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.’