New Report calls on World Bank to Strengthen Anti-Corruption and Good Governance Work with Civil Society

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Despite heightened priority to work with civil society under the World Bank’s recent “Governance and Anti-Corruption (GAC)” policies, a new study finds significant shortcomings. A critical weakness, from the perspective of civil society organizations, is the Bank’s reliance on the governments of developing countries to approve and to support Bank-civil society programs.

The study, “Stimulating the Demand for Good Governance – Eight Strategic Recommendations for Intensifying the Role of the World Bank,” is produced by the not-for-profit, Washington DC-based, Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF). It stressed that the Bank’s goal to scale-up significantly its work in the anti-corruption area with civil society organizations (CSOs) has been hampered by: its approaches that first seek host government executive branch consent; poor publicity by the Bank of opportunities for civil society to receive funding; CSO concerns that receiving funds from their governments will undermine their independence; and, “there is an inherent conflict of interest in a CSO accepting funds from a government agency or the World Bank and then engaging in independent monitoring of that same agency in a Bank-financed project.”

The authors of the PTF study, are former World Bank officials Vinay Bhargava, Kit Cutler and Daniel Ritchie, PTF’s President. The new report details strategic recommendations to the Bank to improve its work with CSOs in the anti-corruption and governance arena. They note, for example, that although many official donor governmental agencies have been pursuing anti-corruption programs for some years, knowledge and learning about what works, and why, is still not widely shared. PTF stated that the Bank should provide leadership on this front, which would be welcomed by most donors. It should lead by generating and disseminating knowledge, and convening stakeholders from around the world. PTF said civil society should be included in such efforts.

The PTF study emphasized that its recommendations to the World Bank in the context of the “Demand for Good Governance” should be clearly understood as relating to development interventions that strengthen the ability of and extent of citizens, civil society organizations, and other non-state actors, to hold the state accountable and to make it responsive to their needs. The aim is to promote this concept, which is seen as enhancing the capacity of the state to become transparent, participatory, and accountable. The World Bank has largely accepted this concept and sought to build projects and programs that embrace it, yet the new study suggests that the Bank still has a long way to go before substantial results are visible.

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