Tuesday, April 19, 2011

World Bank links unrest to lack of accountability

April 11, 2011 - WORLD Bank president Robert Zoellick says the crisis engulfing Middle East and North Africa shows that stability of any country can only be guaranteed if the government is more accountable to the people.

Zoellick said that greater citizen participation and better governance were crucial for economic development.

He said World Bank had since been urging governments to publish information, enact Freedom of Information Acts, open up their budget and procurement processes, build independent audit functions, and sponsor reforms of justice systems.

Zoellick said the Bank would not only promote institutional reforms but also look into providing more support for civil society as a way of making government more accountable to people.

“Our message to our clients, whatever their political system, is that you cannot have successful development without good governance and without the participation of your citizens,” Zoellick said in a policy address before the World Bank’s Spring Meetings.

“We will not lend directly to finance budgets in countries that do not publish their budgets or, in exceptional cases, at least commit to publish their budgets within twelve months.”

Zoellick said issues such as corruption, gender and transparency were in the past not mentioned at the World Bank because they were seen as too political.

“But over the last 20 years, each had become recognised as crucial for successful development and are now part of the Banks policy portfolio,” he said. “Likewise, citizen participation and good governance are recognised today as must haves for economic success. Some of that may be what we think of as politics, but most of it is also what we know is good economics; most of it is what we know is good for fighting corruption; most of it is what we know is good for inclusive and sustainable development.”

Zoellick said the World Bank was currently working with civil society and project beneficiaries in over ha lf of its new operations.

“But good governance will not happen without the active participation of citizens, especially in the Middle East and North Africa where modernisation had only been partially successful and institutions were sclerotic,” said Zoellick. “Institutions, however reformed, needed citizens to keep them accountable. An important role here should be played by civil society. But in much of the developing world, including the Middle East and North Africa, civil society was still in its infancy.”


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