The Managing Director of the World Bank, Caroline Anstey, participated in the 2012 Civicus Global Assembly held in Montreal, Canada on September 3 – 7. The assembly is the largest civil society gathering worldwide and attracted over 800 NGOs, foundation, and think tank representatives to discuss global development trends. The theme for this year’s event was “Acting Together for a Just World: Defining a New Social Contract” and focused on three topics: changing nations through citizens; building partnerships for social innovation; and redefining global governance.
Caroline headlined a panel entitled “Redefining Global Governance” alongside UNDP policy head Olav Kjørven, internet activist Brian Cute, and CSO leader Roberto Bissio. The panel was chaired by Ingrid Srinath, ex-General Secretary of Civicus, who noted that the disappointing results of the recent Rio +20 conference highlighted the policy gridlock characterizing global governance. Olav agreed that the results of the environmental conference were limited, and pointed to the paradoxical nature of multilateral institutions which can only advance as far as its government members allow.
Roberto, who heads Social Watch, noted that despite economic growth of the past decade, social development indicators have slowed down in many parts of the world due to uneven patterns of globalization. While Caroline agreed that the current Eurozone crisis and rising food crisis continue to be worrying, there are also hopeful trends such as the high rate of economic growth in developing countries and the preeminent role of emerging economies on the global stage. In addition, never before have citizens had so much access to information and this greater transparency is leading to improved governance and accountability.
Caroline noted that as global governance has become more complex with the expansion of the G7 to the G20 and beyond, it will be harder to reach international agreements as illustrated by Rio +20. For this reason citizens can’t simply wait for international agreements, but need to harness the power of information and social media to promote reform. Global governance is not only about institutions, but primarily about whether governments are accountable to their citizens. The ability of citizens to influence their governments can transform global governance.
Caroline also noted that in response to these trends, the Bank is including feedback loops such as participatory budgets and citizens scorecards into many of the projects it finances. These new programs and geo mapping instruments allow citizens to hold their governments and institutions such as the Bank to account. Another initiative the Bank has launched in this area is the Global Partnership for Social Accountability which is a new funding mechanism which will support local efforts by CSOs to promote government accountability and improve delivery of services.
Caroline also had lunch with Civicus Board members to discuss possible collaboration around improving feedback loops, and had a mentoring session with 17 student delegates from around the world. She shared her work experience and noted that the one element that has characterized her career in politics, journalism, and at the Bank has been the drive for openness and transparency. A lesson she learned was that it is quite difficult to predict the twist and turns of one’s career and, for this reason, one needs to seize opportunities as they appear.