A Window of Opportunity for Civil Society? The Importance of CSO Monitors in IDA20

October 5, 2015 – LIMA, Peru. 2015 World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings. Photo: Grant Ellis / World Bank (Flickr)

PTF Supports the Call for a Civil Society Window in IDA20

The World Bank has committed extensive funds to help its member governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the scale of these programs and speed of their development leaves them vulnerable to corrupt practices and mismanagement by the public agencies responsible for their implementation. In particular, the early replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA) in 2021, specifically designed to assist underdeveloped countries cope with the effects of COVID-19, will not be able to achieve its full potential or intended impact unless steps are taken to safeguard against misuse and inefficiencies. This risk can be mitigated by an accompanying accountability mechanism, a role which can be filled by civil society.

In order to safeguard pandemic response programs and ensure funds are used for their intended purpose, it is imperative that the World Bank consider and account for the essential role of civil society organizations (CSOs) as independent monitors in the allocation of funds for the IDA, according to experts from the Partnership for Transparency (PTF).

Over the course of the past year, PTF’s civil society partners have proven the value of their role as monitors of government spending and community catalysts to ensure help reaches those who need it most in the context of COVID-19 response programs. A deep belief in their work has led the Partnership for Transparency to advocate for the inclusion of funds for civil society in the form of a Civil Society Window in the twentieth replenishment of the IDA (IDA20).

PTF strongly endorses the statement, by the Civil Society Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), for 1 percent of IDA20 be set aside to support CSOs’ independent monitoring of World Bank investments. This monitoring will ensure increased transparency, equity, and accountability of the allocated funds.

According to OGP’s statement, endorsed by more than 180 CSOs around the world, this IDA round will finance an unprecedented number of projects designed to help end the COVID-19 pandemic and stimulate the economic recovery. However, the statement says, “these investments will be wasted if they are not accompanied by robust accountability mechanisms matched to today’s challenges.”

Representatives of PTF offices in the United States, Germany, India, Zambia, and the Philippines have called for at least three, not mutually exclusive, options for CSO engagement to enhance the integrity and effectiveness of IDA operations using the 1 percent of funds:

  1. The World Bank manages the 1 percent and engages CSOs using retail and/or wholesale modalities
  2. National governments use the 1 percent from credit proceeds and contracts the CSOs
  3. A separate civil society third-party monitoring (TPM) fund of the same magnitude managed by third party/parties (neither the Bank nor the government), such as a restructured Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA)

As outlined in a recent PTF report, international financial institutions and other donors generally require stakeholder engagement, including that of CSOs in the programs they fund, but fail to explicitly allocate funds for such activities. As a result, CSO engagement, particularly during implementation and monitoring, often does not happen. This reality further strengthens the call for a clear allocation of funds for CSO monitoring of World Bank expenditures in IDA20. While 1 percent is an indicative figure, it represents the need for a simple, explicit budgeting practice across the board to incorporate into all development activities. To the extent possible, budgets for third party monitoring should be provided separately from the project budget and the oversight of the project authorities, to avoid conflict of interest.

The call for funding civil society involvement is not a new or unprecedented request. Both IDA18 and IDA19  include policy commitments associated with “citizen engagement,” especially as they relate to “multi-stakeholder platforms” convened by the Bank. A Civil Society Window in IDA20 would build upon these existing commitments. Further, the Bank’s GPSA provides an existing grantmaking mechanism to civil society. The GPSA’s independent steering committee makes final decisions about grants, insulating the Bank and civil society from interference by client governments in grant selection. Such a mechanism, whether through the GPSA or another channel, would be essential for managing any prospective IDA funds supporting civil society engagement.

While current structures exist to support civil society inclusion, the GPSA has disbursed only $63 million over nine years. As of the 2015 GPSA Evaluation by the World Bank, GPSA funding for CSO grantees amounted to $16,219,928 and GPSA Grants and World Bank programs amounted to $14,421,878. However, the recommendations acknowledge that additional financial resources would need to be more vigorously pursued in order to expand GPSA’s support capacity.

While a precedent and justification for a Civil Society Window exists, further action is needed. Therefore, PTF representatives have lobbied IDA deputies from the United States and Europe and participated in a variety of advocacy events. Notably, PTF leveraged its attendance at the CSO Forum organized by the World Bank on June 21, 2021, to present the strategic directions of the IDA20 replenishment. They outlined that they key benefits of a CSO Window include:

  • Inclusion of CSOs leads to strengthened accountability and enhanced development results.
  • Public and donor confidence in the massive spending under IDA20 would be strengthened by explicitly engaging CSOs to independently monitor IDA projects.
  • CSOs can engage with governments and donors to help improve implementation, accountability, results, and control of corruption

Despite the benefits and the World Bank’s strong commitment to increasingly integrate civil society into its operations, current discussions indicate that the chances of a Civil Society Window in IDA20 remain unlikely. Instead, the Bank expressed an interest in looking for other ways to expand the role of CSOs in both service delivery and independent third-party monitoring of Bank operations and the government programs they support. However, alternative routes would require the same level of financial mobilization as that needed for an IDA20 window.

While each avenue for CSO engagement in monitoring IDA programs has benefits and challenges, all of which should be studied in depth, the value of civil society involvement in such programs cannot be understated, and PTF will continue to advocate for the mobilization of funding to reflect this.

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