WB/IMF roles


Bank to convene new public policy fora

15 September 1999

The World Bank is considering setting up new fora to discuss issues of global importance which are not being effectively handled by existing national or international mechanisms. The World Dams Commission, which involves government, civil society and the private sector representatives is being seen as a precedent.

Options are being assessed by a Global Public Policy unit in the Bank’s Corporate Strategy department. Wolfgang Reinicke, head of the unit, argued in an article for a Davos Summit magazine this Spring:

“Now that they deal with corruption, financial regulation, environmental standards and dispute resolution, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are all becoming involved in matters of public policy”.

“If you think of global financial regulation, environmental protection or the fight against transnational crime, to name just a few examples, global public policy networks would become core to sustainable globalisation. Rather than dominating the process, multilateral organisations should lead from behind, providing a platform to convene global public policy networks, assuring access, transparency and top quality knowledge management.”

The Bank is developing plans for a Global Trust Fund to help it gear up its work in these public policy areas. A paper circulated to the Board in January commented that:

“the Bank has been assuming increasing financial responsibility for major global programs … as a key global development institution, the Bank needs to deal with a growing number of global public policy concerns for which the international community (except in the case of the environment and the GEF) does not yet have readily available instruments”.

It is unclear whether the Bank has heard or learned from the serious criticisms of its role in establishing the World Commission on Dams, which nearly foundered several times before it was formally launched because the Bank’s attempt to freeze out key stakeholders when selecting Commissioners.

Useful reading:

  • Global Public Policy: Governing Without Government?, Wolfgang Reinicke, Brookings Institute, 1998.
  • Global Trust Fund Concept Paper, World Bank, January 1999.
  • Global Public Goods – International Cooperation in the 21st Century, UNDP, May 1999, UNDP.