A Communications Strategy Needs Assessment was submitted to the World Bank’s NGO Unit in October. Costa Rican group Fundación Acceso carried out the review, through questionnaires of Bank officials and some NGOs.
The study aimed to help the Civil Society Thematic Team (CSTT) develop their communications strategy by defining priority audiences, relevant information and dissemination mechanisms.
It found that the Bank has improved communications with civil society organisations (CSOs) to the extent that: “availability of information and dissemination mechanisms per se are no longer viewed by CSOs and Bank staff engaged with CSOs as necessarily the major issue”. There is, however, a growing concern to know what impact communications with the Bank have had. The study also argues that:
“with greater decentralization and diversification of contacts with civil society, there is a clear need for greater definition of the roles, responsibilities and functions of the different Bank actors.”
It recorded that:
“a doubt exists around the role of External Affairs in communicating with CSOs and the need to separate information and communications relating to public relations and promotion of the Bank from those relating to research and operations, in which CSOs have an interest or contribution to make”.
The study recommended further training for World Bank staff on the Bank’s information disclosure policy and a clearer, more focussed and proactive communications approach. It suggests material including a bulletin announcing new information and initiatives.
A July 1999 report from the Bank Information Center (BIC) had made many similar proposals, while going into great detail about current gaps in disclosure and which secret documents should be routinely made public. These include, for example, Country Assistance Reviews, Project Completion Reports, draft Policy Matrices for adjustment loans and loan and credit agreements.
BIC argued that:
“the Bank is adept at generating public relations materials which commit it to a host of causes, but only legally binding documents such as Loan Agreements are ultimately useful in holding the Bank accountable to actual obligations”.
For the Acceso study, contact William Reuben, head World Bank NGO Unit: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the BIC study, contact Bindiya Patel: email@example.com, or see: www.bicusa.org