The World Bank’s Operations Evaluation Department (OED) has released its evaluation of the Bank’s approach to global programmes, finding the approach “poorly defined” and the voices of developing countries “inadequately represented”.
The evaluation is based on lessons from 26 of the 70 Bank-supported global programmes (for definition, see box). This includes large, well-known programmes such as the Global Environment Facility and UNAIDS, capacity-building initiatives such as the Integrated Framework, and knowledge-oriented projects such as the Global Development Network. The Bank manages the largest amount of trust fund monies of any international organisation – $7.1 billion in 2004. Sixty-four per cent of these funds go to global and regional programmes. Disbursements for global and regional programmes in 2004 were over $1.2 billion.
Global programmes defined
Global programmes are defined by the Bank as “partnerships and related initiatives whose benefits are intended to cut across more than one region and in which the partners: reach explicit agreements on objectives; agree to establish a new organisation; generate new products or services; and contribute dedicated resources to the programme.”
The report is scathing in its findings. On the Bank’s selection of global programmes to support:
- Voices of developing countries are inadequately represented;
- Poverty is not an explicit criterion among the selectivity criteria;
- While programmes meet selectivity criteria, this is because the criteria are “broad and difficult to apply”. Few of the programmes demand links to country operations; and
- Twelve of the 26 programmes brought in almost $90 million in administrative income in 2003. “This can itself become an unstated incentive for partnerships.”
On the value-added to the Bank’s development objectives:
- “Difficult to judge” what value they have added, however evaluations are increasing. The programmes have been successful in pointing up gaps in investment and public policy research, especially in health.
- Time to move from “letting a thousand flowers bloom to assessing which programmes deserve continuing Bank support”.
On governance, management and financing of the programmes:
- Focus largely on improving the behaviour of developing countries and less on improving the internal workings of donor countries, donor agencies or international organisations;
- Strain the limited financial and institutional capacity of developing countries;
- Growth of global programme financing “appears to be coming at the cost of country-level assistance”;
- Evidence is lacking that the programmes are exploiting economies of scale;
- Scientific and advisory committees “too often seem ceremonial”;
- Approach to working with NGOs is “ad hoc rather than strategic”; and
- Time of Bank officials who serve on boards is “un or underbudgeted” and is not factored in to annual performance evaluations.
On World Bank performance:
- Bank’s strategy for global programmes is poorly defined. Programmes would “serve the clients better if they were more independent of the Bank – so as to inform, not reflect, the Bank’s approaches”;
- Independent oversight is needed;
- Exit strategies are not working well; and
- Few mentions of the issues that global programmes address in national development strategies. Poor alignment with Bank sector strategies.
The OED recommends that the Bank should, in consultation with developing countries, the UN and other donors, develop a strategy for the Bank’s involvement in global programmes. It calls on management to link financing to priorities; improve approval, oversight and evaluation criteria; and develop universally-accepted standards of good governance, management, results-orientation and evaluation.
Integrated Framework: demands too much of the poorest
The multi-agency initiative for trade-related capacity building comes in for particularly heavy criticism in the OED report:
- “Wide gap between objectives and the expectations of developing countries.”
- “Inadequate either for widening external market access or for loosening domestic supply constraints. Indeed the IF seems to lack enough funds even to meet its more limited objectives.”
- “Demands too much of the poorest and too little of industrial countries.”
- “Assumed that diagnostic trade integration studies would help integrate least-developed countries into the multilateral trading system … and incorporate trade in the PRSPs. But all of this has been a challenge.”
- “Impacts beyond the studies conducted, reports published, or individuals trained are lacking.”
- Board meetings need more “businesslike conduct”, “transparency and openness.”
- Some countries see the IF “as run by and for its six international agency partners”.