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Breaking the Cycle of Poor Service Delivery in the Arab World Critical for Long Term Stability

April 16, 2015

New World Bank report calls for accountability in public service delivery and identifies local success stories to inform and inspire reforms.

Washington, April 15th, 2015­ – The delivery of essential public services in the Middle East and North Africa region is failing to meet the needs of citizens and continues to be a source of widespread dissatisfaction, as documented in a new report released today by the World Bank. Trust, Voice and Incentives, learning from local success stories in service delivery in the Middle East and North Africa identifies a corrosive relationship between a lack of accountability among service providers and limited channels for citizen feedback that perpetuate poor service delivery.

The report also points toward potential solutions. With a focus on health and education, a number of clinics, schools and their institutional and community contexts are examined to explore how they have managed to deliver quality services despite significant odds. The local success stories come from Jordan, Morocco and the Palestinian Territories; each from localities with limited resources. The examples demonstrate the importance of local decision making power and community engagement in building the chains of formal and informal accountability that produce better results.

Young people in particular are too often let down by schools that do not prepare them for the jobs market,” said Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region. “The problem is not a lack of resources but the wrong motivation, as public servants are not judged by their ability to meet the needs of citizens. Breaking the cycle of poor performance will be essential for rebuilding the relationship between citizens and governments and allowing the region’s youth to reach their full potential.”

One of the examples the report focuses on is the Kufor Quod Girls’ Secondary School. Located in a small village near the city of Jenin, test scores from the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) places the school in the top performers across the Territories. The report traces the school’s success to parental and community engagement and the ability of the school’s principal to build and maintain a motivating, encouraging work environment for teachers. Even in the face of tight budgets and the many restrictions in the centralized education system of the Palestinian territories, the principal found ways of rewarding her teaching staff and maintaining their commitment to the school’s high standards.

Improvements in services will not come simply through policy reforms and investments.” said Hana Brixi, World Bank Global Lead for Public Service Delivery and lead author of the report. ”It will require making public servants and providers accountable to citizens and promoting citizens’ trust in and engagement with public institutions. Our case studies reveal the impact of solutions designed to fit local contexts: Local leaders, motivated school principals and health clinic staff, and communities can effectively join forces and make services work.”

The lessons learned from the case studies are offered as both a guide and inspiration for policy makers, public servants and citizens on what can be achieved through reforms. While poor service delivery affects everyone, the burden falls heaviest on the poor and marginalized. As the report demonstrates, one of the factors that further exacerbates the decline in the quality of services is that citizens opt out and find private, often informal, means to meet their needs. The poor do not have the resources to opt out. Creating opportunities for citizens to act and hold service providers and public servants accountable is essential to prevent further social marginalization and build the foundations for shared prosperity.

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