Development and Civil Society Enabling Environment: Reflections from the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings

For one week each spring, thousands of civil society activists, journalists, academics, private sector representatives, government officials, World Bank Group (WBG) and IMF staff descend on Washington, DC during the Spring Meetings and the Civil Society Policy Forum to dialogue on a number of policy issues related to the work of the World Bank and the IMF and development aid effectiveness. Tor blog

During the meetings from April 16-17, CIVICUS co-organized and participated in a number of policy dialogue sessions and high-level meetings with Bank staff and civil society from across the globe. Among other key activities, CIVICUS was invited to panel the CSO roundtable with World Bank Executive Directors, co-organize a follow-up side event to the Global Conference on Citizen Engagement for Enhanced Development Impact, and hold a launch reception for CIVICUS’ 2013 State of Civil Society Report.

Throughout the parallel meetings, CIVICUS emphasized that the Bank’s public recognition of the vital role civil society plays in development processes is undermined by rising the rising tide of legal restrictions, funding cuts and violence faced by civil society around the world. Continue reading

The proof of the pudding will lie in the eating: reflections from the IMF/World Bank Civil Society Forum and Annual Meetings

by Mandeep Tiwana, Policy and Advocacy Manager, CIVICUS

CIVICUS actively participated in the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Civil Society Forum and Annual Meetings from October 8-13. Some key activities that CIVICUS engaged in were: moderating the CSO town-hall meeting with the heads of the IMF and World Bank; participating in the CSO interaction with the World Bank Managing Directors; hosting a workshop on assessing an enabling environment for civil society; and contributing to discussions in workshops at the civil society forum.

During various meetings and interactions with World Bank and IMF staff, CIVICUS sought to seek answers to two critical questions:

First, the Arab Spring and pro-democracy movements around the globe have shown that development without freedom is meaningless. It is increasingly clear that economic stability and political freedoms are deeply entwined and that a vibrant civil society is a way to achieve both. How can multi-lateral institutions and their member governments collectively protect and promote a civil society enabling environment?

Second, pro-democracy protests, occupy movements and anti-corruption demonstrations have highlighted people’s frustration with governments ignoring their social contract with citizens and increasingly outsourcing the provision of basic services to the private sector at an enormous price to society as a whole. Yet, the language of public-private partnership continues to be touted as the panacea for all development. How do we ensure action on peoples’ demand for greater accountability from governments and the private sector? Continue reading

“I am from your world…” said the World Bank President Kim at the CSO Townhall Meeting

“I come from your world,” said new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in his first appearance at the CSO Townhall meeting held on 11 October, during the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group in Tokyo. He continued on to say, “It’s not so often that an activist from civil society gets to run the largest development organisation in the world. I guarantee you that I am not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers.”

Last week in Tokyo, I had the privilege of chairing this CSO Townhall meeting with the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde and the World Bank’s President Kim. Also on the panel were two CSO discussants, Sheela Patel of the Slum Dwellers International  and Saman Kelegama of the Institute of Policy Studies in Sri Lanka.

The CSO Townhall meeting has been a tradition of the IMF/WB annual meeting since 2004. It is a highlight of the Civil Society Policy Forum, held parallel to the main meetings and an opportunity for CSO participants to engage directly with the heads of these two institutions. This year, there were some 600 CSO representatives from more than 50 countries in Tokyo and the Civil Society Policy Forum had more than 50 workshops organised mostly by CSOs. Continue reading

Civil Society in crisis: Civil Society funding and the way forward (23 May)

Many CSOs report declining funding, volatility and changing donor priorities, and in response are giving more attention to fundraising and diversification of funding sources. Financing for development and reforming the existing architecture of international aid are key issues on the global agenda for CSOs. Organised in conjunction with CIVICUS’ donors, this webinar hopes to explore techniques to weather these turbulent times.

Protection of civil society, transparency and participation should be at the heart of the World Bank’s social accountability initiative

In the immediate aftermath of the popular uprisings which took place in the Middle East and North Africa from late 2010, the then World Bank President Robert Zoellick delivered a presentation at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on 6 April 2011 in which he called for a new social contract for development. He also called on global powers to “modernise multilateralism,” which among other things means a “reform of international institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF [and United Nations Security Council] to better reflect the realities of the economic power shifts that are taking place in the world today.”

After this, the World Bank engaged in a series of consultations with major stakeholders and civil society in particular to develop a Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPESA). According to the Bank, GPESA is aimed at “lending crucial and long term strategic support to civil society in countries in the global South to enable them to work better with governments in a transparent and accountable manner to realise greater development outcomes.” Continue reading

Fulfilling the Promise of Busan: Moving from Principles to Impact – Oxfam session at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings

As many readers know, CIVICUS is an active player in the aid/development effectiveness dialogue, including in the lead up to the Busan High Level Forum last November/December and in its aftermath. During the Civil Society Policy Forum of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, Oxfam America organised a session and invited CIVICUS to join the panel of high level speakers. I represented CIVICUS on this panel.

By now, many of us at CIVICUS who speak on the subject have become a broken record (or shall I say, broken iPod player these days?), repeating the key phrases of (1) ‘democratic ownership’ and (2) an ‘enabling environment’ which will ensure the principle of democratic ownership. This is fine, as these key phrases need repeating many times and communicating to various stakeholders in many ways. Continue reading

Civil society engagement with the World Bank – glass half empty?

When John Garrison, Senior Civil Society Specialist at the World Bank, asked me to be on the panel to discuss the relationship between the World Bank/International Monetary Fund and civil society at the Civil Society Policy Forum of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, the first thing that came to my mind was Kumi’s distinction between access and impact.

The panel was titled ‘Advocating Policies with the IFIs: Opportunities, Constraints, and Lessons Learned’, and sponsored by the IMT and World Bank. My co-panellists were Mark Rentschler, Director of Campaigns, Bank Information Center (BIC), John Garrison and Karla Chaman, Senior Civil Society Officer at IMF. Continue reading

Tell the World Bank what you think

Feedback needed from civil society on a proposed Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability

Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have compelled leaders of global institutions and heads of government to rethink the way they do business. There seems to be momentum building around new ways of involving non-state actors and especially civil society organisations with a view to bridge the gaps and disconnects between citizens and governance. One such initiative seems to be emerging from the World Bank. In the immediate aftermath of the uprisings in North Africa, President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, in a lecture at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on 6 April 2011, conceded that participation of civil society in development processes at national level has a positive impact on public service delivery and developmental outcomes1.

Following Mr. Zoellick’s address, the World Bank Group has come up with a new initiative entitled Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability with the stated ambition of “strengthening beneficiary feedback and participation by supporting civil society capacity to engage with governments to improve development effectiveness.” To help formulate this partnership, the World Bank Group is currently carrying out consultations at country and regional levels to obtain feedback from civil society and other stakeholders.

The on-going consultations are aimed at collating feedback on the nature and type of support that the proposed partnership can offer to assist civil society in dealing with current challenges and the role of the World Bank in providing this support. The consultations also seek to clarify possible criteria that can be used to identify those who will represent civil society in the partnership; the potential risks involved and the impact the partnership will have on developmental outcomes.

CIVICUS joined the consultation, held in Johannesburg on 7 February 2012, with World Bank Officials and a number of civil society representatives from the Southern African region including civil society groups from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A summary of feedback from these and other consultations held in different regions around the globe is expected to be posted online. More consultations on the operationalisation of the partnership are expected to run from May to June.

There is no denying that this proposed partnership is timely and arises from the recognition that governments and intergovernmental bodies cannot continue business as usual. It is also true that this is yet another initiative that needs to prove whether it works and delivers on its promises. In any case, it’s critical that citizens and civil society organisations have their say now in how this partnership is formulated. Hence we strongly encourage you to provide your feedback online as part of the consultation and send the completed form to gpesa[at]

1For more information on Zoellick’s lecture, see The Middle East and North Africa: A New Social Contract for Development.

Visit the World Bank for more information on the Partnership for Enhanced Global Accountability.


Moving the Goal Posts

For many in civil society, attention this fortnight will focus on the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. The persistent global wave of protests against current economic models and the increasingly irrefutable evidence of accelerating climate change should provide the impetus and motivation for visionary leadership in Busan. This timely op-ed by Jeremy Hobbs (Executive Director, Oxfam International) reminds us all just how high the stakes are.

Moving the Goal Posts

Parents with young children will be familiar with the phenomenon – a game is going badly, little Daniel is losing, but rather than redouble his efforts he changes the rules of the game. He makes his goal smaller or tells his opponents only to kick with their left foot.

This can be amusing and endearing in children, but not when the richest, most powerful nations display it in their dealings with the poorest.

At the end of this month, Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton and ministers from around the world will gather in Busan, South Korea, for the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The rather dull title should not obscure the fact that this meeting will have important consequences for the world’s poorest people.

Continue reading

Follow developments leading up to and during Busan on Twitter using #HLF4

A multitude of convergence

While working on the final press release for the CIVICUS World Assembly, which ended on Monday, Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS’ Secretary General, suggested we change the title to read “Civil society breaks through silos”. My French-speaking colleagues at Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM – the World Assembly co-hosts in Montreal) groaned “not that phrase again!” They were frustrated because it was a term that kept popping up in our communications, but they struggled to find a good translation in French. Yet, it seems impossible to reflect on this year’s World Assembly and not speak of breaking the silos – every angle you consider when looking back on the three days is an example of a silo being broken and disparate ideas, themes, regions, you name it, converging together.  Continue reading