Notes of meeting between UK Executive Director to World Bank and Civil Society Groups

7 April 2011

14 April 2011 | Minutes

HMG: Susanna Moorehead, Paul Healey, Simon Ratcliffe, Mel Bohannon,
NGOs: Jesse Griffiths (Bretton Woods Project), Monica Stephen & Phil Vernon (International Alert), Alison Doig & Eric Gutierrez(Christian Aid),  Rachael Varney (World Vision), Rica Garde & Simon Wright (Save the Children), Tom Wallace (ONE), Jo Rea (Bond)

1. WDR on conflict, security & development

NGOs made the following points:

  • The WDR contains many good elements, and if it is taken seriously by the Bank would require serious structural change across the institution – does the Bank recognise this?  What are levers and opportunities to encourage this kind of change? Many long-standing institutional barriers to overcome – for example relative power and capacity of staff in country, including social development advisers etc.
  • Also important that the whole of the World Bank Group involved, including the private sector parts  – e.g. IFC investments in extractives and other areas which can contribute to increasing fragility

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • Attention to this issue is relatively new – the WDR required a lot of primary research. Also the product of an inclusive process including the UN.
  • Should see it as a reference manual – not only or primarily a document for the World Bank. Will be the centrepiece of the Spring Meetings agenda – this in itself is an achievement
  • Have had many board discussions – there is a draft paper on what the World Bank will do differently as a result, which covers many UK objectives, including on HR policies, instruments, ways of working, staffing etc. 
  • Recognise that implementation is a difficult issue, but there is more appetite at the Bank now than previously for change.  However, not all shareholders support this agenda – still legitimate concerns about the Bank potentially over-reaching its mandate and occupying political space, cross-over with the UN’s role, the Bank’s comparative advantage etc. A lot of borrowers remain to be convinced.
  • Difficult issue for many different constituencies, including civil society – will require looking again at instruments, appetite for risk (higher risks will mean more mistakes), safeguards, controls etc and how to make them work in these contexts. NGOs seen as champions of safeguards, but there’s a danger in these contexts that the best can be the enemy of the good. Also donor concerns in these areas – the Bank is often entrusted with fiduciary oversight in fragile states.. Will require compromises on all sides.
  • Fragile states at the heart of IDA 16 – so Bank already taken decision to focus more on them in IDA 16.
  • Fragile states unit in Nairobi will provide support for country offices. But it takes time to build up a critical mass of expertise – good that there’s recognition that this wouldn’t be solved by a specialised cadre – needs to be hardwired across the organisation.  Also good that it broadens the discussion beyond fragile states to conflict more generally.
  • Security, justice and jobs – this is an important mantra.  Jobs will be key stabiliser so agree that private sector activities also important, including MIGA.

2. Spring meetings & food security

NGOs made the following points:

  • L’Aquila commitments are underfunded – GAFSP (Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme) has had success, but running out of money. Spring meetings will be key moment to push this agenda forward – is the UK planning to support progress in this area?
  • Is there appetite for strengthening links to child and maternal health agenda – including indicators for example?

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • Measure of high demand and success that GAFSP is running out of funds. UK is considering carefully this issue and the Secretary of State is engaged. Of course, limited resources mean all funding decisions have to be considered in the round.  Recent priorities have been  IDA replenishment and the general capital increase (which is still being formally finalised). US was pushing strongly, and there has been a lot of support from borrowers and donors.
  • Food security is an item on the Development Committee agenda. 
  • Not aware if child and maternal health and food security agendas have been explicitly linked in the GAFSP. Action: DFID to investigate and feed back more information on links between the two agendas of food and nutrition in the context of the GAFSP.

3. a) Energy

NGOs made the following points:

  • Major international and UK campaign on energy access and low-carbon development.  Is the UK planning to make an intervention to CODE?  Make any public statements on its position?
  • Leaked draft has good description of problems but is disappointing on the strategic direction for the Bank. For example, access to energy still conceptualised in terms of grid connections, not access for the poor.
  • Could potentially be very little change on low-carbon energy.  Hope that UK supports plans to stop coal funding to middle-income countries as strategy goes forward.  However, clean energy very broadly defined (includes hydro, retrofitting of coal plants thus extending their life etc), and concern that failure to put limits on fossil fuel lending, combined with Bank plans to be conduit for climate finance mean that overall, fossil fuel lending could increase.

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • Important to remember that many developing countries rightly emphasise energy’s contribution to jobs and growth.
  • UK welcomes draft strategy and recognises that it is, of necessity, a compromise. Hope NGOs will also work with borrowing countries and support necessity of compromise.
  • Welcome the an emphasis on renewables and energy efficiency – this is the clear direction of the strategy and the language that the Bank is using, for example during recent energy week, Bank officials talked of ‘paradigm shifts’ and an ‘energy revolution’. Significant shift in terms of quantifying externalities – build the business case for renewables.
  • Welcome proposal to only support coal where there are no alternatives. Proposal not to finance coal in IBRD countries is important.  UK will support.
  • Take the points on definition of clean energy. Will be one main area UK will engage on.
  • Recognise concerns on hydro – as does the Bank. Will work through the Bank’s safeguards review to address this.

3. b) Health

NGOs made the following points:

  • Concerned that the overall support for the Bank through IDA and IFC review of Multilateral Aid Review means that need to push much harder on health sector reform may have fallen off the UK’s agenda? 
  • New HNP CSO group meeting on Monday after Springs – hope that this will be taken seriously by the Bank.

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • health will be centrepiece of IDA 16 results framework
  • Very good new Bank team in this area – continuing to get health work back on track.  UK would welcome further discussions with NGOs on this issue. Will aim to send advisor to CSO group.
  • Action: DFID to request after the Spring Meetings a board update and share information

4. AOB

Programme For Results
NGOs made the following points:

  • Concerns – for example that it may lead to lowering of standards
  • Very poor consultation process – late in the day, little time etc.

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • UK very supportive of P4R, and want to see an effective consultation process, as does the Bank

World Bank reports to G20
NGOs made the following points:

  • Bank is involved in 7 reports to the G20 – concerned that these are being drafted by staff without reference to governors or opportunity for external consultation

Susanna Moorehead and officials made the following points:

  • Releasing documents is very much down to the G20 host as the G20 has its own governance arrangements. Very often the Bank cannot share things on its own but need G20 approval to do so
  • Action: DFID to follow up and pass on information about consultation.

Corporate scorecard
NGOs made the following points:

  • Very hard to get information on this – all discussions taking place behind closed doors.  If this really is going to drive change at the Bank, shouldn’t the process of development be open to inputs / discussion / consultation with stakeholders?