WB study questions breadth and impact of PRSP participation

25 March 2002

A World Bank study of participation in PRSPs has set out a number of criticisms. The study, by the Participation Team of the Bank’s Social Development Department, brings together external assessments with an in-house review of PRSPs in-progress and completed.

The report opens with a synthesis of the views of a number of Northern NGOs, national and UN development agencies. Of the type of participation generated, the authors state that “almost all countries are on the lower half of the spectrum”; information-sharing and consultation is largely confined to capital cities. The process is driven by finance and planning ministries, with other ministries such as health and education playing minor roles. Under CSO participation, the authors believe that NGOs are assuming an increasingly important role, however non-conventional NGOs, such as community groups and women’s organisations, are given little attention. Other weaknesses lie in poor quality data and a lack of gender analysis. The authors of the review admit, however, that their own analysis of participation in PRSPs is “static, document-centric and generally not informed by accounts from the site.”

The range and composition of CSO representation in completed PRSPs has been deficient. It was not clear to the authors to what extent the views gathered had influenced the content of the final Papers. They concluded that: “macroeconomic issues and the broad development model remain unchallenged.” This assessment coincides with the views offered by the UK‘s Department For International Development in a paper on the PRSP process. DFID asserts that “the quality of the outputs produced through consultation processes, and their consequent impact on policy-making, is a real concern.” As a result, the “Bank has not always made a positive contribution to maximising the impact of consultation and participation on PRS policy.”

Pointing to ways forward, the Bank study highlights the need for participation after the PRSP has been completed. It suggests joint learning and assessment across countries, greater focus on the participation of local government; and the creation of a new fund to deepen and improve the quality of participation.

World Bank study