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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 019-160-E
Division Number: V
Professional Group: Government Information and Official Publications
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 160
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No  

The World Bank: Partner And Provider of Development Information

Pamela Tripp-Melby
The World Bank Group
Washington, D.C. USA
E-mail: ptrippmelby@worldbank.org


The World Bank Group is a non-profit international organization founded in 1945 which provides loans, grants, and development assistance to developing countries. Through a new concept, the Comprehensive Development Framework, the World Bank seeks to make a wide variety of people and groups in borrowing countries full partners in the design of projects in order to enhance development aid effectiveness. The World Bank seeks further to involve partners in the launching of a new Internet portal site, The Global Development Gateway, which would bring together collaborators on the best of development knowledge. Other information initiatives underway to share the World Bank's global development expertise include the Archives of Development project, the World Development Sources, and others available via the organization's web site.



The World Bank was founded, along with its sister institution the International Monetary Fund, in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference. It opened its doors as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1946: a public sector institution owned and governed by national governments, which also has governments as its clients. From its inception the World Bank provided both intellectual products, such as ideas, information, policy influence, as well as flows of financial resources. "One of the continuing challenges for the institution over the years has been to find and sustain a proper balance between the Bank's intellectual products and its resource transfers." 1 The defining characteristic of the World Bank has been its simultaneous focus on poverty alleviation both at the country and regional level, in the form of project lending coupled with technical sector expertise.

It is often forgotten that the first loans made by the IBRD in 1947 were non-project reconstruction loans to France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg for post-war infrastructure rehabilitation. However the IBRD soon shifted its focus to Third World development, as the reconstruction work was absorbed by bilateral programs such as the Marshall Plan. The period of 1949 through 1959 saw the World Bank concentrate primarily on infrastructure projects: roads, dams, bridges. 1960 marked a turning point with the creation of the International Development Association (IDA) which increased the number and range of the Bank's clients. IDA members are composed of the poorer countries who need credit but cannot afford market interest rates. The money for IDA project lending is put up and replenished by Bank donor countries, primarily OECD-affiliated countries. The creation of IDA both protected the IBRD's creditworthiness and also broadened the Bank's lending into sectors such as agriculture, water, education, health which are in need of project lending.

The period of 1968 through 1973, when Robert McNamara was President of the World Bank, was characterized by a massive increase in support and the status of research within the institution. Basic economic research increased in order to "provide analytical guidance to the institution's regional and country policy economic staffs." 2 The 1980s saw the creation of structural adjustment loans and sector adjustment lending which used program loans to encourage reforms in a country's economic and sector structures. These loans, by necessity, were accompanied by an increase in programs and projects with participatory approaches, collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups. While structural adjustment lending had many advantages, in the 1990s there was a renewal of the mission of poverty alleviation as central to the Bank's role. However the relationship between participation of country stakeholders and the quality of Bank projects came to the forefront during this period. "There were sound reasons to expand the participation of beneficiaries if project effectiveness was to be improved", especially in projects in agriculture, health, population, nutrition, low-income housing, water and sanitation, where success rested as much in changing behavior as it did in constructing physical infrastructure. 3

There are two additional parts of the World Bank Group, as it is now known: the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The IFC was created in 1956 in recognition of the critical role the private sector plays in poverty reduction by driving overall growth and job creation. The IFC fosters economic growth in the developing world by financing private sector investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing technical assistance of governments and business. It provides loans and equity finance for business ventures, thereby helping to demonstrate the profitability of investment in those countries. 4 MIGA facilitates investment in developing countries by providing investment guarantees against non-commercial risks such as currency transfer or war. In addition MIGA offers technical assistance by disseminating information on investment opportunities and help with investment promotion through its IPAnet web site (www.ipanet.net).

The 1990s also saw a significant internal debate on project quality. A Portfolio Management Task Force issued a report in 1992 which was critical of the supervision of existing projects, especially in infrastructure lending to state-owned monopolies, and faulted the institution for a preoccupation with new projects relative to managing already approved projects in various stages of implementation. It was noted, however, that judgments made only cover up to the point where the Bank's involvement ends and that the true value of a road, school, or sewage systems may just be beginning. 5 The World Bank has an Operations Evaluation Department (OED), formed in 1983, whose function it is to monitor the quality of Bank projects (web site: http://www.worldbank.org/html/oed/evaluation/). In a retrospective study covering 1983-1993, OED judged 86% of all Bank projects (and 90% by value of the loans) to have achieved their major objectives. 6

In 1996 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund jointly launched the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Trust Fund to free the poorest countries of a debt-rescheduling cycle which constrains development (www.worldbank.org/hipc) The focus of the HIPC program is comprehensive poverty reduction. To this aim, the World Bank and the IMF are currently sponsoring a series of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers in order to identify, through research and in a participatory manner, both the poverty reduction outcomes a country wants to achieve and the policy changes, institutional reforms, programs and projects needed to succeed. The focus will be on helping to prioritize planning by the World Bank and the IMF together in order to achieve the highest impact on poverty in a particular country.

The tenure of James Wolfensohn as President of the World Bank, beginning in 1995, has been characterized by an opening of the Bank to a wide variety of development partners and by knowledge management, a significant internal effort to capture and utilize the tacit knowledge developed over the years by the staff of the institution. The study of the Bank at its 50th anniversary noted its emphasis on remaining a strong "purveyor of development wisdom, disinterested, practical, accessible, respected for the depth of its technical expertise" 7 A number of recent initiatives are bringing together the Bank's development knowledge and its enthusiastic and systematic embrace of partnerships.

Comprehensive Development Framework

In 1999 World Bank Group President James D. Wolfensohn introduced the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), a new approach to development which builds on the many lessons in development cooperation the Bank has learned over the years. It seeks a "better balance" in development efforts by emphasizing the interdependence of various elements in development: social, structural, governance, environmental, economic and financial. The key principles of the CDF are country ownership of the policy agenda, partnership with all stakeholders, and a holistic approach to development built on national consultations. President Wolfensohn said: "it is clear to all of us that ownership [of development efforts] is essential. Countries must be in the driver's seat and set the course."

The CDF will enable the Bank to move away from a primarily project-oriented approach toward a more programmatic and holistic approach, sharpening its role as a provider of overall strategic advice to its clients. "The CDF Bank will continue to help clients mobilize resources, but will also focus more on helping them access knowledge, build capacity and devise overall development strategy. "8 Central to this is fostering global "communities of practice" so that the Bank Group and its clients can share knowledge and learn from each other.

The Comprehensive Development Framework (http://www.worldbank.org/cdf/)is developed on a country-by-country basis, with thirteen countries participating as pilots. Of particular interest to the IFLA 2000 audience will be the fact that Jordan and the West Bank and Gaza are participating CDF pilot countries. In each pilot country, led by their government and supported by World Bank, efforts are being made to capture both the strategic priorities of the country (what are the key determinants of poverty there?) and information on the stakeholders and partners (what actions by the public, private, and civil sectors can have the greatest impact on poverty?) through a series of national consultations. Special consideration is made of the need to ensure that these consultations include the poor and "voiceless." In addition to these analyses made by the countries, partnerships among aid organizations active in each country are an essential element of the CDF. Increasingly, aid coordination meetings among bilateral and multilateral aid agencies are being held in the CDF countries to allow more participation by civil society, private sector and other stakeholders with improved transparency to citizens. Cooperation with UN agencies is stronger in CDF countries as a result of this consultation process. For example in the West Bank and Gaza, lead donors play a coordinating role through on-going sector working groups in order to reduce undue duplication while lessening the burden on weak administrative and implementation capacity in the country. The involvement of NGOs and civil society in the West Bank and Gaza has improved the credibility of the development projects. The CDF approach assumes also that the parts of the World Bank Group such as the IFC and MIGA will also operate in a more coordinated way across countries and within countries as they each work with different, but now interrelated groups of stakeholders.

Global Development Gateway

A collaborative initiative is underway to create an Internet portal site, the Global Development Gateway, to complement and leverage existing efforts of various groups of the development community. The Internet is a fast-growing medium of information exchange and, increasingly, a place to conduct business. The Global Development Gateway, envisioned to be an independent not-for-profit consortium, will be a premier development portal, harnessing knowledge and technology for sustainable development and poverty reduction. The portal, responding directly to country needs, will increase access to information and training, make development agencies accountable through transparency, match ideas with money, and share emerging innovations and best practices. Flowing from the concepts of partnership, collaboration, and interdependence of development solutions of the Comprehensive Development Framework, the Global Development Gateway will deploy the collective assets and capabilities of the wider development community. The site will offer access to high-quality development information, facilitate access by developing country governments, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations to the Internet and to knowledge tools, and serve as a platform for local and indigenous communities to formulate and disseminate their own development projects. Promoting existing networks and contributing to the creation of new networks for development practitioners, as well as facilitating interaction between the private sector and civil society on a global scale will create an environment for flows of information between North and South as well as South to South .

As we information professionals well know, there is already a proliferation of information on the Internet, and the development community is no exception in having created a plethora of web sites of relevant information. From commercial sources such as the Economist Intelligence Unit, Reuters, etc., public sites such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (www.oecd.org), the World Bank (www.worldbank.org), United Nations Development Program (www.undp.org) , Canadian International Development Agency (http://w3.acdi-cida.gc.ca/index-e.htm) and others, and academic and NGOs such as OneWorld (www.oneworld.org), and ELDIS (www.eldis.org), not to mention a variety of academic sources, there are many sites on the web where one can search for economic development information.

It is envisioned that the Global Development Gateway will be comprised of five main components, produced and maintained by different groups, specifically targeting the particular information needs identified above. The five components will be: 1) The Aid Effectiveness Exchange; 2) The Private Sector Marketplace; 3) Civil Society and Community Networks; 4) Country Gateways , and 5) The Development Clearinghouse. These spaces will feature expert guides and advisory services, on-line forums, e-Procurement, sources for development jobs, aid contracts, and small-scale funding, guides to volunteering, training and educational services, and customized news and information sources.

Aid Effectiveness Exchange

The Aid Effectiveness Exchange will address the challenge of harmonization of different major data sources on development activity and provide resources for distilling and sharing of best practice." 9 The foundation of the Aid Effectivess Exchange will be a central database of official development information compiled from the resources of development aid agencies worldwide who choose to contribute. A virtual one-stop shop of development aid flows, project descriptions, economic indicators and data, organized by country, region, and economic sector, the Exchange will be searchable to allow comparisons of aid implementation and progress. This will build on the work of the International Development Information Exchange, INDIX (http://indix.org/) In addition to the database the Exchange will have a matchmaker feature for funds from various donor sources to be matched with development proposals from any source. In the collaborative spirit of the site the Exchange will also feature a forum to develop communities of practice of like-minded development practitioners to share experiences and lessons learned through interactive discussion.

Development Marketplace

The Development Marketplace will facilitate participation by the developing world 's private sector in global investment, trade, finance, procurement, and other commercial activities by serving as an on-line bulletin board of investment opportunities, contracts, business proposals, procurement opportunities, and investment regulations for the local private sector and foreign investors. The web-based Marketplace will include a variety of features. Putting UNCTAD's foreign direct investment statistics on-line will allow users to analyze investment flows at the country and regional level. An on-line toolkit for investment promotion intermediaries, similar to MIGA's Investment Promotion Network: IPAnet (http://www.ipanet.com/) but also including selected reference sources relevant to investors as well as distance learning courses targeted at new staff at IPAs. There is a proposal to upgrade the current United Nations publication Development Business to allow subscribers to receive, via e-mail, procurement notices of only those products, countries, regions or institution categories they specify. Other plans are underway to provide educational resources for governments and vendors to expand their understanding of the use of e-commerce and resources for small businesses who are seeking to sell to governments and others. Finally, the Global Development Gateway would also offer a market for small grant proposals from NGOs, community groups and others.

Civil Society Forum and Community Networks

The aim of the Gateway is to promote and build on the many existing networks and portals, while contributing to the creation of new active knowledge communities and networks. This component of the Global Development Gateway would be a vehicle for facilitating full and active participation in the development process by civil society organizations working with local communities and vulnerable groups by providing them with effective tools, resources and practical know-how in their search for solutions to reduce poverty; giving voice to civil society to influence development policy and actions, and supporting the generation and sharing of grassroots knowledge. The interactive features will allow users to identify and contact others working on similar projects and to brainstorm on challenging issues. Expected tools might include a database of funding opportunities, a directory of Civil Society organizations, a marketplace for project proposals, and on-line training tools for community action, as well as a common platform to capture local knowledge.

Country Gateways

The concept of the Global Development Gateway recognizes that much of the information needed for development and for investment, as well as dialog about development, is country-specific. "Country Gateways will help countries realize the potential of the Internet by building a strong network of development communities on the web." 10 National governments have the need for a presence on the Internet to promote exchange of knowledge, ideas, expertise, and commercial opportunities, but often lack the expertise to create such web sites. The Country Gateway portion of the Global Development Gateway will consist of technical assistance in building country web sites to target specific country needs. These Country Gateways will include customized features such as information on national, regional, and local development goals and strategies, collaborative workspaces and networks for national dialogue and exchange of views among development stakeholders and opportunities for local agencies, development banks, and NGOs to put up information about their development activities. There will be a rich set of links between the country gateways and other components of the entire Global Development Gateway, with information and date flowing in both directions.

Government Area

The Government area aims to serve the knowledge and communications needs of government officials at the national, regional, and local levels in order to contribute to the quality and efficiency of government. Its principal objectives will be to provide a space for governments to contribute their first-hand knowledge and experience by providing information on best practices, data for analysis and benchmarking, tools for problem-solving as well as e-government applications.

Development Clearinghouse

Underlying the above structure will be the Development Clearinghouse, bringing together central information sources for development solutions to fight poverty: a compilation of databases and solutions on development needs and progress in national information stores, bilateral and multilateral agencies, private commercial sources, and NGOs. The information resources in the Development Clearinghouse will be drawn from a variety of web and non-web resources on development topics. A distinguishing feature of this part of the Gateway will be not only information customized for specific user groups, but also expert guides to specific topics recruited from around the world to provide real answers

World Bank Archives and Archives for Development

Of particular interest to the IFLA Government Information and Official Publications Section is the projected opening of the World Bank Archives and the Archives for Development (http://archives.worldbank.org) At the time of this writing (April 2000) the Archives are awaiting approval from the Executive Directors of the World Bank for an open access policy; this policy presumes disclosure and most records would then be available for research after a twenty-year waiting period. Currently the Archives material is classified as "Official Use Only" and as such is normally available only to staff within the World Bank Group. However individual member of the public may be granted access, on a case-by-case basis, to specific records for the purposes of scholarly research. Typically this research involves study of member government relations with the World Bank Group and/or the financial community, economic history of member countries, major development initiatives, regional development issues, etc. "The primary records containing the World Bank Group Archives are the Operational Correspondence files for each country which contain general information about member countries and detailed information on each development project carried out in the country. The Operational Correspondence files are a source of historical information on the country economy as a whole, as well as the status of particular sectors of the economy, such as transportation, education, health, infrastructure, etc. The project files reveal the rationale for the project, the proposed solution for the need, the process of negotiations between member governments and the Bank, the conditionalities required for financing, the implementation and supervision of the project, and the completion and final evaluation." 11

The Archives for Development project envisions using the Internet to link the catalogs of the archives of a number of development organizations and national governments of member countries, and thus provide users with seamless global access and a single entry-point to a more comprehensive database of development information. This project promotes recognition of archives as essential repositories of national, regional, and local information which are key to open societies where citizens can participate fully in their governance. As a number of organizations, committed to greater transparency and accountability, are beginning to open their archives to public access, the World Bank is planning to join them and will soon be making a catalog of its Archives available via the World Bank web site. While developing this major partnership project, the World Bank is focused on expanding the digital availability of its reports and other sector and economic documents that have been declassified and made public since the mid 1990s. 12 The Archives for Development project is currently seeking partners in developing countries and development institutions willing to link to their on-line finding aids, catalogs, and access points via Internet links.

Other World Bank Sources of Development Information

While the Global Development Gateway and the Archives for Development are projects in the making, the World Bank itself is currently providing a wealth of development and country information. The World Bank web site (www.worldbank.org) contains country economic and social statistics, under the heading Research , project documents in the World Development Sources section, as well as a wealth of information on the many specialized poverty alleviation initiatives the Bank is undertaking.

For example, researchers and practitioners interested in World Bank activities in the region where IFLA 2000 is taking place can find information on the Mediterranean Development Forum partnership (www.worldbank.org/wbi/mdf), comprising 10 Middle East and North African think tanks, as well as the UNDP and World Bank Institute. This partnership is dedicated to providing regional policy support to development practitioners by means of an ongoing dialog on the region's development agenda. In addition, the World Bank provides the framework for its newest grant facility, The Post-Conflict Fund as well as knowledge resources on its Post-Conflict Reconstruction work which includes significant project activity in the West Bank and Gaza. Conclusion

The World Bank is a major provider of information on development based on its fifty year history of economic development project lending. As the new millennium begins, the Bank seeks to work in partnership with the public and private sector and civil society to harness the Internet and other new technologies to enhance collaboration and effective use of resources to improve the well-being of poor people around the world.


1Kapur, Devesh and John p. Lewis, and Richard Webb. The World Bank: its first half century, vols. 1 and 2. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1997, p.5.
2Ibid., p. 17.
3Ibid., p. 40.
4The World Bank annual report, 1999. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2000, p.xiii.
5Kapur, Devesh and John p. Lewis, and Richard Webb. The World Bank: its first half century, vols. 1 and 2. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1997, p.43.
6Ibid., p. 41.
7Ibid., p.48.
8Scaling up: a Bank Group Strategic Framework, January 10, 2000. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2000, p. I.
9Global Development Gateway: Draft Concept Note, April 4, 2000. Washington, D.C.: World Bank internal paper, p.4.
10Ibid., p. 5.
11Prototype for World Bank Archive web site. Internal use only.


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