In a world where conversations are often merely held virtually through a quick comment on Facebook or 140 characters on Twitter, a real face-to-face discussion is precious. Acknowledging this, the World Bank increasingly gives civil society opportunities to voice their opinions directly with the Bank and representatives of organizations of other countries through consultations on World Bank initiatives or reports.
Lourdes Sanz from the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (CEMEFI) knows of the importance of these opportunities: the possibility to share with the World Bank and with other countries the experience acquired by her association is one of the important points of consultations for her. “I believe it is something very valuable for us,” she says.
She adds that it is also very interesting to have a space where she can listen to what has been done in other countries and what is being planned. Organizations in Mexico and Colombia like the CEMEFI, Transparency for Colombia (a national chapter of Transparency International) or the Colombian organization “Electoral Observation Mission” (MOE), can learn from these dialogues offered by the World Bank and also build up a network aimed at improving their countries’ citizens’ life.
And for the World Bank, bringing civil society’s voice into World Bank discussions can be very useful so as to receive a wide array of views and opinions on an initiative and move forward in its conceptualization process, taking into account some of the comments heard.
Lourdes Sanz has participated in two consultations organized by the World Bank for the “Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability”(GPESA) initiative, one in November of last year and another one in March 2012.
This last consultation she took part in, a video conference with participants from Mexico and Colombia with World Bank Senior Expert in social development John W. Garrison and World Bank Social Expert Carlos Molina Prieto, gave her and others, like Elisabeth Ungar from Transparency for Colombia or Liliana Rodríguez Burgos from the Colombian NGO Confederation, the opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions on the GPESA initiative that concerns civil society directly. Indeed the very goal of the GPESA is to strengthen beneficiary feedback and participation, for example through supporting the capacity of civil society to interact with governments in order to improve development results.
And this partnership aims at especially supporting civil society that is working in the area of social accountability.
This is not the first time the World Bank is organizing public consultations for initiatives or reports in different regions of the world, including Latin America. In 2006, a consultation in Mexico invited representatives of federal and sub-national governments, of civil society, as well as of the judiciary or legislative system and the media, amongst others, to participate in the discussion on strengthening the World Bank group engagement on governance and anticorruption.
This was part of a global consultation effort, with meetings in 37 countries in development, and more than 3,200 participants. And last year in March, the “World Development report: Gender Equality and Development” was the occasion for consultations to find out what civil society representatives, civil servants, academics or the private sector for example were thinking about gender equality and development.
At about the same time, in February and March 2012, an online consultation was made on the topic of Justice Reform, on the World Bank’s experience on the topic and the direction it should take on that particular issue.
Currently, the World Bank is organizing various consultations on the GPESA initiative with key stakeholders around the globe, including such countries as India, South Africa, the Philippines and many more. A previous consultation round was organized from Mid April to Mid November 2011. In the current round which goes from January to Mid March 2012, key concepts and principles to shape the global partnership are presented and discussed.
Although the World Bank is still learning to improve its consultation processes, in this particular case it is very well done, according to John W. Garrison. “It’s global, I think we have meetings in more than 30 countries and we also have a quite active Web site,” he says. The GPESA Web site allows to share views through an online survey and to gather information through summaries of comments or meetings that are posted online.
And during the conference on the GPESA initiative with Mexico and Colombia for example, comments were plentiful. “I would ask that the concept of equity be clearly and explicitly mentioned in the objectives of the partnership,”said Elisabeth Ungar, the Director of Transparency for Colombia, for example. Some participants pointed out that the different actors that would be involved in the global partnership – civil society, the World Bank and governments for example - should have clearly defined roles.
Among the questions that were put on the table of discussion, some focused on which countries would be in effect involved in the partnership and what would their role be. Such comments help GPESA project organizers to see which points are important to civil society representatives and might contribute to forming a more precise concept and strategy for the project.
Under the condition of the World Bank’s Board approval, consultations on the GPESA initiative will continue from May through June 2012 in order to discuss operational details of the proposed partnership, taking into account different country contexts.