World Bank president Robert Zoellick has suggested that the Bank will look into providing more support for civil society, signalling what would be a major change of tack for an institution that has hitherto been primarily limited to working through governments.
Addressing an audience at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC last week, Zoellick said that the wave of unrest engulfing the Arab region had shown governments that ‘you cannot have successful development without good governance and without the participation of your citizens’. Good governance is a sine qua non for prosperity, he said, and it will not happen without the active participation of citizens. This is especially true in the Middle East and North Africa where modernization has been only partially successful and institutions are fossilized. Civil society has an important role to play here, but in much of the region and throughout the developing world, civil society is still in its infancy. ‘Now it may be time to invest in the private, not-for-profit sector – civil society – to help strengthen the capacity of organizations working on transparency, accountability, and service delivery.’
In what was clearly a marker for the forthcoming World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, to be held between 15 and 17 April, and the accompanying Civil Society Policy Forum, which will run between 13 and 16 April, he proposed that the Bank consider introducing new facilities or capabilities to help strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on accountability and transparency in service delivery. He added: ‘We could give priority to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Sub-Saharan Africa. We could back this work with seed capital, and with knowledge exchange and research aimed at improving the enabling environment for social accountability.’
A roundtable discussion on CSOs and good governance, which several foundations and bilaterals will attend, is also scheduled for 27 April. The purpose of the meeting is to help the Bank work out how to construct a facility to aid CSOs in good governance.
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