Development Knowledge

The World Bank’s knowledge work spans multiple themes and regions, allowing the institution to harness multisectoral, integrated research that reflects the strategic priorities of countries, the Bank, and the wider development community.

Promoting Development through Research, Analysis, and Data

Knowledge is critical to development. The World Bank focuses on evidence-based development solutions and provides global insights for solving development challenges through reports and publications, in-depth analytic services, and freely available development data.

Researching today’s most pressing topics

The World Bank promotes development through its knowledge products, which include flagship reports, research papers, databases, and global indicators. Broader access to research and data allows policy makers and advocacy groups to make better-informed decisions and measure improvements more accurately. In fiscal 2018 the Bank published several significant reports, including:

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    World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise.
    Each year, the World Development Report features a topic of crucial importance to global development. The 2018 edition—the 40th in the series—was the first ever devoted entirely to education. According to the report, despite massive global gains in access to education, recent learning assessments reveal that many children around the world are leaving school unequipped with even foundational literacy and numeracy skills, let alone the higher-order skills needed for the 21st century. Across many low- and middle-income countries, skills lag far behind what those countries aspire to. The report uses new data to diagnose what’s causing this learning crisis and how to tackle it. It proposes starting with learning metrics and evidence-based programs to make schools work for learners, and urges countries to overcome stubborn system-level technical and political barriers to learning.
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    Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs.
    Doing Business compares the business regulations in 190 economies to provide data for governments to help design sound business regulatory policies and to encourage research on the important dimensions of regulatory environments for firms. The report ranks economies on their overall “ease of doing business” and analyzes reforms to business regulation—identifying which economies are strengthening their business environment. The annual rankings have served to spur countries to undertake useful reforms that help create fair, efficient, and transparent rules for the domestic private sector. In the 15 years of its existence, more than 3,100 business reforms have been carried out by governments around the world to make it easier for domestic small and medium enterprises to start, operate, and expand.
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    Women, Business, and the Law 2018.
    This report measures gender inequality in the law. Its dataset identifies barriers to women’s economic participation and encourages the reform of discriminatory laws. The report—now in its fifth edition—introduces scoring to better inform the reform agenda, tracks progress made over the past two years, and identifies opportunities to ensure economic empowerment for all. It notes that governments in 65 economies took steps to improve women’s economic inclusion, enacting 87 legal reforms during the past two years. However, women continue to face widespread barriers, entrenched in laws, that keep them out of jobs and prevent them from owning a business by restricting their access to credit or control over marital property.
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    Global Economic Prospects.
    This semi-annual flagship report, published in January and June, analyzes economic developments and prospects globally, regionally, and nationally. Each edition contains special focus reports on economic developments relevant to policy making and planning. Global Economic Prospects, June 2018: The Turning of the Tide? noted that despite recent softening, global economic growth was forecast to remain robust this year. However, growth is expected to decelerate over 2019 and 2020 as global slack dissipates, trade and investment moderate, and financing conditions tighten. The report recommends policies to rebuild buffers and accelerate reforms to boost competitiveness, adapt to technological change, and promote trade openness. Risks to the global economic outlook included the possibility of financial market disruptions, rising trade protectionism, and heightened geopolitical tensions.

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Employing Advisory Services and Analytics: Technical advice on specific challenges

The World Bank’s Advisory Services and Analytics (ASA)—that is, the Bank’s nonlending activities—are a vital part of how it contributes to development. Member countries use the Bank’s technical advice and analysis to develop or implement better policies, programs, and reforms that help to sustain development over the long term.

In fiscal 2018, the World Bank produced 1,476 ASA products in over 141 countries. These products ranged from reports on key economic and social issues to knowledge-sharing workshops, policy notes, and implementation action plans. The analysis often underpins partnership frameworks, government programs, and projects supported by World Bank lending and guarantees. In East Asia and Pacific, for example, the Bank is providing technical support to several countries to increase climate adaptation and resilience in order to reduce climate risks that impact people and livelihoods.

Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS), another form of ASA, are customized advisory services requested and paid for by country clients. The World Bank has around 175 active RAS engagements in 45 countries across its six regions, with 119 delivered in 33 countries in fiscal 2018. Through such services, the World Bank serves all its member states, including nonborrowing countries.

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Data for development: A global good

The World Bank also recognizes that transparency and accountability are essential to the development process and central to achieving the Bank’s mission to alleviate poverty. The Bank’s commitment to openness is also driven by a desire to foster public ownership, partnership, and participation in development from a wide range of stakeholders. As a knowledge institution, the World Bank is proud to share its knowledge freely and openly. Statistics and data are a key part of that knowledge and are easily accessible through the World Bank’s Open Data website for all users. The World Development Indicators is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized international sources. It presents the most current and accurate global development data available and includes estimates at the national, regional, and global levels.

The World Bank has also taken on the mission of working with its client countries to ensure all of them have data that serves as evidence for their decision making. The Bank partners on their efforts to collect good data and promote its access and use. In 2015, the World Bank identified 77 countries that either had no household-level data at all, had only one household survey in the last 10 years, or two surveys that were more than five years apart; most were IDA countries. This hinders their ability to make programmatic and policy decisions based on data and to monitor poverty and shared prosperity trends. The Bank is now engaged in all IDA countries, either through lending or technical assistance, to ensure that the pledge set in 2015 of having all these countries complete one round of surveys by 2020 is met.

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