BWI-UK / UKAN workshop on World Bank strategic review

13 February 2008, The Resource Centre, London

22 February 2008 | Minutes

I. World Bank’s donor agency roles

Fragile States

  • Problems of off-budget assistance, deskilling of government, pressure on speed of delivery
  • Need for commitment to domestic skills and resources, redress imbalance of accountability between beneficiaries and donors, universal transparency needed – local accountability and monitoring from below
  • Gap between policy and implementation (incentives); implementation uneven across countries – lessons not being transferred across the Bank
  • Bank inspires confidence of donors (financial accountability) but has problems with political sensitivity; local communities are wary of the Bank
  • Awareness needed of increased IFC role

Middle-income countries

  • Broad support for its original role to support (both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’) infrastructure financing; but question marks around its ‘mission creep’ into other (development agency) areas
  • Need to build up other agencies for GPGs (UN), short-term finance (IMF), technical assistance and capacity building (specialised agencies)
  • Country systems approach is important and needs support but also scrutiny – use globally agreed benchmarks, not Bank’s own discretionary assessments
  • Need for more research on sub-national lending: question of weakening national competencies and ‘cherry-picking’, with some (from sectoral backgrounds) arguing however that progressive decentralization should be supported

Private sector finance

  • IFC is awash with cash – can’t push money out the door fast enough, not increasing to Africa, LICs, lots going to Global Financial Markets
  • What can IFC do with cash? 1. more TA, more grants 2. higher limits on equity or debt stakes, 3. increase loans below investment grade 4. more guarantees to support local currency financing 5. provide venture capital 6. step in to backstop effects of global financial crisis
  • Two possible paths: currently IFC does all of A and virtually none of B
    Path A: interface with commercial finance; TA targeted at regulatory reform
    Path B: interface with ODA; TA targeted to project development
  • How to deal with Sovereign Wealth Funds and non-DAC ODAs?
  • Urgent need for more transparency on the details of the deals themselves, on individually disaggregated development outcomes, and on work of financial intermediaries
  • Question marks around the competence of staff and project implementation
  • Need more research on the question of what role for the IFC – what sectors and beneficiaries, who gets the money? What are our priorities for a ‘positive agenda’ for private sector development? Effectiveness of (relatively new) performance standards?

II. World Bank’s ‘Global Public Good’ roles

  • Need to link GPG always with concepts / issues of rights and equity
  • General importance to defend and elaborate alternatives where GPGs concerned; role of specialized agencies (in both implementation and monitoring)


  • Last year Bank wasn’t allowed to use the words climate change. Today, four key areas of work: 1) mitigation; 2)adaptation; 3)sustainability of exhaustable resources; 4) partnerships to encourage scientific innovation (knowledge)
  • Many pinning hopes on Bank’s proliferation of new initiatives; deep skepticism from those who see all of this as status quo plus, rather than a fundamental re-think
  • UK effort to promote the Bank as the ‘Environment Bank’? Bank is not following its own safeguards, continued human rights abuses, failed approach in forestry
  • To what extent will new Bank funds/efforts replace existing mechanisms or pre-empt other mechanisms? What is it that we are not doing by having facilities at the Bank?
  • Need to improve international environmental governance. Should upgrade UNEP to same standing as ILO, WHO etc.
  • What should NGOs do in response?
    1) work with new fund to make it function as best as possible – room to influence?
    2) use the green credentials of WB to expose the oil funding / infrastructure
    3) yes to some parts, e.g. clean tech, but no to others e.g. adaptation ?
    4) challenge WB mission creep and work on environmental governance

Knowledge Bank

  • Development Economics vice-presidency (DEC): Marketability of DEC research depends on ability to profess neo-liberal paradigm (see Broad paper and Deaton report)
  • Importance of economic and sector work (ESW) often overlooked. Operationalises general notions of research department, influencing developing country policy. Bank treats economic and sector work as same importance as its lending.
  • WB Institute (WBI): Scale expanded dramatically. From 7000 a few years ago to 110000 participants last year. Also scope of who they target has broadened.
  • Knowledge creation within developing countries themselves – undermining their knowledge.
  • Call for development of Bank exit strategy from all policy research, move resources to southern institutions (Bank would remain in global statistics gathering)


  • Damage of structural adjustment is still unrepaired. Current health policy fails to reflect this.
  • Four elements of HNP strategy:
    1) emphasis on measurable results
    2) argues that WB is best positioned to lead on ‘health systems strengthening’.
    3) says WB is able to facilitate a multi-sectoral approach to health
    4) complains of too many global institutions, therefore in future WB will increase selectivity with whom it partners and works
  • Financing: Less gung-ho promoting user fees. Promoting community-based health insurance in LICs and competitive private insurance markets in MICs. Two-tier approach: public sector provides basic package for the poor. Everything else delivered privately.
  • Neglect of role that public sector plays in terms of hospital provision; little talk of community empowerment; low level of expenditure in LICs; little discussion about how to improve monitoring and evaluation
  • IFC only 2 per cent on health and education sector, but growing – worth watching.
  • DFID’s health budget has gone up, yet has halved the staffing of its technical assistance. Handed over more authority to the World Bank. How did we allow this to happen? DFID’s accountability for multilateral support?