After the Pandemic: evidence for building back better
Charting a path to recovery will require evidence on what is working, why, and for whom.
Right at the start of the pandemic, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) adapted its work program to support the emergency response with lessons on what worked during past global crises. At the same time, we remained focused on evaluating Bank Group interventions to address the long-term development challenges that matter to our client countries and will be critical for reaching both the twin goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. With the development and deployment of vaccines now offering a path out of the pandemic, IEG aims to provide evidence on what is working, why and for whom to inform decisions on the way forward and to chart a course toward a green, inclusive, resilient recovery that lifts everyone.
IEG recently published the first-ever systematic assessment of Bank Group support for Renewable Energy (RE). The scale-up of RE is central to the Clean Energy Transition, the path to decarbonizing global energy, which is essential to foster inclusive and sustainable growth while addressing climate change. As the single largest global contributor to renewable energy in developing countries, where over 70% of the required RE scale-up is forecast to take place, the Bank Group has a key role in the transition. Among its many findings, the report recommends prioritizing interventions that help client countries integrate RE sources into their power systems, more comprehensive and coordinated engagements, and continually upgrading the pool of specialized skills within the Bank Group that are needed in this dynamic field.
Another important part of a green recovery is protecting and restoring natural ecosystems. IEG has evaluated several projects related to the Great Green Wall, under the $1.1 billion Sahel and West Africa Program. Before the pandemic, IEG teams conducted site visits and held extensive discussions with government counterparts and local community members to deepen the understanding of the projects’ overall impacts. Our findings point to the importance of considering both intended and unintended consequences, especially for local communities, when designing future projects. Expect more evidence related to confronting environmental degradation in the near future as IEG finalizes its evaluation of World Bank Group Support for Sustainable and Inclusive Natural Resource Management.
With limited and shrinking fiscal space in developing countries, responding to the pandemic and rebuilding requires re-prioritizing tools to mobilize private capital for development in the short to medium term. The findings of IEG’s first systematic assessment of approaches to mobilizing private capital suggest that the Bank Group should expand and scale MIGA guarantees to support new project financing or refinancing efforts, heighten disaster risk management products and countercyclical approaches, and boost Public-Private Partnership solutions, which are already in high demand as a result of the pandemic.
State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are critical to many developing and emerging economies where the lives of millions of citizens are deeply affected by how these enterprises are run. IEG recently published two evaluations of Bank Group support for SOE reform. The first focused on the energy and financial sectors, and among its many findings offered precautions relevant to the recovery: temporary measures deployed by SOEs after crises are at risk of becoming “policy traps” and politically difficult to reverse, SOE lending could not always reach the most constrained borrowers, and that adequate risk management processes should be in place to assure strong governance. The second synthesized findings from a range of past evaluations to identify the multiple institutional pathways for the reform of public utilities in the energy and water sectors, to address the stresses caused by the pandemic and lay the foundation for improved and sustained service delivery.
Sound public finance policies, institutions and outcomes are critical for fast and sustained economic recoveries. IEG will soon publish an evaluation of the development effectiveness of World Bank interventions in support of public financial management; with the assessment ranging from analytical work to financing and the use of the World Bank’s convening power.
Disruptive technologies are already reshaping the way goods and services are produced and consumed, with profound implications for the functioning and dynamics of the global economy. In a soon-to-be published evaluation, IEG aims to provide feedback on the implementation of the Bank Group’s new approach to disruptive technologies and its efforts to become a “partner of choice” in mobilizing disruptive technologies for development.
The World Bank Group is moving into new areas as it implements the current strategy to promote gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. IEG’s upcoming mid-term review of the World Bank’s current Gender Strategy will provide evidence and lessons on what is working and where challenges remain in maximizing the organizational effort to close gender gaps.
The pandemic also revealed the vulnerabilities of countries with aging populations. An upcoming evaluation highlights the data gaps on the health and wellbeing of older people, especially in developing countries, and maps out a role for the World Bank in standardizing the collection of this data to help countries care for their aging populations and plan more effectively for emergencies such as the pandemic.
The need to adapt constantly in a rapidly changing and complex development landscape, a need rendered ever more urgent by the pandemic, has driven home the importance of the cycle of feedback, learning and course correction. In addition to accountability for results, IEG is focused on promoting the use of evaluative evidence for the constant learning and adapting which are key to achieving greener, more inclusive, and more resilient development outcomes.
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