More and more, the World Bank Group is contributing to international collective action to realize Sustainable Development Goal 16 for just and peaceful societies. A recent evaluation assesses the Bank Group’s global engagements of this kind. It finds that the Bank Group is a sought-after global player. Aligning global convening efforts with in-country programs, and monitoring them systematically, could further benefit the World Bank Group’s convening for peace.
This week the World Bank will wrap up its Fragility Forum, a biennial event that brings together practitioners and policymakers from around the world to exchange knowledge about engaging in contexts affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV).
The World Bank Group’s ability to bring together, or convene, actors on major global issues this way is an example of the convening power it holds.
Alongside its capacity to mobilize financing and provide advisory and analytical services to address development challenges, the Bank Group’s role as a global convener is a cornerstone of its value proposition to clients and shareholders. How well does the Bank Group deploy its convening power? IEG recently explored this.
We assessed how the World Bank Group convenes international partners to act collectively on global issues critical to its mission. This is a first-of-its-kind evaluation, that explores what global issues the Bank Group convenes on, what factors drive its convening choices, and what factors determine its convening effectiveness.
We found that that the World Bank Group is increasingly engaging in efforts that relate to fragile contexts, driven by high demands from shareholders and donors to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) on peace. The Bank Group largely meets these demands, assuming the role of a responsive global convener.
Aligning the World Bank Group’s global and country-level work
Stakeholders typically request the Bank Group to work in tandem with other specialized international organizations, particularly the UN, when convening around FCV issues. Our evaluation found that the Bank Group’s convenings on many such themes – including crisis response, forced displacement, and the humanitarian-development-peace nexus – are indeed based on strong collaborations with different development partners, including the UN.
A recent IEG evaluation finds that the World Bank Group has strong comparative advantages in catalyzing action on global agendas.
Some of the Bank Group’s financial mechanisms to address FCV and forced displacement respond to demand from prominent stakeholders to help shape multilateral responses to these issues. Financial mechanisms such as the State and Peacebuilding Fund, the Global Concessional Financing Facility for middle-income countries, and IDA, including IDA’s Sub-Window for Refugees and Host Communities, help make the Bank a stronger convener on FCV issues.
At the same time, our interviews and case studies identified weaker translation of these global agendas into country-level engagements. While at times this can be due to political sensitivities of operating in FCV contexts, our findings suggest that internally within the World Bank Group, the global work could benefit from more consistent reflection in country programs. This could help ensure better results on the ground.
At times, the Bank Group’s country engagement model can be limiting when addressing challenges that cross national boundaries. World Bank projects predominantly implement country-focused solutions – improving coordination across the Bank’s country teams, and strengthening ownership of regional programs among partner governments, could benefit the global work.
Improving accountability for convening results
The share of the World Bank’s operating budget going to global engagements is around 13 percent. Yet there is no clear system to track convening initiatives and results.
Successful global convening should lead to outcomes such as shared understanding, or changes in positions and attitudes; shared solutions, or negotiated changes in standards, policies, and financing practices; and shared implementation, or setting up programs and partnerships to finance and coordinate given development challenges.
In the absence of tracking systems, managerial attention to the convening portfolio risks being uneven and less systematic. Attention gets paid to some prominent initiatives and many of the formal partnership programs.
However, there is less oversight of convening initiatives when they are managed below the corporate level, at the department or vice-presidential unit levels. This occurs because convening initiatives sometimes lack explicitly stated objectives, success cannot be measured easily, and managing units face relatively weak accountability for their performance.
To improve the effectiveness of global convening, including on efforts to support Sustainable Development Goal 16, corporate processes and systems could better support managing convening initiatives over their life cycle. Many of the global and regional initiatives that the World Bank Group convenes in the space of fragility, conflict, and violence are relatively recent, and some have already passed their piloting phase. It is critical to have these initiatives periodically assessed to ensure better selectivity of global engagements and a focus on results.
Learn more about the effectiveness of the World Bank Group’s global convening in The World’s Bank: An Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s Global Convening. The report seeks to inform discussions about the Bank Group’s role as a major actor on global development policy issues at a time when demand for collective response to crises is increasing but support for multilateralism from major powers is fragile.
To read about the Bank Group’s convening on issues related to FCV, please see Appendix E of the evaluation and the World Bank Group’s FCV Strategy.