The World Bank’s Evolving Relationship with Civil Society

October 2, 2017- WASHINGTON DC. World Bank Group Headquarters. Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie (Flickr)

by John Clark

Until the 1980s, the World Bank had very little interaction with civil society. From then on, however, engagement became ever more a feature of the Bank’s way of working. Four factors, in particular, have shaped this.

  1. Fierce criticisms of projects financed by the Bank, structural adjustment programs and its policies increasingly had to be addressed.
  2. As the Bank increased its focus on poverty reduction, it needed to be able to work with experienced agencies with capacity to deliver services at the local level.
  3. The Bank saw the importance of working in participatory ways, to ensure that ordinary people were well-informed about projects that are intended to help them and are able to shape those projects directly.
  4. As the Bank focused more on governance issues, including corruption, it recognized the importance of civil society in holding governments to account.

This summary of the evolving relationship is written by John Clark (PTF Presidential Fellow) who headed the Bank’s unit for engaging with Civil Society from 1992-1998.

Read the full report.

John Clark is the former chair of PTF, and headed the Bank’s unit for engaging with civil society from 1992-1998. His summary of the evolving relationship between the Bank and civil society was written at the invitation of the UN Career Records Project – an archive housed at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of PTF.

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