Peter Willetts, Professor of Global Politics
Documents and Speeches on the Politics of International Economics
This collection is intended to be a useful archive of important primary materials. The texts of the documents has not been amended, but usually some copy-editing of the lay-out has been done.
NGO Working Group on the World Bank
The Origins of the Working Group
From the early 1970s, NGOs began to interact on a regular basis with the World Bank, both at the operational level in developing countries and at the headquarters in Washington. In 1980, at a workshop on small-scale enterprises, the idea emerged of having some regular more formal relations. In 1981, the World Bank invited 16 leading global NGOs to become members of a World Bank NGO Committee. In response to criticisms that the process was not sufficiently transparent and the NGOs involved were not acting independently, the NGO members of the Committee, in 1984, constituted themselves as an autonomous NGO Working Group on the World Bank. This met separately to decide on NGO priorities before the annual meetings with World Bank staff in the Committee. It also held meetings in developing countries and organised its own programme of research and information exchange, to strengthen its inputs to policy dialogue with the Bank. The Working Group was originally serviced by an office in the Geneva headquarters of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies. Since the mid-1990s, the secretariat has been provided by one of the organisations holding the Chair of the Working Group. Recently, it has been the responsibility of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promoción (ALOP) (Latin American Association of Development Organisations), then the Institute for Development Research in Boston (October 1997 to April 1999), then the Inter-Africa Group in Addis Ababa (April 1999 to April 2000) and currently the Caribbean Policy Development Centre in Barbados.
In 1995, the Working Group began a process of decentralisation, by holding regional meetings in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. In October 1997, the annual meeting of the global Working Group formally decided to restructure the network, promoting regional versions of the Bank-NGO Committee and using the regional meetings to elect the members of the global Steering Committee. The main benefits of this process have been to facilitate a dialogue with the new decentralised structures of the World Bank, to enable a wider range of Southern NGOs to participate and to strengthen the input from the grass roots to the global agenda. There are currently the following seven regions. The Working Group remains important at the global level as a North-South network and as the focus for advocacy on broad policy issues common to all the regions.
The West Europe and North America Region has not held meetings under the auspices of the Working Group since 1998, partly because there are not any World Bank projects or programmes in the region, partly because many of the larger organisations have their own offices in Washington and partly because the other networks, notably Eurostep and Eurodad, meet the need for regional consultations.
As the regional work became more important, the Working Group felt it was necessary to review its role at the global level. In August 2000, a proposal entitled Enhancing Civil Society Capacity to Influence the Emergence of Participatory Socio-Economic Policy Formulation in the World Bank: Re-Invigorating the Global Agenda of the NGO Working Group on the World Bank was presented to the Bank. On 6 December 2000, the World Bank NGO Committee endorsed a Joint Resolution Between the World Bank and the NGO Working Group. At the regional level, it was agreed the Working Group's relations with the Bank should be strengthened and dialogue with a broader range of civil society organisations should be promoted. At the global level, the Working Group will feed in issues raised from the regional activities, to a new annual World Bank Civil Society Forum. A Joint Facilitation Committee of the Working Group and the Bank was to be created to organise the Forum and facilitate NGO participation. (See below for links to these documents.)
In 2001, work has been under way to ensure the smooth transition to the new arrangements. Discussions on the composition and terms of reference for the Joint Facilitation Committee took longer than was anticipated. It is currently expected that agreement will be finalised in December 2001 and the first Forum will be held in mid-2002.
Selected Documents of the Working Group
Enhancing Civil Society Capacity to Influence the Emergence of Participatory Socio-Economic Policy Formulation in the World Bank: Re-Invigorating the Global Agenda of the NGO Working Group on the World Bank, a proposal presented to the Bank in August 2000.
Joint Resolution Between the World Bank and the NGO Working Group of 6 December 2000, agreeing to strengthen regional collaboration, establish a Joint Facilitation Committee and convene a Civil Society Forum.
Publications Covering Relations Between the Working Group and the World Bank
Cleary S., "The World Bank and NGOs", pp. 63-97 of P. Willetts (ed.), "The Conscience of the World". The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UN System, (Washington: Brookings and London: Christopher Hurst, 1996).
Covey J. G., "Critical Co-operation? Influencing the World Bank through Policy Dialogue and Operational Co-operation", pp. 81-119 of J. A. Fox and L. D. Brown, The Struggle for Accountability. The World Bank, NGOs and Grassroots Movements, (Cambridge MA and London: MIT Press, 1998).
Nelson P. J., The World Bank and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Limits of Apolitical Development, (New York: St. Martins Press and Houndmills: Macmillan Press, 1995).
O'Brien R., A. M. Goetz, J. A. Scholte and M. Williams, Contesting Global Governance. Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). See particularly Chapter 2 "The World Bank and women's movements" and Chapter 4 "The World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the environmental social movement".
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Centre for International Politics, School of Social Science, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB.
Last updated on 24 October 2001.