World Bank executive directors roundtable with CSOs

16 April 2013

19 April 2013 | Minutes

Opening remarks: Merza Hasan, World Bank ED Kuwait and Middle East

CSO panelistss:

Canny Sriskandarajah, CIVICIS

Omneia Helmy, Egyptian Center for Economic Studies

Moderator: Ian Solomon, ED US


  • WB has increased cooperation with NGOs, more than 120 CSO focal points at the Bank, there are funds to engage CSOs
  • CSOs representatives in several committees, such as CIFs, GSPA
  • Safeguard review – very important to mitigate risks, but also need to review them.
  • 3 phase consultative process for 2 years, first phase end April
  • 8 environmental and social safeguards under review
  • Health and safety, disability also under consideration
  • Global Partnership for Social Accountability, aims to improve development effectiveness, 20 million plus 3 million from Ford Foundation, steering committee created
  • Gender and equality, WDR 2012, not wise if half of the population is not part of development agenda – push from board on how to operationalise this
  • Anti-corruption, have department
  • Modernisation agenda, look at corporate scorecard and results
  • New investment lending reform focusing more on developmental outcome
  • Open data, also helping our countries to be open about their data
  • Energy and climate change, discussing strategy, looking for Bank strategy on energy also related to climate change issues


  • 40% of the Board is here


  • Welcome change and improvement in the Bank on CSOs, especially with the new president – some frustrations and concerns still there on how to walk the talk
  • Perhaps the Bank is well placed to take a leadership role in how to interact with civil society
  • How can we incorporate citizen interaction into programming, so that people’s voices are put right at the centre of the Bank’s work – we’re at the cusp ofwhere technology can help us do this
  • Opportunity to take advantage of moment on development effectiveness
  • Have potential to make real principle of the enabling environment for civil society – need to have robust civil society for development effectiveness, how to make this real on the ground
  • Perhaps time for CSOs to rate or grade how serious IFIs take interaction with civil society, to create a race to the top on CSO interaction


Questioner: To highlight the positive, was a CIF CSO observer 4 years ago, great deal of input and interaction and should build on this. Dealing with failures, 250 bank staff looking at this is not a good use of time – if you study failure, than you are bound to fail

Questioner: So much is put into research, what the people on the ground are doing. Shouldn’t just send someone to research, we need to work together from the beginning

Questioner: Good to look at failure, what went wrong and how to fix it. Were they working as a group, or individually, and putting the data to good use. There was a series of books called voices of the poor, which was extraordinary. Perception that there were people on the ground, or were they from IMF/WB?

Stewart James, UK Alt ED

  • Important to understand how crucial the next six months are, going through a process of reaffirming poverty focus but also rearticulating what this means and what the goals are
  • Platform to ask questions of what the org need to do
  • This is the time when you as a group should try to influence this
  • Failure is about learning lessons – it’s a positive view, looking forward and do things better
  • Most institutions and people are afraid to talk about failure openly – want to change this institutional culture, to take learning lessons
  • Need to take more risks in where it is hard to work
  • To encourage staff being comfortable in taking risks, we need to have a new institutional view to allow for failure

Egyptian Center for Economic Studies

  • How could the WB promote more equitable involvement of CSOs in preparing the poverty reductions strategies and M&E, towards inclusive growth?
  • What is the role of the WB in creating conditions for job creation and inclusive growth?
  • Need to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty
  • The role of US in promoting investment, rather than aid, for sustainable development?
  • Women and youth participation, this also exist in rural areas, not just a middle class issue
  • The voting shares of the WB member countries, do they really reflect the current economic power, what are the measureable criteria for the voting power?


Questioner: How do you view managing the growing trend of more and more investment in the private sector? Concerns from a development perspective, achieving development objectives and accountability and transparency

Questioner: Ref to a project for WB, looked at social and environmental responsibility, but not approved as it didn’t fit the country’s strategy. Can CSOs have input into the country’s strategy, can there be a forum when there are important projects where they can give testimonies?

Tunisian NGO: WB/IMF confirmation that Arab spring is a big event, but is there a specific strategy to help support and accompany this? Don’t see much difference projects pre and post revolution. Civil society was inexistent before, this is new and needs to be taken into account. Very active and vivid civil society, please listen to them and try to factor all of their concerns, there is democracy now albeit in a fragile way. We are your biggest allies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen. When they see it’s business as usual, they will believe that WB has their own programmes and don’t care about the people.

Kosovo NGO: They way the WB is engaging, Kosovo’s first country strategy last year – more like a government partnership strategy, governmental wish, but not what everybody was consulted about – more of a presentation of what the WB would do in the country. This isn’t how the WB should be approaching countries, in particular new countries. Should look into and address this, this is not how civil society would like it to be. The actual activities with regards to IDA replenishment, two topics gender and climate change specific fields. Kosovo is an  IDA country, but to finance a coal based power project – goes against this. In Kosovo there are other ways of developing the energy sector.

Malawi NGO: There is an irrigation project supposed to be funded by WB, but because of the bureaucracies coupled with government bureaucracies, project was winded up before hitting the ground. Money was used to buy vehicles, but no project. Started with community participation, they are now left helpless. Next time you bring a project that needs community participation they will not want to engage, there is a lot of frustration.

Bangladesh NGO: Policies of the WB in informing the citizens in the country when something goes wrong, referring to the Padma bridge. Constantly misinformed, not informed, etc, citizens have been frustrated with the World Bank.

Sudan NGO: WB driving for transparency, it has instituted IEG. However, doesn’t look like the best way to be transparent. They report to the board directly, but not the best way to show that they are independent. Need completely independent group, or at least have a pilot to compare with the IEG.

Pakistan NGO: Head what is now the largest educational NGO in the country.Literacy is the biggest problem in Pakistan. WB putting in a lot of money through the government on education. Government’s objectives not always aligned with the people of the country. Why can’t WB work with CSOs, if CSOs are part of the process, many problems can be solved.

Karim Samir Wissa, ED Egypt

  • I’m new this week
  • Civil society did exist before the Arab Spring, because of them change did happen
  • Need to read the country strategy report on Egypt, do include the points of civil society – so no pre and post Arab Spring way of dealing with civil society


  • As representative of US, expect CSO involvement
  • Implementation goes well in some cases, in others not so well
  • Want to know about best practice
  • We want the strategies not just to be government strategies

Tanzania NGO: WB approach to capacity building of CSOs. Has been an initiative to do contract monitoring by WB, but didn’t take enough time to understand CSOs. WB was trying to reinvent the wheel, we already had CSOs doing tracking through other tools. Ended up being misconceived, contract monitoring just one aspect. It’s also about strategic planning process, expenditure, quality of the outcome of the contract , and moving forward, e.g. oversight mechanisms. WB should appreciate that things are already happening and try not to duplicate.

Noone is denying civil society existed before, but how enabling is or isn’t the environment for CSOs in Tunisia? Seeing an unprecedented crack down of civil society in 2012, including closing of NGOs, assassinations etc.

Sierra Leone NGO: Encouraging with CSO engagement, video conferencing, etc. Need improvement on information flow, needs to be alternative means to internet, including high illiteracy rates. Implementation of projects, challenging that WB investing in energy sector. In evaluation of some WB projects, don’t think CSOs have been involved

Poverty ground for disability (mental and physical), can’t educate, can’t get jobs. Don’t hear anything from the WB/IMF on this. Very little CSO engagement o this issue.

Ingrid Hoven, Germany ED

  • Governance systems, voting, voting powers – legitimacy needs to reflect the changing landscape
  • 2010 WB in a process of changes, eg third chair for Africa on the Board
  • Commitment to review of voice in 2015
  • WB is different to IMF, also dealing with poverty
  • Any system of voting power should not only measure economic strength, but international responsibility including IDA contribution, otherwise will leave behind a very important mandate of the institution
  • IDA17 and Kosovo, in March IDA 17 replenishment meeting, next meeting Nicaragua in June
  • Gender and climate change unfinished agenda items from IDA 16, but not the only themes
  • Main theme, probably around inclusive growth, including poverty reduction agenda, such as education, access to energy
  • Might be maximising development impact
  • What does it mean? How can we push low carbon energy considerations, but also ensure access to energy, especially for those in need – have to strike a balance
  • On Kosovo, organised a whole afternoon last year, now waiting for a study, then we’ll see how to proceed
  • A lot of energy to energy efficiency, renewable energy, through trust funds
  • Just taking one project doesn’t describe the whole institution

Jorg Frieden, Switzerland ED

  • Democratic legitimacy, of the government and the Bank – can we question this?
  • On one side share holding and voting power, consideration of sovereignty of the nation state
  • On the other side, discuss directly with us, not the government
  • WB is about creating capacity
  • WB can be as transparent as we can on engagement with the government, and what can be done together
  • We are also serving clients where there is no freedom for civil society
  • WB has to serve all this spectrum, as CSO you also have to carry a sense about the legitimacy of your own government – let’s work together to strengthen the legitimacy of the government, CSOs can be part of this, but not at the centre


  • As governors you can tinker the way WB engages with civil society
  • Or you can do something revolutionary to get citizen voice across the WB, setting an example
  • What’s the 2013 equivalent of the voices of the poor?


  • Wise and smart to build CSO capacity
  • Governments are implementing agencies of development, so also dealing with government sovereignty and with risks in the countries
  • Need your tolerance – we make mistakes but we also learn from this
  • Putting resources to increasing your capacity
  • CSOs in Arab countries don’t speak with one voice, this is a confusion
  • Try to unify your voices, focus on your priorities