The participation of civil society representatives at the World Bank and IMF’s Annual Meetings, which brings together the world’s finance ministers to discuss international development policy, has grown steadily over the past six years. The most recent Annual Meeting, held in October 2011, saw the largest CSO participation to date, with a total of 600 CSO representatives from 85 countries in attendance. They represented a variety of civil society constituencies: non-governmental organizations, youth groups, foundations, faith-based groups, and trade unions. They came to discuss a broad range of issues ranging from financial transactions tax and aid effectiveness, to energy policy. In order to ensure that Southern CSO voices are also heard, the Bank and Fund sponsored 60 CSO and Youth Leaders from developing countries to participate in the Meetings.
It is hard, especially on the eve of only the second democratic elections in DR Congo, to find a topic about which a diverse group of distinguished Congolese agree. So, we expected little agreement when we brought together a diverse group of Congolese to contextualize the September 14, 2011 seminal speech of World Bank President Robert Zoellick at George Washington University on the theme “Beyond Aid.”
We were hoping to promote a public debate on policy choices and foster demand for good governance. We also aimed to set the foundation for the implementation of our Africa Strategy in this country. Participants included Congolese intellectuals; renowned politicians; parliamentarians; a respected cleric; renowned journalists; a lady who once ran for president; a key member of the current government; a prominent lawyer; and a women’s rights advocate.
Our guests dealt with the speech as if it had been written about DR Congo. The discussions went further. The talk could have been convened under the title “Beyond, Beyond Aid”.
What a thrill I had this past Friday listening to our World Bank President Bob Zoellick launch the Bank Group's new Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All. Having spent nearly 18 months traveling the world to consult with our partners (government, civil society, NGOs, development agencies) about the best experience and evidence of what works in education and about the role of the Bank Group in the next decade, I feel somewhat like I've given birth, in this case to a global framework for education which we believe is the right one for the coming decade.
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.”
The new buzz words in the World Bank are Open Data. Here, in our blog, we have been championing the cause of Open Data (see New Open Data Initiative Emphasizes Importance of Education Stats) and what it does for knowledge sharing and looking at development solutions for Education systems.
You may know that the President Bob Zoellick (also known as RBZ) recently delivered a pretty inspiring speech at Georgetown University at the end of September. He was advocating for a new perspective for the Bank: “Beyond the Ivory Tower to a New Research Model: Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Solutions.”
In a speech before students, faculty, policymakers and journalists at Georgetown University yesterday, World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged a sweeping new approach to development economics research. He said the Bank will change its research model to better access developing country experience through “Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Solutions,” and make research more easily accessible to policymakers.
These Spring Meetings will probably be remembered for the capital increase – the first in 20 years – and the historic changes to the voice and representation of developing countries within the Bank. They are important milestones, and deserve to be recognized. But something much more profound is happening within the Bank, something that historians will look back on and regard as a pivotal moment in the organization’s evolution.
The key to understanding what is underway is Mr. Zoellick’s speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 14. This was probably the most important speech by a Bank president since McNamara’s Nairobi speech of 1973 – even more important, I would argue, than Mr. Wolfensohn’s 1996 speech on corruption. For the first time in many years, the Bank is at the leading edge of thinking about global trends. Mr. Zoellick’s blunt declaration that the era of the Third World is over and a new, more complex arrangement is emerging, challenges everyone at the Bank and everyone working in development to think and act differently. It sets in context why the reforms underway across many areas of the Bank are really necessary, why we need a new approach to investment lending, to knowledge, to our location and operation as a global bank.
The end of the Third World does not mean that there are no poor countries, or that all countries are equally advantaged. It means the landscape has changed so much that our thinking and behavior must shift. To think of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Malaysia as developing countries seems anachronistic. Yes they have poverty and challenges, but… “developing”? They play a regional and global role of real significance. They have civil servants, academics and businesspeople as skilled as (and many more skilled than) World Bank staff. Developing just doesn’t capture it.