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World Bank Development Approaches and Initiatives

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The World Bank has traditionally funded development efforts in several dozen thematic areas ranging from education and transportation, to rural development.  More recent areas of work also include environment, anti-corruption, and youth.  For a complete list of the Bank’s thematic areas please visit the Topics in Development page.

The Bank has in recent years adopted several new policies and programs geared to promoting a more holistic, participatory, and results-based approach to development and poverty reduction. This approach incorporates the notion that development must be inclusive, comprehensive, and country-owned in order to be effective and sustainable over the long term.

Many of these new approaches and initiatives were based on lessons learned from the successful grassroots experience of civil society and were adopted after consultation with CSOs.  These include new conceptual frameworks, global poverty reduction goals, new country-owned poverty reduction plans, debt reduction initiative, and new approaches geared to promoting more participatory, inclusive, transparent, and results-oriented development efforts.

Governance and Anticorruption Strategy for the World Bank Group
Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) 
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) 
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC) 
Community Driven Development (CDD)
Mainstreaming Gender
Empowering Voices of the Poor
Governance and Public Sector Reform
Participation and Civic Engagement


Governance and Anticorruption Strategy for the World Bank Group

Given the abiding challenges of corruption and limited progress in tackling its causes, the Bank is now strengthening and scaling up its governance and anti-corruption work. On March 20, 2007 the World Bank's Board of Directors unaminously approved a new Governance and Anticorruption Strategy for the World Bank Group. The strategy paper -- originally presented to the Development Committee at the Bank's 2006 Annual Meetings in Singapore -- was revised to take into account main messages resulting from multistakeholder consultations that the Bank held between November 2006 and January 2007 with over 3,200 representatives from government, civil society, donor agencies, business, parliaments and other interested parties through 47 country consultations, 4 meetings with global audiences, and web-based feedback.

Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF)

In 1999, the World Bank introduced a new framework called the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) which promotes a more multi-dimensional and inclusive approach to development at the country level. It fosters more effective and sustained poverty reduction by working according to four key interrelated principles: a long-term holistic development agenda; broad-based country ownership; donor coordination; and accountability for development results. The CDF enables each country to take charge of its development process in a manner that reflects a broad national consensus, beyond government alone. This has resulted in a more inclusive role for civil society in macroeconomic policy discussions in CDF countries, and there is good progress in engaging a wide range of external as well as internal partners in a country's strategy formulation.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

In light of the enormous challenge facing the global community to eradicate poverty -- which affects nearly half of the world’s population living on less than $2 dollars a day -- the international development community in 2000 adopted specific targets for poverty reduction, now known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs constitute 8 basic poverty reduction goals ranging from access to social services and gender equity to environmental sustainability. The overarching goal is to halve income poverty worldwide by 2015.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women Goal 4: Reduce child mortality Goal 5: Improve maternal health Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

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Debt Relief

The World Bank and the IMF launched the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC) in 1996 in order to address the high debts of low-income countries. The HIPC initiative was expanded in 1988. International civil society networks such as Jubilee 2000 helped create political pressure for this expansion by highlighting the debilitating nature of debt on poverty reduction efforts in developing countries. HIPC was the first comprehensive program geared to reducing the external debt of the world's most heavily indebted poor countries, and represented an important step forward in placing debt relief within an overall framework of poverty reduction. As of April 2003, countries are benefiting from HIPC by receiving debt relief totaling $41 billion over time, with much of these savings being applied to education and health programs at the country level.

Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSP)

The most recent major initiative to grow out of the CDF holistic approach to development has been the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) which was launched in 1999 by the World Bank and IMF. PRSPs were established to encourage governments to develop their own comprehensive plans to promote economic growth and reduce poverty within a framework of wide stakeholder consultation and donor coordination. PRSPs are expected to provide the basis of all World Bank and IMF lending and for debt relief within low-income countries. Furthermore, many middle-income countries are also beginning to adopt the PRSP approach to their own country development strategies.

Community Driven Development (CDD)

Another poverty reduction approach adopted by the World Bank is Community Driven Development (CDD). CDD is an approach that aims to give voice to and empower community groups to control decisions and resources which affect their lives. These programs take many forms and include: direct community control of resources and investment decisions; management of resources by local governments or other actors (e.g. NGOs, private firms) with participatory decision-making and citizen monitoring mechanisms; and activities geared to strengthening the enabling environment for greater civil society participation (e.g. public sector policy and institutional reform, participatory budgeting, decentralization). Programs designed within a CDD framework represent about 10% of the World Bank’s portfolio, or $2 billion a year. An example of CDD are Social Funds which offer financing (usually grants) to community groups to rebuild war-torn communities, provide social services, and carry out community development efforts.

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Mainstreaming Gender

There is a growing body of evidence and experience linking gender issues in policy and projects to equitable, efficient, and sustainable outcomes in development. The World Bank has made steady progress in integrating gender into its policies, research agenda, and lending work. The Bank adopted an Operational Policy on the gender dimensions of development (OP 4.20) in 1994 and has since provided $5.3 billion for girls’ education programs worldwide over the past decade. In 2001, the World Bank published a new gender mainstreaming strategy entitled Engendering Development - Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice.

Empowering Voices of the Poor

In an unprecedented effort to understand poverty from the perspective of the poor themselves rather than from the traditional experts, the World Bank collected the voices of more than 60,000 poor women and men from 60 countries. The ensuing participatory 3-part series, called Voices of the Poor chronicles the struggles and aspirations of poor people for a life of dignity. This study provided direct, grassroots input into the World Development Report (WDR) 2000/01 on “Attacking Poverty”, which analyzed in greater depth the causes and consequences of poverty around the world.

Governance and Public Sector Reform

Recognizing that good governance and strong public institutions lie at the core of achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction, the Bank has increasingly moved public sector institutional reform, upholding the rule of law, and the fight against corruption to center stage in its assistance to member countries. Growing evidence shows that ineffectual enforcement of laws engenders environmental degradation, corruption, money laundering, and other problems that burden people and economies around the world. Since the late 1990s the World Bank has increasingly begun to support legal and judicial reform efforts including judicial sector assessments and loans geared to court modernization, training for judges and court personnel, and legal education. In the area of corruption, the Bank has taken an active role by supporting more than 600 anticorruption programs and governance initiatives.  

Participation and Civic Engagement

Participation and civic engagement are at the heart of the Bank’s comprehensive approach to development as there is growing evidence that countries with vibrant civil societies are more likely to build more equitable and sustainable patterns of development.  The enabling environment for civic engagement can be defined as a set of interrelated conditions (legal, fiscal, informational, political, and cultural) that fosters the growth of civil society and strengths its capacity to participate in public policy dialogue and program implementation. The World Bank is assisting governments to institutionalize mechanisms for transparency and accountability to improve public service delivery and make social spending more cost-effective. Activities undertaken include: helping governments strengthen their legal, regulatory, political, and institutional frameworks; providing training to both governments and CSOs on participatory budgeting, citizens score cards,  and social program evaluation approaches; and linking social accountability efforts to the PRSP and other existing poverty reduction processes at the national and local levels.

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Last updated: March 2007




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