The World Bank has hailed African Civil Society Oganizations (CSOs) and the media as the main drivers of change in Africa.
“Civil society and media are an essential part of the transformation taking place in Africa,” World Bank Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, told some 50 leaders from African CSOs and U.S.-based organizations working on Africa.
The dialogue session that brought them together is part of the Civil Society Policy Forum held on the sidelines of the Spring meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC.
Drawing from his own experience growing up in Senegal, the Vice President noted how things have changed since the 1980s when much of aid and development lending was subject to so-called “conditionalities”, imposed by international institutions. He praised the work done by media and civil society organizations to highlight these issues, adding that he would not advise going back to that time.
“Sustainable development solutions must be home grown to be successful,” Mr. Diop said. “We (at the World Bank) are just a catalyst.”
Focusing on citizen engagement in the World Bank’s work in Africa, the session provided information on how CSOs can partner with the Bank through various programs to ensure better development outcomes in their countries.
In a rich and spirited exchange, the CSO leaders shared their views on the Bank’s objective to end extreme poverty by 2030, challenging the institution to better listen to the beneficiaries of its projects and programs, and to reflect on lessons learned from past experiences.
Several participants welcomed the opportunity to play a larger role in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Bank’s development projects in Africa.
“We do not have all the instruments, but we are doing what we can to accelerate the development process by allowing people’s voices to be heard,” Mr. Diop noted.
One way this is being done is through an initiative known as the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) which the World Bank launched two years ago to help resolve critical governance challenges and improve transparency and accountability in developing countries. So far, governments in 13 African countries have opted into the GPSA, opening the way for CSOs in these countries to compete for funding.
CSOs can also work with the World Bank Institute ( WBI https://wbi.worldbank.org/wbi/content/citizen-participation-through-social-accountability ) to help promote access to information for all and hone beneficiary feed-back in areas such as service delivery and strengthened public accountability.
In addition, CSOs can collaborate with the Africa Region’s GAC-in Operations http://workgroup.worldbank.org/org/units/AFR/AFTOS/QP/AFTDE/SitePages/GAC.aspx unit (Governance and Anti-Corruption) on “contract watch’ and other initiatives, helping to monitor Bank projects and ensure they are achieving their set objectives.
Beauty Narteh, Coordinator of the West Africa Contract Watch Monitoring (IDF) program, suggested that the World Bank consider integrating third-party monitoring of all contracts for Bank-funded projects. This would help CSOs to demand better accountability from their governments and development partners.
Other suggestions included a request to the World Bank to help set up civil society development plans to strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations across Africa.
The challenge of ensuring that development is not done at the expense of human rights was also discussed, with CSOs urging the World Bank to include human rights in the development debate and to make it an integral part of the Bank’s poverty eradication agenda.
Mr. Diop reminded African CSO leaders of their responsibility to give voice to the poor and the most vulnerable groups, ensuring that development in their countries is as inclusive as possible.
In closing, Mr. Diop reaffirmed his commitment to the empowerment of civil society, and pledged to convey the concerns and aspirations of African CSOs to his colleagues within the World Bank and to African heads of state and other government officials during his visits to the continent. He also said he would engage more regularly with CSOs, face to face and via video conferencing facilities.
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