To help reduce poverty in developing countries, the World Bank Group (WBG) supports four core development goals at the global and country levels: expanding economic opportunities, enhancing human development, mitigating socioeconomic and environmental risks, and improving governance and public sector effectiveness. Good progress was made in these areas by the developing countries in the first half of the 2000s, although recent global economic crises as well as natural disasters contributed to setbacks, and global climate change continues to threaten progress.

In 2008–10, 85 percent of WBG operations broadly aimed to help expand economic opportunities. Evaluations by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of past interventions show relatively high WBG effectiveness in these areas, particularly in infrastructure development and advancing economic policy reforms. Uneven results in improving human development highlight the difficulties in improving health and education outcomes among the poor. The WBG’s response to recent global crises and disasters has been substantial, although greater attention to preparedness is needed.

Evaluations indicate shortfalls in achieving key public sector reform objectives, including reducing corruption and civil service reform. Improving governance and public sector effectiveness remains key to advancing the other core development goals and to further reducing poverty. The WBG’s overall effectiveness is also lower in countries with weak public sector management, suggesting a need for the WBG to augment its approach and prioritize engagement in this area.

Various factors within the control of the WBG influence the development outcomes of its interventions. At the World Bank, while supervision of completed operations improved, there was a decline in project quality at the time of approval due to factors such as weaknesses in political economy assessments and poor results frameworks. In the International Finance Corporation, where a transformation in its business model is taking place, evaluations indicate that overall work quality in investments remain strong, although there were some persistent weaknesses in its upfront project appraisal and structuring. In the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), evaluations found that the strategic relevance of the operations it supported has been high, although there is scope for improving aspects of its work quality.

All three WBG institutions have taken steps to strengthen results monitoring and reporting. Challenges to be addressed include ensuring that aggregate indicators are not overly influenced by larger countries, ensuring that costs associated with achieving results are adequately reflected; and ensuring the quality of the underlying data.