets stating all world bank projects of that community and program officers, CSOs and the individual volunteers contact detail.

Submitted by John on
Charles, Thanks for your comment and suggestion that the Bank explore the use of community monitors to identify and fund projects. This is an intriguing idea which I hope you will submit directly onto the GPSA website for the Secretariat to consider alongside the other suggestions. Here is the link: John

It is hard to explain Civil Society, since much more than something physical it represents something spiritual; the will of an individual to participate in making our governments govern better and to make the world of his grandchildren a better place. But, that said, it is also very easy to ascertain that some of the multinational corporate NGOs currently active in the name of the civil society, are absolutely not the same as that individual who, acting on his own or in a group, with little or no recourses, feels an urge to have his voice heard, convinced that he has something important to say. For the sake of simplicity let us divide civil society in an organized strong civil society with voice, most of them originating in the developed countries, and the rest, quite unorganized, weak, with little international voice, most of them belonging to the developing countries. In this respect, the first question the World Bank must answer is whether it wants to be able to listen to the latter or not. This is an issue because the truth is that the more attention is given to the voice of the strong developed-world-civil-society establishment, the harder it will be for the weak and outliers to have their voice heard, as the former could, would and will, tend to monopolize, hijack and direct the debate on development issues. As an example of how civil-society might be captured answer the following: When the natural-resource-curse issue is discussed, how many resource-cursed-civil-society voices are effectively present, compared to the number of experts from natural-resource-consuming countries? And, might the unrepresented-civil-society not have more voice at the Board of the World Bank, than what it has when it is represented by civil-society-with-voice? And, who responds the best to the issue of genuine representation in a transparent an effective way, the World Bank or civil society? And, the current financial crisis, specifically the fact that the IMF did not alert to it, is most often and best explained as a result of groupthink within the IMF. This is also evidenced by the fact that the simple truth of the crisis, is not allowed to surface, because it would so embarrass the Group. But, in this respect, does not the strong and represented developed-world-civil-society establishment act just like another mean and lean group-thinking machine? I do not advance any answers, but those questions need to be raised, over and over again In a closely related context, I am currently arguing for the need of a totally randomized web search engine, which could permit that the odd and unsupported opinions can now and again float to the surface of the web. As is, in the world of the Google and the Yahoos, the outliers are effectively drowned in the millions of sponsored-hits, or in the so many well intentioned most-probably-looked-for-by-the-searcher hits. I sincerely hope the World Bank does its best to keep a line open so as to at least give the outliers of civil society a chance to be heard. Besides the alternative of the weak-unrepresented-civil-society organizing itself in the Group of The Outliers, how could World Bank help to establish any meaningful communications with it? Again this is not an easy issue but, given the constraints, it probably must start by somehow limiting the current preferential access given to the communications with the organized civil-society establishment. Any claim to transparency would for instance require that the World Bank posts a list of all the NGOs and persons who have been present during spring-and-fall-meetings over the last decade, indicating how many times and how many presentations they have hosted or co-hosted. Modern communications could also be more intensively exploited. For instance there could be a website where all civil society participants around the world would know that they can post a question or give an opinion, and someone from the WBG will at least look at it. Those questions should be answered; or, if already answered, it should indicate where; or, if it cannot be currently answered, it should say so and preferably explain the reason why. A group of WB professionals should then periodically prepare a summary of the opinions posted on the site above and present these to the Executive Directors. That summary should give special emphasis to the opinions considered as outliers, especially if substantially argued. In conclusion what we least need if for the Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability to end up like just another small and exclusive mutual admiration group, like the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision and the Financial Stability Board. I do not wish to extend more this comment but I should perhaps explain that it is based on my experience as an Executive Director at the World Bank 2002-2004, and on my intensive participation as part of civil society thereafter… thanks to the support of a quite eclectic and thankfully not too bureaucratic organized civil-society NGO.

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