Highlights of UK NGO meeting with Paul Wolfowitz

13 November 2006, World Bank London offices, 10 - 11 am

15 November 2006 | Minutes

Charles Abugre, Policy Director, Christian Aid; Phil Bloomer, Head of Policy, Oxfam; Jeff Powell, Coordinator, Bretton Woods Project; Fletcher Tembo, Senior Economic Justice Policy Advisor, BOND; Patrick Watt, Sr Policy Advisor, ActionAid; Jasmine Whitbread, CEO, Save the Children; Zoe Wildig, Sr Policy Advisor, CAFOD

Paul Wolfowitz, President, World Bank; Robin Cleveland, Special Advisor to the President Kevin Kellems, Director of External Affairs, World Bank; Cyril Muller, Special Representative – Europe, World Bank; Barbara Genevaz, External Affairs Counsellor for the UK, World Bank

Wolfowitz on:

  • the anti-corruption framework
    • Further refining principles is less productive than looking at concrete cases
    • Looking for suggestions on the ‘demand side of governance’ (building capacity of civil society to demand changes in accountability)
    • “Externally imposed conditions tend not to work”
    • Wants to support “champions of good governance”, but has received “particular pushback on this issue from the board.”
    • Believes strongly in country ownership, but cited example of Congo-Brazzaville where “Global Witness pushed for annual audits and an anti-corruption commission” – there was resistance from the board on this
    • Cited difficult cases in India, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Kenya, but wanted to emphasise that “we’re not holding up lending”, citing increased IDA flows, and saying “there are plenty of poor people in well-governed countries that need resources.”
    • Disagrees with notion that building higher walls around Bank lending makes it more difficult to strengthen a country’s own systems – cited “success with country systems” in Mexico despite encountering opposition to their use from US congress
    • Wants input from groups with a presence on the ground, conceding that “Bank is not where it should be on understanding civil society in some countries”
    • “I cancelled loans and didn’t realise how rare this was” then realised it was being called a “new policy” – people started calling for a framework to guide these decisions – “I think that’s bullshit”
    • Engagement is the way ahead, “even in Zimbabwe, if I saw an opportunity to engage, I would”
    • Africa – and supporting G8 agenda – is still top priority. “But to succeed in that, we have to show we’re taking corruption seriously.”
    • The Bank is undertaking further consultation on the corruption strategy until January and will present findings at spring meetings. Nb. More details of the consultation work plan available from today at:
    • [nb. Barbara Genevaz said that the London leg of the consultation on the anti-corruption framework would be December 4 – suggestions for format, participants, etc. welcomed… Sanjay Pradhan of PREM to attend.]
  • financing ‘fragile’ states
    • Have pushed staff to be flexible in post-crisis transition circumstances, for example, using UN peacekeeping forces to build roads in Liberia
    • Going to meet with [EU Development Commissioner] Louis Michel in Brussels on Wednesday to give DRC “the push it needs”
    • In “extreme cases”, “I don’t see the way ahead”
  • conditionality
    • [nb. during anti-corruption remarks above – “externally imposed conditions tend not to work”]
    • Conditionality review needs to be perceived as transparent in view of IDA 15 replenishment negotiations (he is “very focused on fundraising” for IDA 15)
    • Not convinced that the Bank is doing better simply because staff says we have it right – “bad news doesn’t travel up in a bureaucracy”
    • Distributed photocopies of a chart from the review of conditionality which will be presented to the board “shows significant reduction in number of conditions” but invited NGOs (noting upcoming Oslo meeting on conditionality) to an “open examination of the data underlying this chart”
    • [responding to comments that governance conditions had become the rubric under which economic policy conditionality was being imposed]: “I do think there is too much Washington doctrine”
    • Believes in public sector investment in public services, especially education. Private sector may have a role but Korea shows how consistent public sector investment delivers economic progress.
  • debt
    • “Oppressive that we have to figure out how to deal with arrears” in countries such as Liberia
    • International community needs to do better not burdening new, struggling governments with debts they had no hand in creating”
    • Preference is to give much more attention to Liberia and Sierra Leone than Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries that have the resources to service their debts
  • reform of World Bank governance structures
    • Representation of staff is just as important [as issues raised by NGO side – leadership selection, board structure, voting power and decision-making transparency]
    • Bank should set it’s own agenda and not have to wait for the IMF
  • on extractives, energy infrastructure and climate change
    • Warrants a whole, separate discussion [this was raised late with limited time]
    • Question is how to scale-up infrastructure – this is why asked staff to prepare paper on ‘learning lessons from the past’, combined infrastructure vice-presidency with environmentally and socially sustainable department to form sustainable development network
    • hopes that Bank will put focus on non-polluting energy that is also pro-poor
    • “we are not here to subsidise oil production” – however, our engagement, through the IFC, can have a useful impact in terms of environmental or social protection
    • Want to get countries more involved in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
    • Guatemala – made sure that a share of resource wealth was going towards development; Chad – hope to “get something in place before leverage disappears completely”