At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF Board of Governors, civil society get to engage directly with the World Bank’s Executive Directors (EDs). This year, I was honored to co-chair the CSO-ED Roundtable with Mr. Herve de Villeroche, Co-Dean of the World Bank Board and Executive Director for France.
I came to the Spring Meetings in my role as Chief Government Officer for Teach For All, a global network of 48 independent civil society organizations developing collective leadership to ensure all children can fulfill their potential. As moderator, I represented my CSO peers and noted during my opening remarks the “crucial partnership and dialogue needed between CSOs and the communities they represent at the highest level of leadership in our shared ecosystem.”
What kind of leader can bring people together for the common good, even amid clashing opinions or real conflict?
That question was at the heart of the 2017 Global Leadership Forum March 6 on the growing need for “collaborative leadership” in an age of increasingly polarized societies.
The event at the World Bank was organized with the Global Partnership for Collaborative Leadership in Development. It explored how to bridge often wide divides to arrive at inclusive solutions, and featured guests such as Festus G. Magae, a former President of Botswana and a South Sudan peace negotiator, and Frank Pearl Gonzalez, Chief Negotiator in the Colombian Peace Talks.
and what a difference a group of young Lebanese men and women are making to advocate for peace to make a difference!
Their ages range between 16 to 25 years old. They are poor and unemployed. They once fought each other, literally, in their sectarian-divided Lebanese city of Tripoli. Sunni residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Alawite residents of Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods fought each other repeatedly.
But at the beginning of 2015, the government imposed a ceasefire that put an end to the endless rounds of fierce clashes and restored calm in the city.
And that’s when a Lebanese non-profit organization promoting peace through art went there looking for a different kind of recruitment: one of peace. March brought the youth together to perform in a play!
- civil society
- Community Development
- State Fragility
- Fragility Conflict and Violence
- Conflict and Fragility
- Civil War
- Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
- Social Development
- Middle East and North Africa
- Sustainable Communities
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will deliver a keynote address, “The Principle of Mercy,” at Union Theological Seminary in New York tomorrow night. The event is co-organized with the Jewish Theological Seminary and Riverside Church and will be livestreamed.
At first glance, a seminary may seem like an unusual venue for a speech by a World Bank Group president. However, Kim’s speech fits into the broader context of the Bank Group’s revitalized engagement with faith-based and religious organizations over the past two years. He will share how faith communities have impacted his own journey and describe how the Catholic commitment to an “option for the poor” has served as an anchor and guiding ethic in his career — from his work at Partners in Health to his term as director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department, to his present leadership of the World Bank Group.
This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
The forum in question -- the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.
”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.
Something Is Changing
Fifteen years ago, the international community designed the Millennium Development Goals, including that of halving extreme poverty, through a process that mostly took place in New York, behind closed doors. A few years earlier, the World Bank had developed the guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries from Washington, D.C. in a similar fashion.
Fortunately, this approach has changed.
Today, the process of identifying and consulting on the post-2015 development agenda has been opened to the general public including, importantly, those whom the goals are expected to serve. In fact, the United Nations and other partners have undertaken a campaign to reach out directly to citizens for ideas and feedback on the issues most important to them in the post-2015 agenda. Those who are formulating the post-2015 goals will no longer need to assume what the poor and vulnerable want: they will have a firsthand knowledge of what their priorities are.
The World Bank Group has explicitly stated that our new goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity cannot be achieved without institutions, structures, and processes that empower local communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that all groups in society are able to participate in decision-making processes. In other words, these goals will not be within reach without a social contract between a country and its citizens that reduces imbalances in voice, participation and power between different groups, including the poor.
Last week I was a panelist at a civil society organization seminar during the World Bank Annual Meetings on the topic of “Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact.” The task for the panel was to discuss good practices in citizen engagement to make governments and service providers (including the private sector) more accountable so that policies and project interventions have greater impact for all citizens. The other panelists included representatives from Civicus, Plan International, and the Bank and International Finance Corporation.
The invitation to this event made me reflect on a fundamental question: Is it realistic to expect citizens to hold service providers accountable given the huge asymmetry of power between the two, or are we setting unrealistic expectations that citizen engagement interventions can improve development outcomes?
As I searched for answers, I was reminded of the story of the mighty warrior, Goliath, and the shepherd boy, David, who stepped up to fight him when no one else dared. No one in his or her right mind would have given David a chance against Goliath. However, we all know how the story ends — David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, causing the mighty to fall. Can we have similar happy endings in citizens vs. almighty service providers?
Following months of preparation, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) officially kicks off this morning in New York. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper and security tighter than usual in Manhattan’s Midtown East area, but the 140+ country delegations gathered here are focusing on how to accelerate progress on the goals to meet the 2015 deadline.
At today’s U.N. General Assembly plenary session, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick called for a redoubling of global efforts to achieve the MDGs, which he said were “central to the World Bank Group’s mission and our everyday work.”
“Engagement with civil society has stepped up in so many ways—in terms of quality and also in terms of quantity. This engagement is critical because we have different roles that we can play. I think that there is a realization between civil society and the World Bank that we have a single mission and we need to forge ahead towards that mission.”
Compelling issues of the day drew the highest volume of civil society organizations to register for this year than ever before for Spring Meetings, though volcanic ash caused some panels to be cancelled, according to Edith Grace Ssempala, a World Bank senior advisor. Talks ranged from the ongoing effects of the financial crisis to the Bank’s energy strategy and new Access to Information policy.