In IEG’s engagements with the Board, Bank Group Management, staff, and other stakeholders, we often look for opportunities to contribute timely and relevant evaluative insights that can inform the most important development decisions, clarify strategic choices, or impact how development projects are implemented.

This year’s ongoing discussions on the replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA) are an excellent example of how IEG’s evaluative insights can support stakeholder decision making. 

As the world’s largest provider of financial assistance to the poorest countries, IDA is a very important institution within the World Bank Group, and plays an extremely important role in the global development architecture. Every three years, the World Bank Group engages with representatives from governments and the international development community in order to raise new funding for IDA.

The last replenishment round for IDA -  (IDA 17) – concluded in 2013 and raised a record $52 billion. This year, the World Bank Group will hope to conclude another successful replenishment.

Designed to support the Bank Group’s poverty reduction goals, IDA loans carry zero or very low interest and offer longer repayment periods, usually 25-40 years with a 5-10 year grace period. In addition to these concessional loans, IDA provides grants to support countries with high levels of debt through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). Since 1960, IDA has provided $312 billion for investments in 112 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $19 billion over the last three years. As of September 8, 2016, IDA was active in 75 countries, with a portfolio of 890 projects totaling $81.72 billion.

Insights when they matter…

For the many stakeholders and donors that support IDA, having a clear performance picture is extremely useful and important. Is IDA a good investment? How well do IDA countries perform in terms of development outcomes? Is the World Bank Group doing enough in IDA countries and what lessons can we draw from the Bank Group’s performance to date?

As independent evaluators, we at IEG are in a position to offer an objective assessment, drawing important lessons on what works and doesn’t. Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to do this at the IDA Deputies Meeting, where I presented evaluative insights, drawing from the World Bank Group experience, on what has worked for delivering results in IDA priority areas.

In this blog, I highlight IEG’s key findings from this work.

A good investment?

IDA’s work covers many themes that are critical to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the World Bank Group’s twin goals. More than half of IDA’s support goes to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent IEG evaluations show strong performance by the World Bank Group and IDA in particular in many areas

Overall, IEG found that IDA does a better job than the other WBG institutions – IFC, MIGA and IBRD – in terms of giving higher priority to special thematic areas such as gender equality, climate change, inclusive growth, crisis response and fragile and conflict-affected states. On climate change, for example, IDA screens all its projects for climate risks – a practice that was adopted following IEG evaluation recommendations.

Despite the often riskier operating environments in IDA countries, IEG’s 2014 and 2015 reports on the results and performance of the World Bank Group indicate that the performance of IDA lending projects is catching up with those supported by IBRD and IFC. Country program performance, however, remains below that of IBRD (by over 25 percentage points) and portfolio performance in IDA FCS declined in both 2014 and 2015, reversing improvements from prior years. This is an area for concern.

Opportunities to increase impact

As with the rest of the Bank Group’s portfolio, internal factors can contribute significantly to project performance in IDA operations. Improving quality at entry by drawing on past lessons; clarifying objectives and results frameworks; and strengthening project supervision and risk mitigation measures can help in addressing IDA project and country program performance.

IEG evaluations point to the need for more intensive project support in IDA countries given that many projects are prepared and implemented in environments with weaker client capacity. IEG identifies weak institutions and inadequate data as the two most common constraints for World Bank Group effectiveness in IDA countries. And yet despite these constraints, while IDA allocations for FCS have increased in recent years, the average administrative budget to support IDA operations in FCS has declined relative to non-FCS IDA projects.

In addition, IEG’s review highlights the critical importance of alignment between IDA’s aspirations and country ownership. IDA country strategies should assist the governments to define their specific development priorities within the global context as well as the context of their unique opportunities and constraints.

Strengthening monitoring, as part of the strategy implementation process is another critical area. This requires paying more attention to developing country capacity and M&E systems. While IDA has been a pioneer in results measurement and its self-evaluation systems adhere to relevant good practice standards, there tends to be greater focus on corporate results measurement and reporting than on using the system for performance management, strategic decision-making, and learning. 

Read the full report, Learning from IDA Experience: Lessons from IEG evaluations.

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