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World Development Report 2017

Two cheers for the 2017 Governance and the Law World Development Report

Brian Levy's picture
The 2017 World Development Report is a landmark document for the development community. Historically, the point of departure for development practitioners (including those within the World Bank) has been to promulgate technocratic, ‘best practice’ solutions to development challenges. For more than two decades, this ‘best practice’ approach has been put into question by a growing avalanche of research on the political, institutional and governance underpinnings of development. The 2017 WDR does an heroic job of assembling and synthesizing this voluminous research into a compelling statement of why ‘best practices’ fail to address some core constraints, and thus do not achieve their intended results.
 

Some will doubtless critique the report for its  promiscuous use of jargon. But empathy is called for. The WDR team surely confronted some formidable internal political challenges. It needed to frame its argumentation in a way that spoke directly to economists, who remain intellectually hegemonic within the organization. As important, it needed a framing that was politically acceptable across the range of the extraordinarily diverse constituencies that make up the Executive Directors of the Bank – from the United States, to China, to Russia, to the Nordic countries as well as Latin American, African and other Asian and European constituencies. My sense  is that the document has met this challenge. So a first loud cheer to the WDR for successfully, and hopefully irreversibly, consolidating the centrality of politics and institutions in the development discourse.

Implementing the WDR: Shifting norms with youth

Blair Glencorse's picture

“What good is the law if laws are ignored or never enforced?” a young civil society activist asked us as part of a group discussion recently. We began to explain that the law should provide a framework through which power can be constrained and policies implemented- but the conversation had already moved on to a loud and frustrated debate about the myriad ways that lawmakers abuse their positions, steal public money and undermine governance through the law itself.