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World Bank Engagement in Situations of Conflict

World Bank Management Response

World Bank management would like to thank the Independent Evaluation Group for undertaking the evaluation of the World Bank engagements in situations of conflict in fiscal years (FY)10–20. Lessons learned from the evaluation are directly relevant to current challenges and will inform early implementation of the World Bank’s fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) strategy in situations of conflict and the International Development Association (IDA) FCV special theme and related policy commitments.

Overall Comments

Management notes with satisfaction the report’s main conclusion that “the World Bank is adapting the way it engages in situations of conflict to achieve its corporate goals” (71). The World Bank’s engagement in situations of conflict is significantly different today than it was in 2010, with changes driven by important institutional and corporate policies, increased knowledge and expertise, and new operational and funding instruments, among others. Commitments have increased from $2.7 billion in FY10 to $7.2 billion in FY19 (from 5 percent of all new World Bank commitments in FY10 to an annual average of 15 percent during FY15–20). The evaluation also notes that over the same period conflict-affected IDA-eligible countries’ share of new commitments more than doubled. Management particularly welcomes the recognition that the IDA FCV policy commitments play a key role in furthering the FCV agenda together with the FCV strategy, country management commitment, and the positive role of Risk and Resilience Assessments (RRAs). The range of observations, examples, and findings in the evaluation are pertinent, and their synthesis provides lessons as the World Bank continues to adapt and strengthen its work in situations affected by conflict and fragility.

Outcome Orientation

Management concurs with the need to strengthen the way the World Bank captures its contribution to high-level outcomes at the country level in situations of conflict to be addressed, in line with measure 4 of the FCV strategy (enhance monitoring and evaluation frameworks). Management will continue to have a portfolio-wide perspective, as was done in the Republic of Yemen and Madagascar, where operational engagement across the portfolio, including investment project financing, development policy operations, and advisory services and analytics, were aligned and coordinated in relation to complex conflict-mitigation outcomes. Individual projects served more as pieces of a broader strategy to address critical underlying issues of conflict. The institution’s renewed commitment to outcome orientation through the dedicated road map, including revised country engagement guidance, underpins these efforts.

Management agrees with the importance of adaptive management, including regular midcourse correction to deliver high-level outcomes. Operational flexibilities are available to project teams in conflict countries and many projects are designed with adaptable features that allow flexibility in dealing with rapidly changing situations. Although security challenges faced by projects in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) countries usually stem from institutional and country conditions that affect projects regardless of their design, restructuring can also be used to mitigate various aspects of security challenges such as changes in implementation arrangements, changes in component design, or changes in costing or fiduciary arrangements.

Management stresses that partnerships, particularly with United Nations (UN) agencies at the operation level, are an inherent feature of the way the World Bank aims for outcomes, particularly in countries affected by fragility and conflict. Partnerships with a broad range of actors play a critical role on many levels in conflict contexts and they are subject to close coordination and problem solving. The report primarily discusses the advantages offered by World Bank policies (in particular, the operational policy on development cooperation and FCV) that facilitate partnerships with UN agencies and third parties, such as the International Committee on Red Cross, which in turn mitigate risk to World Bank operations and staff by relying on partners’ engagement to ensure the flow of financing for critical services where the World Bank may not have a presence in the field or where the central government has a limited presence. In response to the report’s finding that partnership arrangements have been challenged by disagreements over fiduciary and security rules and protocols arising from implementation problems, management appreciates the acknowledgment that management, through its UN Program Team, has been actively working with both UN agencies and World Bank teams to build understanding with respect to the flexibilities in World Bank fiduciary policies. These flexibilities allow for continued reliance on various UN systems through the application of alternative assurance mechanisms and the operational requirements that flow from the Environmental and Social Framework.


Management agrees to enhance the conflict sensitivity of World Bank engagement and ensure that politically sensitive and confidential analysis is generated, retained, and managed so that it can be used by select future staff working on that country (recommendation 1). Management concurs that it is important to generate and internally retain sensitive analysis. As the evaluation indicates, honest and frank analysis in the form of a good quality RRA is key to inform country engagement and programming and make sure they are conflict sensitive. The RRA methodology includes guidance on how to handle potentially sensitive issues throughout the process, including during the concept stage, through country team discussions on emerging findings, and at the decision meeting, where information classification and implications for wider dissemination are determined. As part of implementing the FCV strategy and rolling out the new RRA methodology, management will strive to ensure that RRA analysis and recommendations, or a comprehensive summary, is made available, in line with the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy and in a manner that best contributes to the effectiveness of World Bank operations in FCV contexts.

Management agrees to ensure that country engagements are informed by timely analyses of conflict dynamics and risks (recommendation 2). Management shares the premise that timely and systematic analysis of conflict dynamics and risks is critical for strategy and operational decision-making and should support adaptive decision-making at the country level, together with all available forms of timely conflict risk monitoring. All Country Partnership Frameworks and Country Engagement Notes in the 18 Replenishment of IDA and so far in the 19th were preceded by RRAs or other fragility assessments informing country engagement. The new RRA methodology establishes a robust diagnostic framework with a stronger operational focus, including an FCV-sensitive portfolio analysis, and already forms the basis for further strengthening FCV sensitivity in country engagement. The RRAs are often complemented by other types of analytics and monitoring covering FCV dynamics, including surveys, and sector- and project-level analytics addressing FCV on a more granular level. Management will conduct timely RRAs and other FCV-related assessments in line with the FCV strategy and IDA policy commitments to inform country engagement and subsequent programming. In addition, the World Bank is also innovating and exploring dynamic approaches to crisis and conflict risk monitoring and analysis and is committed to developing specific approaches for deployment of this analysis, where indicated and demanded by country management to inform engagement and decision making.

Management agrees to address factors that dissuade World Bank engagement in conflict-affected areas (recommendation 3). Management understands the thrust of this recommendation and is actively monitoring and improving the operating environment for engaging in conflict-affected areas, including delivering on relevant commitments as articulated in the FCV strategy. It will ensure that operations in FCV settings take security considerations into account throughout the project cycle by factoring security aspects into project design and as appropriate during project implementation (FCV strategy measure 9). Management will also enhance the use of operational flexibilities as needed in FCV settings, including staff training and raising awareness of flexibilities in procurement, the Environmental and Social Framework, and financial management (FCV strategy measure 3). As security arrangements and operating flexibility are enhanced, management will also explore how to effectively deploy more staff in FCS countries.

Management agrees to further consider what success looks like in conflict-affected countries (recommendation 4). Management agrees that rethinking developmental success in conflict-affected countries requires moving away from an overreliance on quantitative metrics, attribution, and short time frames that do not suit the nature of these country programs and their contribution to higher-order outcomes. In this regard, management is finalizing its note on monitoring and evaluation in FCV contexts as well as the updated guidance on Implementation Completion Reports (ICRs) in FCV contexts, as was agreed in the FCV strategy. Management will strengthen compliance with evaluation requirements for smaller projects. In addition, Systematic Country Diagnostics and Country Partnership Frameworks will include a clear conflict narrative, and objectives will consider conflict considerations, as informed by RRAs. In addition, Performance and Learning Reviews will include in their scope consideration for how the country program responded and adapted to the FCV context.

Additional Comments

Management notes that recent trust fund reforms address the report’s concerns related to the self-evaluation of lending operations supported by trust funds. Lending operations supported by trust funds adhere to the same World Bank reporting requirements, including preparation of the ICRs. Small recipient-executed trust funds—that is, those less than $5 million—are also expected to have an ICR. One of the key objectives of the trust fund reform is the delivery of improved results and the development of robust results management systems for umbrella programs; in this context, significant work has been completed to provide clear and consistent guidance on results, reporting, and evaluation of umbrella programs and to ensure that these programs have dedicated monitoring and evaluation resources to adequately capture results and learning, which are then used to inform operations. The upcoming trust-fund directive mandates that all umbrella programs be independently evaluated at least every five years.

Management notes that the words conflict drivers and conflict risks have been used interchangeably in various sections of the report. Management would like to clarify that in its understanding and usage of the terms in RRAs and other World Bank documents, “conflict drivers” are those underlying factors that are causing conflict, whereas “conflict risk” is the probability that conflict will materialize or escalate in the future.