World Development Report 2007 on youth: familiar prescriptions

23 November 2006

versión en español

The World Bank’s flagship annual report, the World Development Report (WDR) was released in September, focusing on youth. Plans are already underway for next year’s edition on agriculture, and follow-up continues on last year’s report on equity.

The authors of the youth report apply ‘three lenses’ to improve the focus of youth policy development: expanding opportunities; enhancing capabilities; and giving second chances. Despite bringing much needed attention to the issue of youth and development, NGOs have found many familiar Bank prescriptions in the report.

NGOs working on youth issues have welcomed the report’s attention to ‘second chances’, however PLAN International believes insufficient attention is directed to confronting the structural factors that generate ‘inequalities of opportunity’ in the first place: “the negative impact of exclusionary structures, political processes, policies and institutions is overly played down.”

Willy Thys, general secretary of the World Confederation of Labour, also slated the report: “It is indeed the Bank’s own standard policies and conditionalities – government austerity, deregulation, privatisation and liberalisation – that has created many of the problems the report tries to address, such as growing poverty among young people and the fact that a majority of youth, particularly young women, only can find work in the informal economy”.

David Archer, head of education for ActionAid International finds the report has “ideological attachments” in education. He cites the report’s support for school vouchers, performance-based pay for teachers, public-private partnerships and cost sharing as examples where ideology triumphs evidence.

WDR 08 on agriculture

The WDR in 1982 addressed the role of agriculture for development. Twenty-five years later the share of rural poverty in total poverty has remained at approximately 70 per cent worldwide. This fact, combined with “dramatic changes” in agricultural markets and technologies, is cited as the main reason to undertake a second WDR on agriculture.

The eleven person WDR team will be led by Derek Byerlee, an Australian working with the Bank’s agriculture and rural development department, and Alain de Janvry, a French national who is professor of agricultural economics at the University of California at Berkeley. The report outline covers three parts: investing in agriculture for growth, making agricultural growth pro-poor, and integrating agriculture-for-development into national and global policy agendas.

The report outline sends out encouraging signals about a number of key issues that will be addressed in the report, including environmental degradation, the role of indigenous knowledge, and the impacts of market concentration. Undoubtedly controversial will be the stances taken on issues such as biotechnology, land reform, subsidies and the impacts of trade liberalisation.

In the past months, consultations have been held in France, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Canada and the US. An electronic consultation on the first draft of the report is scheduled for January-February. The final report will be published in September 2007.

The timing of the final report will coincide closely with that of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The purpose of IAASTD is to assess agricultural knowledge, science and technology in order to “more effectively to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development”. The Bank co-sponsors the IAASTD along with several UN agencies.

Follow-up on WDR equity

Last year’s WDR on equity found that rising global inequity is a bad thing for both the intrinsic unjustness it represents and because of the instrumental relationship between equity and development. Sweden’s development agency has provided funds to support the operationalisation of the report. Support is being provided to a small number of country teams where there is interest in equity issues including Cambodia, Chile, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.

Cambodia: Working on a concept note for a report on equity and development to be presented at the next Consultative Group meeting

Chile: The government has asked the Bank to work on assessing the impact of programmes/projects as well as institutions. The Bank is currently working on quality of education and decentralisation. Work on measuring inequality of opportunities may be carried out by the UN Development Programme.

Kenya: Progress has been made on the ‘Justice for the Poor’ programme: qualitative work will be conducted in the spring in the arid and semi-arid lands districts focusing on disputes and conflicts over natural resources and over community funds.

Uganda: Inequality trends are being examined and comparative work undertaken on Mozambique. This may form the basis for a wider study on distribution dynamics in Africa.

Zambia: A group of partners led by the Economic Association of Zambia has prepared a programme of seminars on equity and development, with the objective of involving key policymakers in a discussion on key aspects of equity in Zambia. The series will be launched on December 13 with a discussion of the main themes of the WDR 2006 and their relevance to Zambia.

Other activities

Mexico: The Mexico country office is organizing a high-level conference on ‘Equity and competition for high growth in Mexico’ in Mexico City 27-28 November.

Latin America region: A regional study on inequality of opportunities is being launched.

African region: Trends in inequality in several Sub-Saharan African countries are being examined. This work has started with a review of existing data and would build on the results of the comparative study of Uganda and Mozambique.

Multi-donor growth diagnostic facility: Discussions between the Bank and donors have progressed on a facility that would provide funds for country-level work on constraints to more equitable growth.

In parallel with the country pilots, a research programme is being fleshed out. The first area, entitled Describing inequity: building the foundations for better poverty and inequality data, focuses on improving abilities to measure inequality. The second research area, entitled Investing in equity: understanding and breaking poverty and inequality traps, includes work on “the nature of the relationship between income levels and health and education outcomes, and on geographic poverty traps and the links with infrastructure quality and migration”.

Since Francisco Ferriera, head of the WDR equity team returned to his responsibilities in the research department, the director for development policy, Alan Gelb, has taken over leadership of the equity and development working group. For more information on these activities, contact Giovanna Prennushi,