Who will assess the assessments?

26 July 2004

Civil society organizations remain concerned that Poverty and Social Impact Assessments (PSIA) will not deliver the desired outcomes. PSIAs are meant to ensure that policy-making is informed by analysis of the impact of reforms on various vulnerable groups. Equally important is their intended role in improving the quality of debate around reforms and opening up space for negotiation between government, civil society and donors.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has shown interest in supporting the monitoring of IFI commitments to PSIA. A meeting with UK NGOs in early July explored ways this could be done. An information hub on PSIAs is to be created to bring together case study material in collaboration with country partner organisations. Such information could be useful for lobbying IFIs for improved assessments.

Together with the Bank, DFID has commissioned a sourcebook for PSIA. Named TIPS – Tools for Institutional, Political, and Social analysis – it is being produced by the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Swansea and should be ready by the end of September. DFID has stated it is keen to have NGOs input into the sourcebook especially in terms of country case studies of PSIA experience. The sourcebook is intended to balance the current over-emphasis on econometric modelling.

Many questions remain including where PSIAs are being conducted, who chooses the topics, what policy areas are covered, what is the role of IFIs, and when and to what extent results are made available.

Through the World Bank Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (TFESSD) Norway has financed eight PSIAs thus far. Norway is leading a network on PSIA capacity building, established at an international workshop on PSIA held last year (see Update 37). A number of other PSIAs are currently under development. These are funded by both the Bank and DFID. There is a risk that the multiplicity of donor and IFI processes around PSIAs seeking to distil country ‘best practice’ could overburden borrower countries.

Responding to an NGO letter (see Update 40) raising concerns over the IMF’s new PSIA unit, deputy managing director Anne Krueger conceded that PSIAs need to be country-owned and that the choice of PSIA topics would be part of PRSP processes. Fund PSIA will focus on the impact of the measures demanded in the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. Krueger rejected suggestions that the team of four macroeconomists should be balanced with social scientists.

  • DFID PSIA meeting notes available upon request to
  • To contribute case study information to the sourcebook, contact at DFID