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WDR on governance: paradigm shift or cosmetic procedure?

7 April 2017

In January, the World Bank launched the 2017 World Development Report (WDR) on governance and the law. The report’s key message is that “successful reforms are not just about ‘best practice’, but require credible commitment and must support coordination and promote cooperation”. It also identified that power asymmetries could undermine policy effectiveness. Stefan Kossoff, of the UK’s Department for International Development, commented in an Oxfam blog that “while the message that ‘politics matters’ may not be a new one, the fact that the World Bank — with its apolitical mandate—is saying it, is hugely significant.” The report’s recognition of the importance of politics led Brian Levy of Johns Hopkins University to describe WDR17 in his blog as “a landmark document for the development community” because it signals a significant shift in the Bank’s approach. However, both commentators questioned the significance of the findings and whether the WDR will lead to genuine transformation of Bank practice.