IFI governance


Participation review: mixed feelings

12 December 2000

A forthcoming official report on participation in Bank-supported activities indicates that more Bank operations are participatory , but often with limited impact. It recommends a number of changes in Bank strategy.

The Operations Evaluation Department review examined project files and other documents and databases and had missions in Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Kenya, and Malawi.

It concludes that primary stakeholder participation in Bank-assisted projects significantly increased between 1994 and 1998. Among the projects examined, those using participatory approaches rose from 40 percent of new projects approved in 1994 to 70 percent in 1998.

However, the review found that participation is less advanced in infrastructure and adjustment loans and that “the quality, and thus the potential effectiveness, of participation has not kept pace with the increasing quantity. Much was limited to only small parts of projects, too rushed or superficial, or too ineffective to make much difference.” Participation was also often too late, involved few women and bypassed existing institutions. Meetings with stakeholders on Bank Country Assistance Strategies were “sometimes little more than opportunities for the Bank to present and gain acceptance for its country programs rather than to learn about local priorities”.

The biggest constraints on participation were found to be government resistance, and a lack of capacity or experience of all stakeholders. For the Bank participatory work was hampered by “scarce time and money, rigid project cycles, inadequate incentives, and inconsistent management support”.

The report recommends a more systemic, governance approach to participation. To improve the quality of participatory processes in CASs and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers the report recommends developing participation benchmarks, standards, and guidelines and conducting local institutional analysis. For the Bank it recommends developing a participation strategy and action plan to determine institutional responsibility for leadership on participation and examining the skills of and incentives for task managers.

The report is being discussed by World Bank management and the final version is due in the Spring.