Click here for search results

Involving Nongovernmental Organizations in Bank-Supported Activities

1. Nongovernmental organizations and other organizations of civil society (NGOs)1 are important actors in the development process.  These organizations can make important contributions toward ensuring that the views of local people are taken into account, promoting community participation, extending project reach to the poorest, and introducing flexible and innovative approaches.  The Bank2 therefore encourages borrowers and staff members to consult with NGOs and to involve them, as appropriate, in Bank-supported activities, including economic and sector work and all stages of project processing--identification, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.3

2. In encouraging collaboration with NGOs, the Bank seeks to (a) enhance the effectiveness of the operations it supports, especially those that focus on poverty reduction or involve environmental sustainability; (b) foster better public understanding of the Bank's activities; (c) foster in borrowing countries a more enabling environment for NGO contribution to national development; and (d) broaden input into Bank policies, analyses, and country strategies.  The Bank expects that it will be better able to address these objectives now that it has decentralized many of its activities to the Regional level.

3. NGO involvement in Bank-supported activities implies a cooperative working relationship among the borrowing government, NGOs, and the Bank.  In the context of Bank lending, it is important for Bank staff to have an understanding of the nature of the relations between NGOs and the government.  Bank staff should be aware that while government/NGO collaboration can enhance the quality of Bank-supported operations, it may not be possible in every country situation.
4. The Bank's agenda has become more complex in recent years as it has given greater prominence to issues of poverty, participation, gender, the environment, governance, capacity building, and implementation quality.  The Bank's portfolio is also undergoing a significant shift toward financing in the social sectors and conservation programs--areas in which many NGOs have clear strengths.
5. The Bank concentrates on establishing linkages with those NGOs that (a) possess specialized analytical or operational skills of relevance to the Bank's work, or (b) have extensive grassroots experience and can facilitate reaching and involving poor people.  The Bank also aims to maintain open dialogue with NGOs that have significant influence on public opinion or governments in terms of development policy and programs.
6. The characteristics of individual NGOs vary greatly; each has its own strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths commonly associated with NGOs include the following:
(a) social proximity (grassroots and community links);

(b) field-based development expertise;

(c) important specialized knowledge or skills;

(d) the ability to innovate and adapt;

(e) the ability to bring grassroots experience to discussions of development on a national scale;

(f) participatory methodologies and tools;

(g) long-term commitment to and emphasis on sustainability; and

(h) cost-effectiveness.

Some areas in which NGOs--depending on their experience and structure--might face constraints4 are as follows:

(a) limited financial, analytical, and management expertise;

(b) limited institutional capacity;

(c) gap between stated mission and operational achievements;

(d) low levels of self-sustainability;

(e) isolation/lack of interorganizational communication or coordination

(f) capability for small-scale interventions only; and

(g) limited expertise in macro or specific economic issues.

Classification of NGOs
7. The Bank interacts principally with two categories of NGOs:  (a) operational NGOs, whose primary purpose is to fund, design, or implement development-related programs or projects; and (b) advocacy NGOs, whose primary purpose is to defend or promote a specific development cause and which seek to influence the development policies and practices of the Bank, governments, and other bodies.  The difference between these two groups of NGOs is not rigid, however.  While some NGOs concentrate on relief and service delivery and have virtually no analytical or policy function, and some are lobbying NGOs with no operational base, the majority fall somewhere between these extremes.  Operational NGOs usually have more field-level experience that is relevant to the Bank; but advocacy groups may also be able to offer valuable grassroots insights and challenge conventional development thinking.
8. Many NGOs have formed networks at the national, regional, and international levels for the purposes of coordinating their activities, enhancing their institutional strength, and disseminating information.  Bank staff can benefit from working closely with such networks because they can be a valuable source of information about and contacts within the NGO community.
Information Sharing
9. The Bank aims to be proactive in sharing relevant information with NGOs.  At the country level, some country offices have established Public Information Centers (PICs) that provide a comprehensive selection of Bank reports, project documents, procurement materials, and details on scholarships, grants, and recruitment programs, and serve as a venue for public outreach activities.  Other country offices are translating Project Information Documents (PIDs), other project documents, and some Economic and Sector Work (ESW) reports into local languages to make them more accessible to NGOs and the general public.5 Much is also being done at the project level; for example, the design of the Ghazi Barotha Dam Project in Pakistan included the creation of a Project Information Center near the project site to provide information in Urdu to local NGOs and communities and to document the concerns of people affected by the project.
10. When NGOs request information or ask questions about Bank-supported activities, Bank staff should respond in accordance with the Bank's disclosure policy.6  Bank staff should also investigate concerns voiced by NGOs regarding projects and the application of policies, provide timely and substantive responses, and meet with NGOs and affected parties when possible.  Similarly, the Bank encourages borrower governments to be responsive to local NGO requests and concerns that relate to development policies and programs.
Policy Dialogue

11. The Bank recognizes the value of consulting with NGOs on such sectoral and operational issues as poverty, environment, social development, participation, and information disclosure.  During the formulation of policies, strategies, procedures, and major reports (such as the World Development Report), Bank staff have sought advice and comments from relevant specialists inside and outside the Bank, including NGOs.  As part of such consultations, Bank staff may make draft documents available for review by such external specialists and organize opportunities for them to discuss their views and concerns with relevant Bank staff.
12. The Bank consults with NGOs in other ways, as well: for example, the NGO-World Bank Committee meets regularly on both a global and regional basis to discuss issues of mutual concern; and the External Gender Consultative Group, formed in April 1996 and comprising NGO representatives and academics, meets with Bank staff to share information and provide advice on gender-related issues. Country offices have established systematic interactions with international and local NGOs to share information, discuss issues of mutual concern, and explore possibilities for collaboration. The Bank has organized meetings and workshops that bring together NGOs, Bank staff, and government officials to discuss sectoral issues and identify opportunities for working together.
Operational Collaboration
13. NGOs may be involved in Bank-supported activities in many ways--for example, as informal advisers, consultants, implementing agencies, construction managers, or cofinanciers.  When NGOs participate in Bank-financed projects, Bank staff should describe anticipated and actual NGO involvement in the project documentation and should set out in the legal documents any arrangements agreed with the borrower.  When the Bank engages NGOs as consultants, it does so either using its own budget or, in exceptional circumstances, acting as executing agency for a trust fund.7 Borrowers hiring NGOs as consultants, whether using trust funds or the proceeds of Bank loans, select them according to the Consultant Guidelines.8
Selecting NGO Partners
14. Gathering Information about NGOs.  Within the Bank, sources of information about NGOs include staff of the NGO and Civil Society Thematic Team, and NGO/civil society specialists in country and technical departments.  The Bank has conducted NGO assessments in a number of countries, and many project and sector reports contain relevant information about NGOs.  Additional information about NGOs can be obtained from NGO networks; directories and databases prepared by governments and multilateral, bilateral, and other donors; or informed people in the country.

15. Establishing Relevant Selection Criteria.  NGO partners should be selected according to the specific skills and expertise required for the task at hand as it relates to the development goals being pursued.  The following are some of the qualities that should be considered in selecting individual NGO partners (depending on the nature and purpose of a particular task):

(a) credibility: acceptability to both stakeholders and government;

(b) competence:  relevant skills and experience, proven track record;

(c) local knowledge;

(d) representation: community ties, accountability to members/beneficiaries, gender sensitivity;

(e) governance: sound internal management, transparency, financial accountability, efficiency

(f) legal status; and

(g) institutional capacity:  sufficient scale of operations, facilities, and equipment.

NGO Involvement in Economic and Sector Work

16. NGOs can provide alternative perspectives in ESW and can promote grassroots participation and consensus-building. Some examples follow.


(a) Participatory Poverty Assessments (PPAs).  NGOs with strong grassroots links and local language skills have been valuable partners in carrying out PPAs.

(b) National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs). NGOs and other stakeholders have been consulted in the preparation of NEAPs.  In Guinea, the NEAP was prepared entirely by a locally-based national NGO whose community ties and participatory skills helped ensure that the NEAP accurately reflected the needs and opinions of the local population.

(c) Country Economic Memoranda (CEMs).  During the preparation of the Zimbabwe CEM, a participating NGO helped to organize field visits and ensured that the mission had direct contact with the rural poor, thus contributing a first-hand perspective on social issues such as the dependence of the poor on basic services.

(d) Country Assistance Strategies (CASs).  In preparing CASs, the Bank has included NGOs and other participants from civil society in the consultation process.

NGO Involvement in Lending Activities

17. While decisions concerning NGO involvement in lending operations are the responsibility of the borrower, Bank staff may assist borrowers in identifying and assessing NGO partners and, as appropriate, encourage the involvement of NGOs throughout the project cycle.  For projects with significant NGO involvement, it may be useful for the borrower to include among the project staff a NGO/civil society specialist whose primary responsibility is to work with NGOs.

18. Project Identification and Design.  During project identification, NGOs that are familiar with the project area and enjoy ties with the local population can give both the government and the Bank valuable information about local conditions and community priorities.  They can also inform local populations about the planned project, organize consultations with affected people, and work with them to make their voices heard.  In many cases, NGOs have provided project ideas, or existing NGO projects have served as models for Bank-financed activities.
19. When Bank staff become aware of NGO concerns about a Bank-financed project, they should report these concerns to their managers, staff working on the project, and specialists in the relevant Network.  When proposed projects are potentially controversial, experience has shown that it is often productive to ensure that the public is accurately informed about the project in question and is given the opportunity to voice  concerns, which may then be taken into account in project design.  For example, during the preparation of the Bangladesh Flood Action Plan, forums were organized in which NGOs, government officials, and others were able to express their views and discuss issues. Although not all differences were resolved, NGOs became more actively involved in the plan, criticisms were more constructive, and discussions led to some modifications in the design of the plan.
20. In projects for which NGO participation during implementation is foreseen, NGOs should also be involved in project design and in the development of priorities and goals. In projects with extensive NGO involvement or community participation, the borrower and the Bank should be prepared to assign additional staff or allow extra time during the project cycle.
21. Project Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation. When NGOs have responsibility in the implementation of Bank-financed activities, the borrower and the Bank may need to take special measures to enable the NGOs to exercise their comparative strengths.  For example, NGOs may have limited financial capability or lack experience with Bank or government procedures.  Borrower and Bank staff should ensure that the terms of reference for an NGO-executed activity express clearly the expected timeframe for carrying out the activity and describe areas in which delays may pose risks for project success.  Similarly, the borrower and the Bank should be aware of the need to build into the project sufficient time and flexibility to allow NGOs to carry out their responsibilities.  It is good practice to organize preimplementation consultations among the government, NGOs, and the Bank.
22. In recent years, NGOs have become increasingly involved in monitoring and evaluating Bank-financed activities.  NGOs have been particularly effective in monitoring project impacts on indigenous peoples and the environment. Under some circumstances, particularly when the country portfolio contains a large number of projects that involve NGOs, the borrower may wish to consider soliciting the views of representatives of NGOs and other stakeholders as an input into Country Portfolio Performance Reviews and to consider using experienced NGOs to help monitor the implementation of actions agreed to during such reviews.  9
23. Financial Issues.  The Bank may make grants to NGOs, for example, through the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest, the Special Grants Program, the Small Grants Program, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), or other programs financed under the Bank's Development Grant Facility. 10 Borrowers and beneficiaries/executing agencies may finance NGO involvement in operations through such sources as loan and credit proceeds, the Project Preparation Facility, the GEF, and the Policy and Human Resources Development Fund and other trust funds.  11 In some cases, NGO activities are funded by cofinancing from other multilateral or bilateral donors or international NGOs.
24. It is often cost-effective to use NGOs.  They should not, however, be viewed as a "low-cost alternative" to other types of implementing entities. The fact that some NGOs cofinance projects or contribute advice or services free of charge has led to some ambiguity about NGOs' status and about how much they should be paid.  All parties should understand the exact nature of NGO involvement (e.g., informal unpaid adviser, paid consultant to the Bank or the government) from the outset and, as appropriate, establish mutually acceptable fees and overhead costs.  NGOs should not be expected to provide contractual services free of charge or to accept fees below market rates.
25. Procurement and Disbursement.  Bank staff should assist borrowers in ensuring that the NGOs involved in project implementation are well informed about the Bank's procurement and disbursement procedures, including realistic estimates of lead time and areas in which delays are possible.  In some projects, Bank staff have found it useful to provide training for NGOs in procurement and disbursement procedures.  NGOs and borrower staff should be aware that in a community participation project that involves the procurement of goods or minor works, the procurement procedures should be tailored to the objectives of the project (as allowed under the Procurement Guidelines).  12 Because of the nature of the projects in which NGOs may be involved, it may be appropriate to use local shopping and direct contracting for the provision of small goods and works.  When NGOs have a consultant relationship  13 with the borrower, the Bank normally expects the use of standard consultant contracts (which are tailored to the needs of a particular project).  In addition, NGOs should understand that the Bank accepts the inclusion of reasonable overheads in NGOs' costs and, as appropriate, allows for the provision of advance payments. 14

Working with Project-Affected People
26. Under Bank-financed operations, borrowers/executing agencies have frequently engaged NGOs to work directly with project beneficiaries and people affected by the project.  Such work includes sharing information about the project, soliciting the views and concerns of beneficiaries and affected parties, and promoting the active participation of such people in project activities.  Experience has shown that NGOs can be effective in ensuring interaction with affected parties in projects involving involuntary resettlement.  In a number of countries, for example, NGOs have consulted with local people, prepared resettlement plans, and monitored pilot resettlement projects.
Capacity Building

27. The Bank seeks to support the strengthening of the institutional capacity of borrowing country NGOs as an important aspect of promoting long-term sustainable development and engaging the national civil society in development activities.  In the context of lending operations, a number of strategies have been used to contribute to NGO capacity: consulting with NGOs on their organizational priorities; providing participating NGOs with training and technical assistance; encouraging partnerships between more experienced NGOs and those with less capacity; and promoting networking and information-sharing among NGOs and between NGOs and government.  In addition, through the World Bank Institute and country offices, the Bank has directly supported training and capacity-building activities for NGOs.
NGO-State Relations
28. Improved relations between governments and NGOs can contribute to long-term development efforts.  Therefore, Bank staff should seek to assist governments to identify areas of complementarity with NGOs working in development. Whenever possible, they should promote constructive working relationships among governments, donors, and NGOs by, for example, organizing opportunities for dialogue that involve both governments and NGOs, and advising governments on creating an enabling environment for NGOs.

Role of Bank Organizational Units

29. Staff throughout the Bank are involved in activities whose aim is to increase the participation of NGOs and other organizations of civil society in planning, implementing, and monitoring development policy and projects.
30. Country offices gather and maintain information about local NGOs and NGO activities in their country; inform visiting Bank missions about NGOs and NGO activities relevant to their work; organize meetings between local NGOs and visiting mission staff; as appropriate, organize consultations with NGOs and government representatives on policy and sectoral issues; respond to NGO requests for information; and work with the government to promote an enabling environment for NGOs.  Many country offices have appointed NGO specialists or NGO liaison officers to act as points of contact and communication with NGOs.  These specialists play a lead role in establishing and maintaining effective relations among the Bank, the borrower, and NGOs at the country level--for example, gathering information about NGOs, responding to requests from and disseminating information to NGOs, assisting staff in identifying and assessing NGO partners, organizing systematic consultations with NGOs on country strategy and operational and policy matters, and advising the government on fostering an enabling environment for NGOs.
31. The NGO/Civil Society Thematic Team consists of Bank staff working on NGO and civil society issues in the Regions and Networks.  In collaboration with Regions and Networks, the NGO/Civil Society Unit of the Social Development Family develops and coordinates the Bank's overall relationship with NGOs; provides advice and operational assistance to Bank staff on working with NGOs; promotes within the Bank practices and procedures that facilitate collaboration with NGOs; monitors NGO involvement in Bank-financed activities; disseminates good practice in working with NGOs; coordinates training for staff; assists Bank staff in organizing policy consultations with NGOs; services the NGO-Bank Committee; conducts research on NGO-related issues; maintains an electronic database on NGOs; and responds to NGO requests for information or directs NGO requests to the appropriate Bank staff.  In addition, External Affairs builds understanding and support for the Bank across all of its constituencies, including NGOs. 

  1.  The term "NGO" refers to a myriad of different types of organizations.  At its broadest, it includes all groupings of individuals that fall outside the public and for-profit sectors, whether legally constituted or informal, established or transient.  The term also includes both community-based organizations (CBOs), usually formed to serve the interests of their own members (or community), and intermediary organizations, normally established to serve either the interests of a particular target group (e.g., CBOs, poor communities) or the common good (e.g., the environment).  "Civil society" is the space between family, market, and state; it consists of not-for-profit organizations and special interest groups, either formal or informal, working to improve the lives of their consituents.  Civil society organizations (CSOs) include local and international organizations, business and professional associations, chambers of commerce, groups of parlimentarians, media, and policy development and research institutes.  The interests of the Bank coincide with those of many NGOs and CSOs that work in the field of economic and social development, welfare, emergency relief, and environmental protection or that comprise or represent poor or vulnerable people.  This document uses "NGOs" to refer to both NGOs and other organizations of civil society.
    •  "Bank" includes IBRD and IDA, and "loans" includes IDA credits and IDA grants.
    •  The main purpose of the Bank is to support governments' development programs.  In supporting such programs, the Bank should not carry out activities with NGOs without government knowledge and consent.  At the same time, with due respect to the prerogative of government as the Bank's primary interlocutor, the Bank has a responsibility to listen to and learn from a range of stakeholders and to make independent, professional, and well-informed judgments.
    •  See John Clark, Democratizing Development: The Role of Voluntary Organizations (London: Earthscan Publications, 1991).
    •  In addition, the Bank encourages NGOs to prepare translations of some of these documents.
    •  See The World Bank Policy on Disclosure of Information (Washington, D.C.:  World Bank, 2002).
    •  For the Bank's procedures for engaging consultants, see Administrative Manual Statement (AMS) 15.00, Selection and Use of Consultants By the World Bank for Operational Purposes.  Further information on the Bank's use of trust funds is available in OP/BP 14.40, Trust Funds.
    •  See BP 13.16, Country Portfolio Performance Reviews.
    •  See OP/BP 8.45, Grants.
    •  For information about the Bank's use of trust funds, see OP/BP 14.40, Trust Funds.
    •  See Guidelines: Procurement under IBRD Loans and IDA Credits (Washington, D.C.:  World Bank).
    •  See the Consultant Guidelines for details about the selection and use of consultants.
    •  See the Disbursement Handbook, available to Bank staff on the Intranet and to external parties through the Infoshop.


Last updated: 2010-03-23

Permanent URL for this page: