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World Bank - Civil Society Global Policy Forum

The Forum brought together some 200 civil society leaders, government officials, parliamentarians, donor agency representatives, IMF staff, and Bank managers to assess the PRSP process and discuss the way forward for Bank – civil society engagement at the global level. See full list of participants.

There were civil society organizations (CSOs) present from over 50 countries, the majority from developing countries, and representing a broad array of labor unions, NGOs, faith-based groups, foundations, and community-based organizations.  Many of the CSO leaders present represent large national or international civil society networks.

List of participants - listed alphabeticallylisted by organization type.

Now available: World Bank Response to the Communique (200k doc).

The first full day of the forum, which was held at George Washington University, was thematic in nature and focused on the quality of implementation and development impacts of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process at the country level.  The discussion began with a presentation by Bank and Fund staffs on the PRSP 2005 Review process and what are the key challenges faced in the 70 countries implementing the poverty reduction programs.

CS Forum - PRSP plenary 
CS Forum - breakout sessionThe discussion was organized around 8 interactive roundtables on such topics as availability of poverty data, relations with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), alternative policy models, donor harmonization, and CSO participation in the PRSP.  Each of the roundtables included country-based expertise from government officials, CSO representatives, parliamentarians, and donor agency staff. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank staff who work on PRS issues were present in all eight roundtables. 

The recommendations made during the day, which will feed directly into the IMF/WB 2005 PRSP Review, included: 

  • Greater policy coherence among donors and programmatic accountability by governments in order to improve the poverty impacts of the PRSPs;
  • Deepen the quality of civil society participation as there is a widespread sense that CSO input is not reflected in the final versions of the PRSP
  • Greater attention to monitoring and evaluation, which includes consideration of a wider set of policy and analytical alternatives.
The discussion on the second day focused on institutional relations and centered on analyzing the evolving nature of Bank – Civil Society engagement at the global level.  It began with a panel chaired by World Bank Managing Director, Shengman Zhang, and which included two World Bank executive directors, an academic, and a CSO leader who commented on two comprehensive papers on Bank – civil society relations.CS Forum - Preston panel

The first was the “Issues and Options for Improving Engagement Between the World Bank and CSOs” produced by the Bank’s Civil Society Team and which has been discussed and is supported by the Bank’s senior management and executive directors.   The paper, which outlines 10 action items, provides an “institutional roadmap” to guide future Bank – civil society relations.  

The second paper was titled “Call for Participatory Decision Making” and was drafted by two independent researchers and commissioned by 16 international CSO networks, 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. 

CSO participants also produced a Communiqué during the Forum in which  they acknowledged that some CSOs choose not to attend the Forum, reiterated the broader institutional changes advocated in the JFC paper, as well as called for specific policies such as debt cancellation, increased development aid, and free and fair trading system.  They also called for the Bank to provide a response to their recommendations in the coming months.   Now available: World Bank Response to the Communique (200k doc).

CS Forum - JDW lunchOn the final day of the Forum World Bank President, James Wolfensohn, hosted a lunch at which he bade farewell to CSOs in his talk.  As he reflected on 10 years of reaching out to CSOs in what has often been a contentious process, he noted how Bank – CSO contacts had not only grown exponentially, but how common agendas and partnerships had been forged in such areas as education, AIDS prevention, and environmental protection. 

He also challenged CSOs to get beyond traditional policy differences many of them have had with the Bank to join efforts with the Bank to address the unacceptable levels of poverty in many developing countries, be it through the Millennium Development Goals, Global Call to Action Against Poverty or other campaign.

The Forum was organized with the assistance of representatives from civil society networks and organizations, who were part of an informal Planning Group which helped define the Forum's objectives and agenda, and the final list of participants.  The CSO participants of the planning group were invited to participate in this planning effort based on several criteria -- geographic coverage, constituency diversity, familiarity with the PRSP, and gender balance -- and were doing so voluntarily.  Civil society members of the Planning Committee organized a preparatory meeting of civil society participants on April 20.  The aim of the preparatory meeting (Agenda of preparatory meeting) was for civil society participants to get acquainted, discuss the issues to be raised during the Forum, and identify policy priorities to be discussed with the Bank.

The Forum represented an important milestone for Bank - civil society relations as it was the first time that the World Bank has convened such a multi-stakeholder set of actors, including Southern CSOs, government officials, parliamentarians, and Bank Executive Directors, to discuss Bank – civil society relations at the global level.  This diversity produced a more balanced and useful exchange of views, particularly on country-based issues such as the PRSP.  CS Forum - Friday panel

The challenge for the Bank and CSOs now will be to continue to dialogue and work together to put into practice the many ideas and recommendations made during the event.

A final Summary Report from the Forum, drafted by an independent consultant and reviewed and approved by the joint Planning Group can be found below.

More information
Forum Agenda (final version)
Summary Report from the Forum  (French)
Forum evaluation report 
World Bank Response to the Communique  

PRSP day Interactive Roundtables' summaries:

A. Sustaining Meaningful Participation   (French)
B. Poverty Analysis and Data Analysis   (French)
C. Formulating Country Development Goals and MDGs   (French)
D. Integrating PRS into Decision Making-Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks and Budgets   (French)
E. Aligning and Harmonizing Support to the Country's PRS
F. Second Round of PRSs and Policy Alternatives   (French)
G. Tailoring the PRS Approach to Countries in Difficult Circumstances   (French)
H. Poverty Reduction Strategies in Non-PRSP Countries   (French)

List of Chairs, Discussants and Raporteurs from the PRSP day Roundtables

"Issues and Options" paper Executive Summary
10 Points Action Items from the "Issues and Options" paper

Civil Society Paper: “Call for Participatory Decision Making

Forum Concept Note
Civil Society Discussion Paper Terms of Reference

If you would like to have more information on the CS Forum please send an email to: or call us at: (202) 473-1840.

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