13.02.2020

As one of the world’s largest sources of funding and technical assistance for developing and transitioning countries, World Bank projects and poli­cies affect the lives and livelihoods of billions of peo­ple. When done right, this can have a positive impact on people and the environment, but evidence shows that this is not always the case.

Civil society plays an important role in holding the World Bank accountable to its mission, including its two goals to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. One way to do so is to try to influ­ence World Bank investments ‘upstream’ – or before they happen – to ensure that the Bank’s priorities align with those of civil society, such as protecting the environment and addressing the needs of the most marginalised groups.

Recourse has launched a new guide, sharing top tips on how civil society can influence the World Bank, with a focus on Myanmar. It was launched in Myanmar in early January 2020, and is available in English, and Burmese.

The new guide introduces the World Bank’s country engagement process, a vital opportunity to influence how the Bank positions its activities in a given coun­try for the next four to six years. Since all projects and investments made by the World Bank Group must follow this agreed country strategy, influencing the strategy to ensure that it reflects development priorities and excludes harmful activities is a crucial way of tackling bad in­vestments and encouraging good ones. Engaging in this way is also an entry point for influencing national governments as the Bank is a highly influential player in both low- and middle-income countries, whether as a major donor or a behind-the-scenes provider of ad­vice on national programmes and policies.

The country engagement process consists of four steps, resulting in two key documents: the Systematic Country Diagnos­tic (SCD) and the Country Partnership Framework (CPF). The SCD assesses the country context, which then feeds into the development of the CPF – the ac­tual strategy, which replaced the Country Assistance/Partnership Strategy (CAS/CPS) in 2014. Most significantly, civil society should be consulted in both these steps, but evidence to date shows that this does not always happen or that the process is flawed. The guide starts with background information on the process, followed by a step by step plan for how civil society can monitor and influence the process – from finding out when a process is about to start, to how to get the messages right and the importance of following up.

The guide includes a case study on Myanmar. Myanmar receives funding from the Bank’s middle-income country arm, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and from its low-income country arm, the International Development Association (IDA). The case study looks at the World Bank’s current funding portfolio for Myanmar and outlines some of the key features of what has been shared to date on the World Bank’s analysis and plans for Myanmar going forward.

The World Bank should strive to lead the way in terms of best practice for development finance institutions. If the World Bank is to meet its two goals and uphold its commitments in areas, such as gender equality and climate change, it is essential that civil society is able to hold the Bank to account and that its broad range of experiences and concrete proposals for more sustainable and equitable ways forward are heard and acted on. This practical guide provides a first step on the way for ensuring civil society has the right tools to make an impact, pushing for better and more sustainable World Bank projects and policies.