The World Bank is having a big internal debate about Power and Governance. Here’s why it matters.
By Duncan Green, Oxfam UK
Writing flagship publications in large institutions is a tough job. Everyone wants a piece, as different currents of opinion, ideology or interest slug it out over red lines and key messages. Trying (and failing) to write one for Oxfam once put me in hospital.
So no surprise that the flagship of flagships, the World Bank’s annual World Development Report, on Governance and Law, is currently experiencing some mid-flight turbulence. In an attempt to figure out what all the fuss could be about, I’ve luckily been able to read bits and pieces of an early draft.
I know NGO types aren’t supposed to say this, but it’s really impressive (don’t worry, I’ll get on to the weaknesses later). Coming from the Bank, it’s a major step forward, capturing, consolidating and mainstreaming elements of systems thinking, Thinking and Working Politically, Doing Development Differently etc. Examples: context specificity, path dependence, evolution, critical junctures, feedback mechanisms, the need for constant adaptation, how multiple actors interact to produce both intended and unintended consequences. The conclusion is that reformers should focus on strengthening the enabling environment, rather than pushing specific reforms.
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