The purpose of Module 27 is to provide information and resources about the World Bank in order to encourage an understanding of the Bank’s role in both promoting and undermining ESC rights.  

This module should help trainees understand/clarify for themselves:

  • some of the human rights issues in which the Bank is a relevant actor;
  • key Bank policies that relate to human rights protection; and
  • what human rights activists need to know about the Bank in order to address these issues.

Basic Components

A workshop to train activists on the role and function of the World Bank should have the following basic components:

1.      How the World Bank operates

2.      World Bank lending and its impact in country X

3.      How to influence the decision-making process in World Bank projects and policies

1.      How the World Bank operates

A basic understanding of this information can be delivered in a lecture using overheads and other tools.  The lecture should cover:

  • The history and purpose of the Bank, including information on its structure and types of loans made.  Trainers could include an analysis of the unequal nature of the Bank’s governance structure (e.g., the Part I/Part II voting structure).
  • How loans are developed (the country assistance strategy and the project cycle).
  • How the Bank influences government economic policy and governance issues.
  • Key Bank policies and the Bank’s lending priorities.
  • Who benefits from Bank lending (how structural adjustment lending has opened country economies to foreign private sector investments, for example).
  • The influence that Bank lending has in attracting other MDB financing, donor aid and private capital.  

Following the basic overview, specific Bank policies that are of importance to the train­ees can be explored in more depth.  Some questions to answer might include:

  • Who is responsible for implementing the policy?
  • What areas of Bank operations does the policy apply to?
  • Who or what does the policy protect and what rights does it confer on affected peo­ple?
  • Does the policy make space for citizen participation and consultation?

2.      World Bank lending and its impact on country X

In training workshops in specific borrowing countries, it is often helpful for participants to understand what the Bank finances in the country.  Prior to the workshop, either the trainer or a designated participant should put together a "dossier” for the country.  Dossi­ers can include:

  • Information from the Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) that describes the Bank’s plans in supporting the government’s development objectives (e.g., develop­ing infrastructure, stabilizing the banking system, privatization of state-owned indus­tries etc.)
  • Recent structural adjustment loans including the amount and the economic reform measures that the loan required
  • The Policy Framework Paper of the World Bank and IMF
  • The current pipeline: recently approved projects currently in implementation, and projects that are in preparation but are not yet approved.  Information should include amounts, sector, and a short project description

The dossiers give trainees an understanding of the scope of the Bank’s influence in the country.  In reviewing and discussing the dossiers, participants can learn a great deal not only about what the Bank’s priorities are and how much the country is actually borrow­ing, but also what information is available and how to get it.

Another useful exercise is to have participants present the experiences of NGOs or social movements with projects or economic policies financed by the Bank.  Experiences with or knowledge of specific projects can reinforce the information already presented, and gives participants an opportunity to share information and experiences that might be rele­vant to future advocacy strategies.

Forming small groups to discuss a specific Bank loan of concern or interest to partici­pants can be a good way to deepen participants’ knowledge of the Bank and how it is in­fluencing their country.  Such discussion groups can also be helpful in sharing informa­tion among participants who already have some information about the Bank’s operations.  Some questions that can be asked include:

  • Where is the project in the project cycle?  Is the project in preparation or in imple­mentation?
  • Who is in charge of the project and how can they be contacted?
  • What information is available about the project?
  • What are elements of the project that are of concern to NGOs and civil society?
  • What are some ways in which the project can be influenced or monitored?

3.      How to influence the decision-making process in World Bank policies and projects

  • Effective Bank advocacy requires a basic understanding of what the project develop­ment and decision-making processes are and where within the process citizens can have an influence.  There are several ways to approach the development of an under­standing of how NGO advocacy can influence project outcomes.  Basic background information includes an understanding of how the Bank and the government negotiate the lending portfolio.  Once this information is understood, then participants could be asked to create a strategic framework for developing an advocacy agenda.  Such a framework might include:
  • What are the reasons that NGOs may want to advocate for or against specific project or program of the Bank?
  • What are the group’s objectives?
  • What approaches can be taken (information gathering, identification of project authorities [government and bank], meetings with Bank and government authorities, assessment of possible negative impacts, bringing in technical experts, development of media or public awareness campaigns, etc.)?
  • What strategic alliances need to be formed?
  • Who are the targets and who has the power?
  • What tools can be applied (Bank policies, international treaties and conventions, na­tional legislation)?

Such an exercise, within small groups or in the large group of participants, can generate an analysis of the Bank’s role in the country or the project in question.  The exercise can highlight the role of the government in decision-making and clarify what may need to be done to influence government.  It can also lead to the development of specific strategies that can be followed up after the workshop.

Suggested Methods

Depending on the amount of time for the workshop, simulations or role plays can be em­ployed in order to give participants a chance to test their understanding of the World Bank.  In a recent workshop in Mozambique, sponsored by the Mozambique Debt Group, partici­pants were asked to develop and present to the group the following:

  • 15-minute workshop presentations on various aspects of the Bank’s structure, function and policies;
  • a mock meeting agenda with the World Bank resident representative, including a request for specific project information;
  • a mock workshop agenda to train members of parliament about the role of the World Bank in the country;
  • a mock seminar agenda to train grassroots groups in the provinces.

Small groups were also given several "scenarios,” which simulated common Bank-NGO interactions. The scenarios gave participants the opportunity to apply the basic information about the Bank to the development of strategies and action.  Each scenario required the par­ticipants to:

  • apply their knowledge of the Bank’s structure, decision-making process and policies to develop a strategy to deal with a certain local problem related to a Bank loan;
  • confront typical obstacles that NGOs meet when engaging with the Bank, including lack of information or misinformation; Bank staff hostility toward civil society; insufficient time given for citizens to review project documents like environmental assessments, resettlement plans, etc.; lack of transparency in decision-making processes; lack of a re­sponse to letters, phone calls, etc.
  • determine what alliances they would need to make, and what types of advocacy strate­gies-meetings, letter writing campaigns, press, lobbying-should be applied in order to achieve their objectives; and
  • understand the role of government agencies in developing Bank projects, and what politi­cal and economic dynamics come into play.

q       The above methods were suggested by the module’s author, Kay Treakle.

copyright information