The latest issue of News and Notices for World Bank Watchers discusses World Bank social and environmental assessments and calls for a new “dynamic assessment” procedure.
News and Notices comments that currently there is “a confounding array of social assessment tools (e.g. beneficiary surveys, participatory rural appraisal), that vary widely in price in the Bank’s internal market. The proliferation of tools creates a swamp of confusion”. Social assessments are currently not mandated except for projects involving indigenous peoples and resettlement. The Bank plans to draft a new social assessment policy during 2000-2001. The new policy is likely to be an “umbrella” for a range of concerns relating to resettlement, indigenous people, cultural property, gender, and post-conflict issues. The policy will define “social assessment” and identify the circumstances in which it is required.
The “dynamic assessment” process that is beginning to be discussed by a number of NGOs and officials would aim to help citizens develop and monitor Bank projects and country programmes. It would involve a series of studies and reviews, including needs assessments, initial impact assessments and ongoing programme monitoring and adaptation. News and Notices comments that “the Dynamic Assessment process can foster ownership and accountability for results. It can help to forge in-country partnerships and build institutional capacity. Indeed, it is doubtful whether the IMF and World Bank can produce positive benefits for borrowing countries – especially poor and vulnerable populations within those countries – without reliance on such a process.”
Larry Lohmann of the Cornerhouse think-tank commented that: “The concept here looks good and is based on points made by activists for several decades. But the Bank has a long history of taking suggestions for making its operations more sensitive to the needs of the poor and using them to create institutions which are instead more sensitive to corporate needs. There is less than no point to providing more such suggestions unless they are accompanied by demands for institutional changes in the World Bank and IMF relating to salaries, promotion and hiring and firing. They should also be accompanied by more details about who is going to assess needs, and how governments are going to be prevented from collecting merely the information a certain class wants to see collected about alternatives”.