The new World Bank Group Strategy aims to focus country programs on accelerating progress toward sustainable poverty reduction and building shared prosperity (known as the “twin goals”). The new strategy incorporates two instruments to underpin the enhanced country engagement model (Figure 1): A new Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), which identifies the most critical constraints to, and opportunities for, reducing poverty and shared prosperity, while considering the voices of the poor and the views of the private sector. The Country Partnership Framework (CPF) discusses focus areas for Bank Group support, aligned with the country’s own development agenda and selected to address the key constraints.
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has just completed its early-stage evaluation of the WBG’s new country engagement model. The evaluation had three objectives: (i) To explore whether the directives, guidelines, and other resources related to the new country engagement process have thus far helped the task team to produce good quality SCDs and CPFs; (ii) To provide the Board and management with early information about the functioning of the SCD/CPF process, so as to enable changes to improve the process; and (iii) To identify good practice and lessons learned thus far.
Country-level implementation results are not yet available from the new model. IEG used evidence (desk reviews, consultations, 10 field visits, and comparisons with previous country strategies) from the production of SCDs and CPFs as the basis for evaluation, reviewing the first 22 CPFs (up to end-April 2016) discussed at the Board and their associated SCDs.
Figure 1: The New Approach to Country Engagement
Source: World Bank Group, A New Approach to Country Engagement (2014)
Internal Bank Group processes for SCD and CPF preparation and review generally worked well. The corporate review process often helped to enhance the quality of the reports.
The integration of IFC and MIGA into the process has improved significantly under the new approach. IFC and MIGA participation was more evident in the SCDs and CPFs than under the previous CAS approach. The treatment of the private sector in economic growth and poverty reduction has become more prominent in the new country engagement model.
The new approach improved coordination and collaboration among Bank group entities (One World Bank Group), but budget transparency issues remain. IFC had greater involvement in shaping the overall country strategy and gained more knowledge and learning from stakeholder consultations. However, for IFC and MIGA staff, the approach has not been supported by dedicated budget resources for SCD and CPF preparation in individual countries.
The new process clearly required more time to complete, and additional resources. The addition of a new instrument (the SCD) has inevitably lengthened the overall process. Possibly, average processing times may decline as the WBG moves up the learning curve for the new instruments.
The SCD instrument has added considerable value to the quality of the Bank Group’s engagement with countries. The instrument has been well received inside and outside the Bank Group, including by governments and development partners. All of the SCDs identified priorities for achieving the twin goals, but clearer guidance is needed on prioritization – thus some SCDs identified a large number of priorities, which undermined its value in contributing to selectivity in the related CPFs.
The identification of opportunities for economic growth was the strongest of the SCD dimensions explored. Some SCDs argued for shifts in prevailing growth models or identified areas of growth potential. The majority analyzed the drivers of economic growth and their impact on poverty.
The SCDs depended heavily on available analytical material and data from the World Bank or elsewhere. Gaps in data inevitably meant that some SCDs suffered from weaknesses in their analyses of the future needs for achieving the twin goals. Many SCDs identified knowledge and data gaps that needed to be addressed to improve the evidence base for future policy making. But the CPFs did not address these gaps effectively, and in many cases did not explain how, or by whom, the gaps most relevant to CPF objectives would be filled.
The SCD has a significant public good aspect. Beyond its function as an input to the CPF, it also provides a unique opportunity to help define an agenda for dialogue on key development issues in a country. However, IEG found significant weaknesses in the distribution of the report once the SCD was completed. It is important for the WBG to disseminate the SCD findings widely beyond meeting its own disclosure requirement.
Unlike the SCD, the CPF is a well-established Bank Group product. However, the new model, which builds on the SCD’s analysis of the country’s constraints and priorities, has led to modifications in country program documents. The expected link between the Bank Group program and the achievement of the twin goals is a departure from the more generalized support for growth and poverty reduction found in previous country assistance strategies (CASs).
Bank Group guidance identifies three criteria for the selection of program priorities: alignment with SCD priorities, alignment with government’s own priorities, and areas of Bank Group comparative advantage (Figure 2).
Figure 2: CPF Selectivity Filters
Source: World Bank Group, A New Approach to Country Engagement (2014)
Aligning the program priorities of the CPF to the constraints and priorities identified in the SCD was challenging. The evaluation identified as good practice the CPFs that clearly separated the ongoing program from what was needed to support the new program. The results frameworks need to include both ongoing and new areas, while making a clear distinction between ongoing operations and the new program to be implemented in the future.
The presentation of results chains has improved through the introduction of a new results framework methodology for CPFs. The explicit introduction of an intervention logic in the results framework improved links between objectives and indicators. However, there were still gaps between achievement of objectives and achievement of indicators. In addition, the contribution of advisory services and analytics to the Bank Group program has been handled unevenly. Therefore, the results framework is still a work-in-progress.
The risk assessments in CPFs were systematic, but had significant weaknesses. All CPFs used the Systematic Operations Risk-Rating Tool (SORT), introduced in 2014 to provide a more structured method of rating risks. The descriptions of risks were often generic, and the risk mitigation or adaptation strategy was often vague. The discussion of risks also needs to draw a clearer distinction between World Bank and IFC programs, since these have very different risk profiles.
The new approach, both SCDs and CPFs, has done a reasonable job of addressing cross-cutting themes—gender, climate change, and fragility—while job creation has become a regular topic in a number of SCDs.
The SCDs identified knowledge and data gaps, but the CPFs did not address the gaps effectively. Many SCDs have identified knowledge and data gaps that need to be addressed to improve the evidence base for future policy making. But many CPFs did not explain how, or by whom, the gaps most relevant to CPF objectives would be filled, and were often weak in addressing the capacity for enhanced poverty monitoring.
The World Bank Group needs to clarify the justification for preparing CENs and their role in preparing the ground for a subsequent SCD/CPF cycle. The use of CENs needs to be minimized limiting its use only to countries facing conflict or political crises, or where the Bank Group is reengaging after a prolonged hiatus. An economic crisis or a change of government is not sufficient justification to use CENs.
Recommendation 1: The World Bank Group should enhance its guidance and ensure more consistent and focused priority setting in SCDs and more explicit discussion of strategic priorities in CPFs.
Recommendation 2: The World Bank Group should disseminate the SCD to further enhance its potential use by other stakeholders in the country, with specific steps to be determined by each country team.
Recommendation 3: The CPFs should explicitly indicate how the SCD-identified knowledge and data gaps, which are most relevant to CPF objectives, will be addressed.
Recommendation 4: The World Bank Group should strengthen the results frameworks in CPFs to ensure that they more clearly reflect the ongoing and new work programs and results of all types of interventions.
Recommendation 5: The World Bank Group should modify the country engagement guidance to ensure consistency with the new Gender Strategy.
Recommendation 6: The World Bank Group should improve resource management and budget transparency to strengthen One World Bank Group participation in the new country engagement model.
Appendix A: Evolution of the Country Assistance Strategies
Appendix B: Methodology
Appendix C: List of Country Case Studies
Appendix E: Results Frameworks in CPFs
Appendix F: Country Engagement Notes
Appendix G: IFC and MIGA Integration in the SCD/CDF Process