World Bank World Development Report
Online Discussion of Draft Report 2000
ISSUES: Transparency, informing the dialogue, providing feedback
GOALS: Opening up and informing the World Bank/World Bank Review process via an online e-conference and electronic exchange of moderated comments on the released draft of the World Development Report on Poverty
PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: NGOs, researchers, intergovernmental organisations, governments, etc. (open forum)
TIME FRAME: 6 week open process in 2000
MSP CONTACT DETAILS; URL: Bretton Woods Project c/o Action Aid, Hamlyn House, Macdonald Road, London N19 5PG, UK. Phone: 020 7561 7546 ; web-site: www.brettonwoodsproject.org
Designing the MSP
Via an email exchange with 30 people deciding the pros and cons of trying the idea of an electronic exchange of comments and feedback on 1st draft of World Development Report on Poverty 2000/01.This process started the summer before the release of draft WB report on the World Bank web site. They solicited views on the idea and negotiated with the World bank’s lead person - the Report’s author, Ravi Kanbur. This advance preparation took out the risks.
Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP
Idea of on-line conference put forward by Bretton Woods Project and the New Policy Institute. A formal steering group appointed. They communicated via conference calls, email, etc. to plan and review documentation, and to communicate with the World Bank/World Bank Review.
NGO comment: The World Bank Development Reports are written and marketed giving the impression that they convey broadly held views and contain objective research. But many civil society organisations feel that they are selective and biased. In recent years, WB teams drafting reports have consulted NGOs on draft versions – but groups have often commented their responses have not been dealt with adequately. There is a need to make this process more credible.
Identifying relevant stakeholders
An issue was how to recruit people to take part in the online conference who don’t know how the World Bank wheels work. Tackled this through fliers, mentions in relevant newsletters, fax alerts, electronically.
Identifying MSP participants
As above, and recruiting potential people through Steering Groups’ contacts etc. Effort put into trying to get away from the ‘usual suspects’ and purely a EU / Northern emphasis. This meant a substantial amount of preparatory work. A very time consuming process – three and half months fulltime input.
Setting the goals of an MSP
It was not a negotiating process but it did have a charge to look at the final draft version of the World Development Report. There was informal input from the World Bank (report’s author) as to what the WB were thinking but this was not constant feedback. However even this level of contact had helped until the whole process became mired in the sudden departure of the Report’s author in late May 2000, following attempts by the WB and government officials to make him change his text before final version was published (September 2000).
Setting the agenda
The on-line conference was an attempt to open the World Bank process. Debate planned the summer before the Report’s release. Some benefits did arise – for example, participants were more in touch with each other outside the dialogue. Some even held meetings so they could prepare fully – the impetus for meeting and feeding back comments into the on-line conference was that feeling of being part of a global dialogue. Cameroon is an example of where meetings were held for this purpose. There were micro-spin-offs too in terms of better developed relationships and credibility.
Setting the time-table
Set up to coincide with World Bank process.
1500 people participated, either representing themselves as individuals, or talking on behalf of an institution, plus academic involvement. All contributions valid – not a pre-negotiating body.
Electronic exchange of views and comments. Bretton Woods Project and New Policy Institute received a favourable response to their initiative.
Power gaps: Inevitable as the World Bank is still not an MSP. Processes are opaque. It was always known that the power gaps would be there but better to try to open up the dialogue to some degree. It did bring some pressure to bear on the Bank.
Bretton Woods Project did attempt some evaluation in the 5th week of the process. Issues included comments that there was some heavy handed moderation underway (i.e. people wanted their point put across even if it was not directly relevant to the process). As a result of this another group was going to start an entirely open online debate but this never happened and they conceded that the original process was fine. The idea of moderation (with topics set in advance at the start of each new week and a quick context setting piece) was to prevent participants from being overloaded (the quickest way to reduce wide participation) and to keep them focused.
Decision-making process: procedures of agreement
No overall agreement. This project was about opening up perspectives. The project aimed only to bring different viewpoints into dialogue – it was not trying to reach a consensus.
Too difficult to agree a meaningful level of consensus after only 6 weeks exchange of views.
Closing the MSP
A time limited process – 6 weeks. 21 February – 31st March 2000.
Structures / institutions of the MSP
A moderating team, all based in London. Their role included maintaining list of conference participants, answer queries, filter incoming messages, and provide advice to people whose message was not appropriate.
A conference protocol was established as a guide to how the process worked ie. short messages, no self promotion etc. Anyone wishing to submit a longer piece which did not fit rules for the e-conference, could send their message to the moderators, for passing on to World Bank author.
Bretton Woods Project and New Policy Institute took it in turns.
Bretton Woods Project did the summaries etc. Translated into French and Spanish as soon as they could (paid for this service).
Relating to not-participating stakeholders
An open process except if people did have access to the technology. The main language of the conference was English. Submissions were accepted in French and Spanish but not translated. The weekly and final summaries reflected all submissions and were available in the 3 languages.
Relating to the general public
Web-based only. Closed as time limited.
Linkage into official decision-making process
The MSP was linked to the WB as an intergovernmental body. Endless ramifications will exist for a long time as the inputs from the WB report are fed into aid packages etc.
NGO Comment: The end-game is not very transparent but the on-line conference did open this up a little. But the real outcomes will always be made in "smoky-filled rooms in Washington". There was 2-3 year campaign to get the World Bank to release a draft of the WDR so this move is to be welcomed. But pressure must continue on the WB as this is not enough.
MacArthur Foundation via Cornell University: £ 20,000. Funders had no direct contact or impact on the project.
[ information gathered as of 16 February 2001 ]