The 2007 GAC Strategy placed special emphasis on the need for ‘multistakeholder engagement’ (MSE): the possibility for the Bank to engage directly with actors outside executive government, including the legislative and judicial branches of government, the private sector, civil society organizations and even the media. The GAC Strategy was updated in 2012 to respond to the fundamental changes that have swept the world since its adoption in 2007, including the financial crisis, the rise of civil society movements, especially in the Middle East and North Africa region. These changes have important implications for the way in which the Bank does its business, and the kinds of support it provides governments and puts renewed emphasis on the Bank’s "multistakerholder engagement".
During Board discussions, the following paragraph 34 of the Strategy paper set out the consensus of the Bank Executive Directors on the parameters for MSE:
The WBG’s Legal Framework for Multistakeholder Engagement. In keeping with existing practice, as part of the overall framework of cooperation with its members, in undertaking multi-stakeholder engagement, the WBG will, in consultation with government, make sure to work within the country’s constitutional and legislative framework, seek the approval of government where it is required by its operational policies and procedures, and avoid engagements that are not consistent with the Articles framework. Working with the government as its principal counterpart in accordance with these parameters, the WBG will scale up existing good practice in working with a broad range of stakeholders in close collaboration with other development partners, respecting a division of labor among donors based on expertise and mandate.
As part of the implementation of the GAC Strategy, the Legal Vice Presidency was asked to advise on the parameters for MSE under the Articles. It then worked with the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network, the World Bank Institute and others to develop a Guidance Note on MSE. The Note is anchored in the above consensus, and spells out in more detail the relevant legal and policy considerations, in particular Bank mandate issues, including the political prohibition, operational policies and procedures, and provides operational guidance within the parameters of paragraph 34. Among other things, the Note provides that Bank staff should make sure to take two steps to guard against political interference risks in all cases.
First, consistent with the GAC Strategy’s overall approach, the Note counsels that the Bank would be well advised to ensure that the activities it supports enjoy country ownership, ideally, supported and/or implemented by coalitions including government, the private sector and civil society, and enjoy consensus among political actors in the relevant country.
Second, the Note recommends that the Bank should avoid activities that are inherently linked to partisan politics, such as support for the electoral process, and engagement with entities or groups outside the executive with strong or obvious partisan associations. In addition, care should be taken in cases where the Bank harmonizes its efforts with other donors to avoid the perception that the Bank is endorsing or encouraging other donors to take particular positions on matters that are outside the Bank’s mandate.
Accordingly, to avoid the risk of political interference risk, when working with a broad range of stakeholders outside of the executive, the Note advises that Bank staff should take appropriate measures in project design and implementation, which may include:
Clear demarcation of the audience, focus and boundary of the activity, tied to a development objective from the outset. Ensuring that the activities it supports enjoy country ownership. Assessing the risk of political entanglement real or perceived and take measures to avoid this risk through appropriate design, including appropriate mechanisms to ensure that the project is implemented in a neutral, non-partisan fashion. Taking care where the Bank harmonizes its activities with other donors to ensure that it does not endorse, nor is seen as endorsing, controversial program components or activities, those that pose a reputational risk, or those that are inconsistent with the political prohibition. More generally, in assessing the degree of risk, the Note counsels that the Bank should examine all relevant factors, including the overall country context, the nature of the particular activities to be supported, and the nature of the actors with which it proposes to engage, including their relationship with the government. In this regard, the Bank should avoid activities that are inherently linked to partisan politics, such as support for the electoral process, and engagement with entities or groups with partisan associations.