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Civil Society Publications on the World Bank

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There is an increasing number of studies and reports produced by CSOs on the World Bank. These include reports and evaluations on Bank policies, programs, and projects. The Civil Society Team will make every effort to add publications written by CSOs regarding the operations and activities of the World Bank.

  • The dissertation titled "A Lot More Than The NGOs Seem to Think: The Impact of NGOs on the Bank and Fund" was written by Robert Kelly of Ohio State University in the US. It analyzes the evolving relationship between leading international NGOs and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and particularly the level of influence NGOs have had in shaping policies in both institutions. The research was based on attending numerous policy dialogue sessions, and undertaking dozens of interviews among Bank and Fund staff as well as a survey of CSO leaders over a two year period. He found that the Bank engages NGOs more proactively primarily for their usefulness in enhancing project performance, while the IMF engages civil society in a defensive posture in response to critique from NGOs. See the  executive summary and a copy of entire report.
  • The report titled "Accountability in Complex Organizations: World Bank Responses to Civil Society " was carried out by Alnoor Ebrahim and Steve Herz and published by Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The report analyzes World Bank accountability using a useful four-tier framework: staff, project, policy, and board governance. This paper argues that civil society organizations have influenced accountability at both the project and policy levels by ensuring enforcement of social and environmental safeguards and maintaining complaint mechanisms. However, civil society organizations have had little influence on staff accountability and on the way the institution is governed. The report also analyzes in detail the Bank's handling of several policy consultation processes in recent years such as structural adjustment, extractive industries, and governance. Read the entire report.

  • Executive Director Advocacy Toolkit: A guide to influencing the World Bank Board of Directors: Drawing on the experience of our staff, dozens of partners and feedback from inside the World Bank, the toolkit provides strategies for civil society actors to engage and build relationships with the World Bank's Executive Directors. Built around our ED advocacy workshop held during the 2010 Annual Meetings, this guide provides a blueprint for constructive work with the Board. [Bank Information Center -2010]
Adjustment Lending
Bank / Civil Society Relations
Basic ServicesConditionality
Human Rights
PRSP Process
World Bank Operations - Poverty Assessment

If your organization is interested in having its publications listed on our site, please send us the electronic version, and a brief description of the publication.

Accountability and Transparency 
Accountability and Participation at the World Bank & IDB: Starting down the road from rhetoric to action (Mar 20, 2009): This study by BIC seeks to examine the extent to which the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) incorporate their ideals and policies on participation and accountability in the design of their projects. The study’s sample included 25 projects from 9 countries, covering seven sectors: health, education, water and sanitation, decentralization, rural development, cash transfer programs, and social sector reforms. Findings from the study paint a stark difference between the two banks, with the World Bank demonstrating a much better track record in terms of translating its rhetoric into practice. the five practice categories.
Transparency And Accountability In International Financial Institutions
In the poorest countries in the world, the influence of the IFIs has been increasing over the past two decades. This growing influence has been accompanied by growing criticism of the policy prescriptions of these institutions. A common element of much of the criticism directed at the IFIs is that they suffer from a ‘democratic deficit’, both in terms of their own internal governance as well as their role in limiting the policy options of member states. [Bank Information Center (BIC)]
Implementation Of The World Bank’s Disclosure Policy: An External Review January 2002 – June 2003
The Bank Information Center (BIC) has prepared this “External Review” of the Disclosure Policy’s implementation in order to highlight issues that we hope the Board and Management will take into consideration. While we believe that Management has made a sincere effort to implement the Policy’s provisions, serious problems remain unresolved. [Bank Information Center (BIC)]
Struggling to be heard: Democratising the World Bank and the IMF
This report demonstrates how the World Bank and IMF fail to fulfill the standards of transparency and accountability that they call for in poor countries. These hugely powerful institutions are managed in a way that prevents poor countries from being fairly represented. This report recommends how these institutions need to change if they are to become modern and appropriate for the world we live. [Christian Aid]
Call for Participatory Decision Making This report was drafted by two independent researchers and commissioned by 16 international CSO networks and members of the Joint Facilitation Committee (JFC). While the paper recognizes advances made by the Bank in some of its policies, it calls for greater reform on two levels. First, at the governance level it advocates more transparency and democracy on how the institution is run. On the program level, it calls for more systematic and meaningful participation of civil society throughout all stages of the policy and project cycles, as well as the establishment of process-based standards for that participation. [Joint Facilitation Committee (JFC)]


Deadly Combination: The Role of Southern Governments and the World Bank in the Rise of Hunger
This report, provided by APRODEV, studies the status of food security in the countries of Malawi, Zambia and Ethiopia. These three countries were chosen because they each promoted extensive liberalization of their economies for 15 or more years. The report focuses on the impact agricultural polices of the country governments and the World Bank have had on poor farmers. The analysis covers two phases of the reform period - deep liberalization and partial liberalization. It concludes that deep liberalization increased hunger for the poorest people and faults the national governments and the World Bank for ignoring the needs of poor farmers. [Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organizations in Europe(APRODEV)]

Hunger Free: The World Bank and Agriculture. A Critical Review of the World Bank's World Development Report 2008
This report provides an overview and detailed case studies on the impacts of the World Bank's involvement with agriculture. The report suggests that the World Bank's policies promoting structural adjustment are directly responsible for the current status of agricultural crisis in developing countries. Furthermore, the study concludes that the recommendations contained in the World Development Report will worsen the current crisis.[ActionAid International]


What Agenda Now for Agriculture? A response to the World Development Report 2008
The World Development Report 2008 focuses on how agricultural development can be used to help reduce poverty and inequality. However, this report by Oxfam International says agriculture faces new challenges such as natural resource degradation, climate change, trade and market liberalization, the rise of new private actors and the development of new technologies. This report suggests that in order to effectively reduce poverty with agriculture development, rural development policies and institutional procedures will need to change. It also suggests that the WDR fails to deal with both the new power relationships in the global marketplace as well as gender equity. [Oxfam International]

Adjustment Lending
Structural Adjustment: The SAPRI Report
The Policy Roots of Economic Crisis, Poverty and Inequality SAPRIN's January 2004 report presenting a critique of structural adjustment policies in developing countries in both North and South. The study covers a wide range of economic sectors and was undertaken jointly with the World Bank and Southern governments. [Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN)]
Bank / Civil Society Relations
Tools for Activists: An Information and Advocacy Guide to the World Bank Group 
The sourcebook contains well researched information on what the World Bank is, how it operates at the country level, what information is public and how to use it, what environmental and social standards the Bank must uphold, and how citizens can contact the Bank.
[Bank Information Center]
Seeing Eye to Eye: InterAction Member Agencies and World Bank Staff Assess their Operational Collaboration and Policy Engagement
This report presents the findings of a joint study undertaken by InterAction and the World Bank to assess the level and quality of their operational and policy relations. The motivation for the study was sparked by a post-9/11 invitation from James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, to senior executives of InterAction member agencies to suggest advice and proposals for dialogue and cooperation on issues related to poverty reduction. [InterAction]
Basic Services
In the Public Interest: Health, Education, and Water and Sanitation For All(Sept. 2007)
The report challenges donors and developing country governments to spend more on building effective and sustainable public health and education in developing countries. It argues that only governments can reach the scale necessary to provide universal access to services that are free or heavily subsidized for the poor and geared to the needs of all citizens.
Untying the knots - How the World Bank is failing to deliver real change on conditionality (Nov. 2007)
Eurodad, along with NGOs across Europe, believe that the World Bank should end its use of economic policy conditionality, which too often promotes sensitive and externally induced policy choices. Instead, grants and loans should be accompanied by a set of responsible financing standardswhich are mutually agreed by the Bank and recipient countries. [EURODAD]
Turning off the Taps: Donor Conditionality and Water Privatisation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
According to the report, water privatisation in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam has neglected the needs of poor people, despite the World Bank’s assurances that access to water for poor residents would be improved. [ActionAid]
Money talks. How aid conditions continue to drive utility privatisation in poor countries
Using specific examples of water and electricity privatization in Uganda, Ghana and India, the report counters statements by the IMF and World Bank that the IFIs no longer impose privatization conditionality, but lend money based on country-determined choices. [ActionAid]
Kicking the Habit:How the World Bank and IMF are still addicted to attaching economic reforms to aid
Despite numerous commitments to reform, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are still using their aid to make developing countries implement inappropriate economic policies, with the tacit approval of rich-country governments. These economic policy conditions undermine national policy-making, delay aid flows, and often fail to deliver for poor people. If the world is to make poverty history, this practice must be stopped. Aid must be conditional on being spent transparently and on reducing poverty, and nothing more. [Oxfam]
World Bank and IMF Still Pushing Conditionality--Norwegian Conference on Conditionality
Martin Khor of Third World Network provides a synopsis of the discussions held at the Norwegian Conference on Conditionality held last month which attracted over 100 participants. Jim Adams former OPCS VP spoke on a panel. The UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Gareth Thomas, stated that “the days have moved from where the IMF and World Bank tell countries what to do.” Charles Abugre, Head of Policy for Christian Aid emphasized President Wolfowitz's remarks at a recent meeting with NGOs in the UK in which he stated "conditionality does not work and even corruption as conditionality doesn’t work.” [Eurodad]
Kicking the Habit: How the World Bank and IMF are Still Addicted to Attaching Economic Policy Conditions to Aid, November 2006
Oxfam recognizes that the Bank is making progress in reducing economic policy conditionalities, it points out that a quarter of all conditions still push economic policies. Oxfam highlights the findings in the Bank’s conditionality progress report, which says that just under one-third of Bank loans contained prior actions or trigger conditions on privatization, price liberalization or trade reform. The Oxfam report also highlights Mali as a country case study. [Oxfam International]
Risky Development: Export Concentration, Foreign Investment and Policy Conditionality
This report examines some central components of economic policy conditionality, including the misplaced emphasis on static notions of comparative advantage and the excessive priority that is attached to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). While FDI can certainly be beneficial, it is not without its own costs and risks. [World Vision]
The New World Bank / IMF Debt Sustainability Framework. A Human Development Assessment
CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis are promoting an alternative, “human development” approach to measuring debt sustainability i.e. an approach that is based on a country's financial requirements to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals or costed poverty reduction programmes, rather than on the current ratio of debt-to-exports. Using this approach, we argue for extending debt reduction to countries that go beyond the official list of HIPC countries. [CIDSE & Caritas Internationalis]
Millstone or Milestone? What rich countries must do in Paris to make aid work for poor people
On March 2nd, 2005, the world’s richest countries will meet in Paris to agree the actions needed to make aid work for one billion people living in poverty. The aid donors currently preside over a system that fails the poor. Less than half of aid is spent in the poorest countries. This money is further devalued by donor red tape, duplication, conflicting objectives, intrusive conditions and tying to overpriced goods and services. At a time when aid is increasing, it is critical that this money makes an effective contribution to the fight against poverty. Without concrete steps in Paris to make aid accountable and efficient, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals will be jeopardised. The choice facing development ministers at the OECD High Level Forum is simple: 2005 can either be a milestone in making aid work for the people it is supposed to help, or a millstone. [ActionAid International/Oxfam International]
Education's Missing Millions(Sept. 2007)
The report is urging donor and recipient governments to make their aid to education and national education plans more responsive to the challenge of providing a quality education for the 26 million primary school aged disabled children still out of school in developing countries. [World Vision]

Learning to survive: How education for all would save millions of young people from HIV/AIDS
Failure by donor countries to invest in achieving universal education now will mean increased poverty later, and will condemn countries hard-hit by AIDS to a grim future of underdevelopment and dependence. In an increasingly interdependent world, developed countries will never be able to isolate themselves from the consequences if they fail to act now. The World Bank Spring Meetings in April 2004 provide an opportunity for rich countries to start making a difference now by properly funding and coordinating the Education for All effort. [Oxfam]


Education for All Fast Track: The No-Progress Report
The EFA Fast Track Initiative is a ground-breaking compact between rich and poor countries, which aims to close the education financing gap in countries that implement far-reaching reforms. In April 2003, the World Bank’s Development Committee requested a progress report on the FTI in time for their meeting in Dubai. According to Oxfam, they will not get one, because there is no progress to report. [Oxfam]



Doubling the Damage: World Bank Climate Investment Funds Undermine Climate Change and Gender Justice
This paper from Gender Action, is a first-look examining how the new WBG-administered Climate Investment Funds will impact both climate and gender justice.  The paper explores linkages among climate change, gender justice and the WBG.  It aims to increase literacy and advocacy on the gender impacts of these developments. [Gender Action, 2009]


Gambling With People's Lives
The report published by Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth and International Rivers Network takes a critical look at the World Bank's new 'high risk/high reward' strategy. It examines the track record of the Bank's high-risk projects in the water, forestry and extractive industry sectors, and puts forward a set of recommendations. A print version of the report can be obtained by visiting the Friends of the Earth website. [Environmental Defense]

Gender Toolkit for International Finance Watchers
Gender Action announces its new user-friendly toolkit to help civil society groups incorporate gender perspectives into their work on the IFIs or into any other projects. When authors Anna Rooke and Mande Limbu recently presented this toolkit at a workshop, participants wishing to “engender” government budgets said it was the best gender toolkit produced to date. The toolkit is intended to be a living document, rather than a static publication and so Gender Action look forward to hearing your suggestions and building upon your experience using the toolkit in your work. (Gender Action, 2009) 


Mapping Multilateral Development Banks’ Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS Spending(Sept. 2007)
The first report assessing the quantity and quality of Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDBs’) spending for reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. Mapping demonstrates a decline in World Bank and little African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank loans and grants for reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. [Gender Action]
Gender Guide to World Bank and IMF Policy-Based Lending
The Guide highlights the gendered impacts of World Bank and International Monetary Fund policy-based loans. These loans impose policies on borrowing countries such as decreasing public spending, privatisation of essential services and unilaterally liberalising trade. These policies often deepen poverty, undermine gender equality, contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS and bring about increased violence against women. The case studies demonstrate that the Bank and Fund neglect gendered impacts of their policy-based loans. [Gender Action]
Demystifying ‘Good Governance’: an overview of World Bank Governance Reforms and Conditions
The briefing aims to clarify a few basic questions about the World Bank's governance conditionality, these are: (a) How does the Bank define governance?, (b) What is the Bank's governance agenda?, (c) How much of the Bank's governance agenda is being pursued via conditionality?, and (d) How extensively is governance conditionality being applied? [Trocaire]
World Bank Profits From Poor Countries, September 2006 - In its new report, "Impossible Architecture", Social Watch urges the Bank and IMF to reform its current international financial structure. Under the status quo, Social Watch observes, net transfers to developing counties from the Bank and the IBRD have been negative every year since 1991. The report asserts that developing countries have little power in decision-making, despite the fact that they largely finance administrative costs of both institutions through interest and other charges on loans. [Social Watch]
Blocking Progress. How the Fight against HIV/AIDS is Being Undermined by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund
In advance of the 2004 Annual Fall Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the report accuses the IMF of undermining the fight against AIDS. The report by four humanitarian agencies says that despite the severity of the AIDS crisis, IMF restrictions on
public spending in poor countries are making it difficult for countries to hire more doctors, nurses, and health workers, as well as to buy the medicines required to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic effectively. [ActionAid]
Low Credit: a report on the World Bank’s response to HIV/AIDS in developing countries
In Low Credit, a report on World Bank responses to HIV/Aids, ActionAid research reviews the Bank’s structural adjustment policies of the 1980s and 90s and their impact on the poor countries', particularly those in Africa, to confront their growing AIDS epidemics. [ActionAid]
Downward Spiral. The absence of HIV from economic policy-making
The report makes the case for integrating considerations about HIV into economic policy. It shows how HIV, poverty and economic change are linked and recommends how policies should deal with this. The report illustrates its argument with several case studies, including one from western Kenya – an area economically dependant on sugar-cane – where HIV is prevalent. [ActionAid]
False Economies: Why AIDS-Affected Countries Are a Special Case for Action
This report to an insidious aspect of the crisis; donor rhetoric is to date unmatched by donor commitment. World Vision research has shown that this lack of commitment is sentencing AIDS-affected countries to a stalling of development that will linger long after rates of infection have peaked. [World Vision]
Human Rights
A Roadmap for Integrating Human Rights into the World Bank Group.
This report argues that human rights are an integral part of effective and sustainable development, and should be explicitly considered in all World Bank Group (WBG) investment decisions. The report therefore highlights the WBG's accomplishments, shortcomings, and barriers, and suggest ways forward.  [World Resources Institute, 2010]

Doing the rights thing? The World Bank and the human rights of people living in poverty.
This briefing argues that by working in partnership with governments on national human rights objectives, the World Bank can greatly help countries to move towards the realisation of their international treaty commitments. According to World Vision, the Bank’s current reticence in this area denies to developing states the unique technical assistance and insights of an agency with proven skills in other areas of government capacity building. [World Vision]

The World Bank at 60: A Case of Institutional Amnesia?
International Rivers Network reports on how the World Bank is implementing its Infrastructure Action Plan, and concludes that the new high-risk strategy “has not incorporated the lessons of past experience, will exacerbate conflicts, and will not help to reach the Millenium Development Goals”. [International Rivers Network]
Owning the loan – poor countries and the MDGs
Christian Aid and AFRODAD commissioned research in December 2003 to investigate the links between debt management, the build-up of new loans, and the most sustainable ways of financing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia – all low-income and highly indebted countries. Together they face an estimated minimum shortfall of US$65bn, without which they will not reach the MDGs by the target date of 2015. [Christian Aid]
In the Public Interest: Health, Education, and Water and Sanitation for All
This report outlines what governments, rich and poor need to do to reach the Millennium Development Goals and address the chronic inequalities of access to public services in poor countries. Oxfam calculates that meeting the MDG targets on health, education, and water and sanitation would require an extra $47 billion a year. Compare this with annual global military spending of $1 trillion, or the $40 billion that the world spends every year on pet food. [Oxfam]
PRSP Process
Rethinking Participation. The Limitations & Constraints of the PRSP Process and How to Move Forward
ActionAid USA/ActionAid Uganda discussion paper is designed to elicit debate and discussion among ActionAid country programs and other CSOs which participate in public consultations for Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). While acknowledging the benefits of CSO engagement in public PRSP consultations, the paper raises important questions for CSOs about the limitations and constraints of the consultations that have been documented over the previous four years of experience. [Christian Aid]
PRSP as Theatre. Backstage policy-making and the future of the PRSP approach
This CIDSE-Caritas Internationalis Background Paper looks at the question of whether the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approach has been adopted by donors and low-income country governments as a genuine framework for policy-making. It finds that this is rarely the case. PRSPs have in many cases become ‘theatre’. The processes fulfilled have little bearing on the actual policies implemented. The real decisions are taken elsewhere, such as through national budget implementation and trade negotiations. Most significantly however, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank processes displace the PRSP. [CIDSE/Caritas Internationalis]
Hearing the Voices of the Poor: Encouraging Good Governance and Poverty Reduction through Media Sector Support (PDF 115Kb)
To participate effectively in policy formation, citizens and their representatives need timely, relevant, and clear information and analysis of political and economic issues. Among society’s institutions, an independent media is best positioned to disseminate information, educate the public and policymakers, create a platform for diverse views, and keep the citizenry informed about socioeconomic developments, especially as they relate to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process. [World Learning]
Rough Diamond: PRSPs and the 60th Anniversary of the World Bank and IMF
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) concept, is now rolled out in 53 countries, with the first PRSPs some three years old. The report asks: What have we learnt? Are PRSPs the new form of ownership and development tools as advertised some five years ago when launched by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)? Have PRSPs become the Trojan horse of development: allowing the Bretton Woods Institutions to continue to control policy formation in developing countries under the guise of giving ownership to those same countries? [World Vision]
Strengthening Participation for Policy Influence. Lessons Learned from Trócaire’s PRS Project, 2002 – 2006
This paper reviews Trócaire's cross-organisational Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS)project which was established in early 2002. The report concludes that Trócaire needs to build on its experience with the PRS project to develop a new strategic programme around social and economic justice advocacy, with clear policy change objectives at national and international level. The work needs to be based more firmly in country level analysis and support to partners, while maintaining a crucial link to international policy. [Trocaire]
Business as usual: The World Bank, the IMF and the liberalisation agenda
At the G8 summit in July, world leaders said developing countries should have the right to set their own economic policies. Put into effect, this would mean an end to more than 20 years of rich countries using their power as donors and creditors to force trade liberalisation on poor countries. But Christian Aid’s new report 'Business as Usual, the World Bank, the IMF and the Liberalisation Agenda' warns against a complacent acceptance of the G8’s statement. It shows that despite previous commitments from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to give poor countries more freedom to choose their own trade policies, little of substance has changed. [Christian Aid]
Pricing Farmers out of Cotton: The costs of World Bank reforms in Mali
With global trade talks stalled at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), rich-country cotton subsidies remain unabated, hurting poor cotton farmers. World Bank led reforms to privatise the Malian cotton sector, including the adoption of a new price- setting mechanism, are further exacerbating the dire conditions in cotton-producing communities. A minimum level of price stability is vital for income security in the cotton sector and to prevent further slides into poverty. The wider donor community should provide adequate funds to finance a cotton-sector support fund, as well as invest in rural extension services and sustain capacity building of farmers to enable them to maximise their returns from new market opportunities. [Oxfam]
World Bank Operations - Poverty Assessment
Blind spot: The continued failure of the World Bank and IMF to fully assess the impact of their advice on poor people(Sept. 2007)
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are still failing to consistently ensure that there is a proper assessment of the likely consequences of different policy actions it advices on the poorest people in the developing countries. [Oxfam, Save the Children, CAFOD, Christian Aid, New Rules for Global Finance, WaterAid, Eurodad, Trocaire, Bretton Woods Project, Norwegian Church Aid]

Last Updated: February, 2008

Last updated: 2011-01-25

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