IFI governance


The Bretton Woods institutions and parliaments

22 November 2004 | Inside the institutions

The Bank concedes making limited progress in responding to the increased calls for engagement beyond executive branches of government. Speaking at the 2004 annual conference of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB), Bank president James Wolfensohn stated: “The Bank is deeply committed to good governance and the system of parliamentary democracy. However, we are also committed to what is imposed on us by our shareholders, which is operating through the administration of your governments”.

The World Bank interacts with parliamentarians on many levels. Capacity building programmes are conducted through country offices in collaboration with the World Bank Institute.

The development policy dialogue team is the principal point of contact for parliamentarians and parliamentary organisations at the World Bank. It runs their global parliamentary outreach and is based in Europe. It was instrumental in the creation of the PNoWB in 2000. The PNoWB aims to “encourage policy dialogue and the exchange of views between legislators and the World Bank and to act as a platform for parliamentary coordination and advocacy on international development and poverty eradication.”

Bankwatchers have questioned the network’s independence from the Bank. But according to Bert Koenders Dutch MP and PNoWB chair, “We’re not fans of the World Bank. We’re critics when necessary, supporters when necessary. PNoWB promotes the role of MPs in fighting poverty. We’re a hands-on implementation group.”

The network currently has about 450 members from over 90 countries and is led by a nine-member board of directors. Open to parliamentarians from World Bank member states, members represent themselves and their constituents, not their countries, parliaments or governments. Local and regional chapters have been set up in India, Japan, East Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. No attempt has been made to balance the geographic, political or gender profile of the network.

Working closely with PNoWB’s executive board, the development policy dialogue team co-organizes the field visit programme and the PNoWB annual conference. The former focuses on exposing members to the experiences of countries implementing Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. It also supports the network’s thematic working groups such as the parliamentarians’ implementation watch, HIV/AIDS committee and the international trade working group, chaired by UK MP Hugh Bayley.

The annual conferences are organised in partnership with the parliament of the host country and the World Bank. They entail discussions by Bank staff and MPs on a range of development issues. A few civil society representatives have been invited to attend. Finland will host and finance next year’s annual conference due to take place in April.

During the field visits, MPs are briefed by the country offices on the activities of the Bank in the respective country and they discuss Bank programmes and projects with the managers responsible for implementation, as well as the local staff engaged on the projects. The delegations also get to meet local parliamentarians and other stakeholders- NGOs, bilateral donors and the media.

The PNoWB receives financial support from the governments of Netherlands and Finland as well as from the Bank and Fund through a trust fund. There have been concerns that the budget is controlled by the Bank. The British government (2001), the Swiss government (2002), the Greek government (2003) and the French government (2004) have funded annual conferences.

Since 2003, the network is registered as an NGO under French law and is working for greater autonomy in the management of its finances and operations. Currently run by one fulltime staff out of the Bank’s Paris office, the secretariat hopes to expand it’s capacity by July 2005. Regional and country chapters have focal point persons.

In an effort to further parliamentary sovereignty the PNoWB has officially endorsed the international parliamentary petition, which demands a greater role for parliamentarians in developing, scrutinising and monitoring the policies relating to the IMF and the World Bank in their countries (see Update 42).

IMF’s parliamentary outreach

According to Michaela Schrader, the parliamentary point person at the Fund’s external relations department, “the IMF has expanded its outreach to legislators in the past years, in accordance with the high priority placed by both management and the executive board”. They have conducted seminars, hosted delegations of legislators and participated in conferences organised by umbrella parliamentary groups such as the PNoWB, Inter- Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.The Fund set up the working group of IMF executive directors on enhancing communication with national legislators in May 2003. It produced a report in January 2004.

The report summarizes the Fund’s past outreach to legislators, and the discussions and recommendations by the working group on future outreach. It stresses that IMF should listen to legislators in order “to improve the Fund’s understanding of the political and social context in which economic policy decisions are taken”. Legislators’ constitutional responsibility to oversee national budgets and approve legislation on economic reforms is recognised.

Useful contacts

Parliamentary Network on the World Bank: www.pnowb.org

Development policy dialogue team, Jean-Christophe Bas, +33 1 40 69 30 35; Email: jbas@worldbank.org

WBI parliamentary strengthening programme; Frederick Stapenhurst, +1 202 473 3210 Email: fstapenhurst@worldbank.org

Parliamentarians, governance and PRSP programme; Katrina Sharkey, +1 202 473 6288 Email: ksharkey@worldbank.org

PNoWB secretariat, +33 1 40 69 30 55 Email: secretariat@pnowb.org