IFI governance


World Bank’s country engagement approach

7 February 2016 | Inside the institutions

WBG Engagement pic


In July 2014 the World Bank Group (WBG) introduced a new country engagement model to increase borrower engagement in its interventions (see Observer Winter 2014, Autumn 2013). The new model replaced the country assistance strategy (CAS, see Update 70), and is “designed to tailor policies and programmes to the needs and priorities of individual countries”, and assist them in achieving the Bank Group’s strategic twin goals of reducing poverty and promoting shared prosperity. According to the Bank, the new model will help shift the emphasis “from an ‘approvals’ to a ‘results delivery’ culture centred on implementation, real-time citizen feedback, and mid-course evaluation and correction.”

Systematic country diagnostic (SCD)

The model approaches country-level engagement in four steps. Initially a systematic country diagnostic (SCD) identifies “the most critical constraints to, and opportunities for” achieving the World Bank’s strategic twin goals. A SCD is prepared in mandatory consultation with the borrower country authorities and stakeholders as per the new Bank citizen engagement framework (see box). According to the Bank it will “reflect the views” of the Bank Group, as it is developed with active participation from all Bank institutions, including its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and its political risk insurance arm, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). A country engagement note (CEN) can also be used to describe short-term engagement, lasting 12-24 months while the Bank Group develops activities with longer, medium-term impact. CEN is currently being used in Cambodia. The SCD will be carried out by the Bank Group’s office in each country (Country Management Unit) with a review process undertaken by the Bank Group. To address the ambiguities around the SCD-assessment, the Bank has provided an interim SCD assessment guide.

Country partnership framework (CPF)

The next step of the engagement process, the development of a “systematic, evidence-based” country partnership framework (CPF) draws on the SCD and focuses on the achievement of the World Bank’s twin goals. Building on the SCD consultations, a CPF should contain policies and programmes tailored to the individual country. The CPF serves as the main tool for Bank Group support of borrowing countries’ development programmes and encompasses all Bank Group activities in the country, while also taking into account the activities of other development partners. While usually prepared for a five year period, CPFs may be extended for an additional two years in order to see development results. A CPF document should contain brief background information and be built around a results-based framework that lays out the project’s expected achievements. Indicators measuring the progress of results and achievements should also be included. However, according to the Bank, in countries “with a high level of uncertainty, such as fragile states, CPF objectives and Bank Group activities in the outer years may not be well defined in the initial CPF.” This allows for adjustment and revisions as required by changing country circumstances and implementation experience.

The CPF is an attempt to address the criticisms of the one-size-fits-all approach of the previous CAS (see Observer Winter 2014). According to the Bank, the CPF builds on the CAS “best elements”. The CPF is focused on “development results and establish[es] tolerances for taking smart risks.” Emphasising results is nothing new, as the Bank introduced the results-based CAS in 2005. However, a 2008 report by the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) found that many CASs had poor results frameworks. Documented ex post results were found to be too broad and lacking focus. In addition, the IEG noted that the lessons learned “are sometimes too generic and are not always useful for the design of the following CAS.” The CAS process had no standard mechanism to review risk, consequently making it difficult to distinguish high-risk from low-risk strategies. Also, the risks outlined were not seen as relating to CAS programmes and rarely gave suggestions for risk management. To address this, the CPF contains an integrated new systematic risk assessment, including a “rigorous and timely analysis of a country’s development challenges” that, according to the Bank, will be adjusted to the country’s needs and experiences.

Capturing lessons from projects (PLR & CLR)

Lastly, performance and learning reviews (PLRs) and completion and learning reviews (CLRs) are conducted to “identify and capture lessons; determine midcourse corrections, and help build the Bank’s knowledge base, including effective approaches for integrating inclusion and sustainability dimensions into the SCD and CPF.” PLRs will occur every two years or at mid-term, producing a short document outlining key changes to the country context or programme implementation experience. A CLR is essentially a self-assessment completed by the Bank country team, reviewing programme and Bank performance in meeting the CPF objectives. Both reviews are aimed at regularly improving the Bank’s new processes for negotiating its investment strategy for each borrowing country, while working towards its objective of becoming a “recognised leader in knowledge and talent.” After the country team has completed their self-assessment, the IEG will validate the assessment and verify any findings.

Civil society response

The response of civil society on SCD and CPF has predominantly focused on the need to include environmental and social, particularly human rights, considerations as a part of the framework to promote investment and development. In a May 2014 submission to the Bank, the Bank Information Center, Oxfam International and Center for International Enviromental Law expressed the need for a minimum standard of citizen engagement, strengthening of environmental and social considerations in risk assessment and incorporation of inequality analysis into country engagement.


The IEG is currently evaluating the implementation of the new model based on the first group of SCDs and CPFs. A final report is expected in August-September 2016. While the IEG evaluation is expected to support the development of the new model, it will not use country-level implementation results, relying instead on evidence taken during the production of SCDs and CPFs. The evaluation will assess SCDs and CPFs against the obstacles the new model seeks to overcome. The Bank board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) in September requested the IEG to verify whether SCD diagnostics had been shared with borrower countries and to include borrower countries perspective in the evaluation.


The World Bank’s citizen engagement framework

The World Bank has launched a new strategic framework for mainstreaming citizen engagement (CE) in Bank Group-supported policies, programmes, projects, advisory services, and analytics “to improve their development results.” According to the Bank, the framework aims to capture diverse experiences, assess lessons learned and outline methods and entry points to provide a more systematic and results-focussed approach” for the Bank Group, and should emphasise the importance of “country context, government ownership, and clear objectives for citizen engagement.”

CE is applied to SCD and CPF through a variety of entry points. In SCD, CE is integrated in three ways: stakeholder consultation; collaboration with local think-tanks and universities; and by identifying country-specific areas of development. For the CPG, consultation is also mandatory, the CE objectives are to inform and improve decision-making on CPF outcomes and, in projects, to improve development outcomes.


List of planned and completed SCDs (as of 2 February 2016)
Cote D’Ivoire

East Asia and Pacific

Europe and Central Asia:
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Latin America and Caribbean

Costa Rica
El Salvador

Middle East and North Africa


South Asia
Sri Lanka
Guinea Bissau
Sierra Leone

East Asia and Pacific
Pacific Islands – regional

Europe and Central Asia

Latin America and Caribbean

Middle East and North Africa

South Asia
Source: http://www.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/country-strategies#3