who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Small windows into the World Bank - Updated. Many see the world bank as a closed, almost secret organization working behind a formidable wall of complex bureaucratic rules and procedures . That impression is to a great extend quite true, but in recent years, the multilateral organization has taken some baby steps (or actually been pushed by NGOs) to open some windows to the outside world and move towards more transparency and disclosure.

It is too bad that these steps towards openness don't include the work and debates taking place at the top of the organization, i.e. the board of executive directors. But transparency is a first step towards democracy. So the hope is that as the bank takes more strides towards openness and inclusion, the better the chances to democratize it .

Since there seems to be little news about the Wolfowitz saga this quite week-end, I decided to go surfing on the, complicated and not well organized, World Bank's web site - using keywords like public, documents, information etc - exploring the question of how open is the Bank to the outside World, in terms of both making its work accessible to the public , and how open is it to voices and contributions from the outside to its work and governance structure?.

With that in mind , here are few places I found where people can find more information, data, research results, and even be included in debates about the work of the world bank and have a chance to discuss and question issues of substance with senior officials of the organization:

If you are looking for information and details about World Bank projects, here is a good database of project documents. Unfortunately, the database does not include everything, some of the documents are still not public. But it is a good start.

For Bank research, data, and all kinds of reports and publications relating to the work of the bank , look here and here.

To see video recordings of various seminars and workshops held by different departments of the bank , you can check out the webcasting service of the World Bank, known as B-Span.

The World Bank's public information center , which is strangely called the infoshop, has also been organizing book launches , panel discussions, lectures, and other types of events at the Bank's headquarters . These events, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out , also include outside experts and even critics of the bank, are open to the public and include some voices from academia, think tanks, NGO's, governments, the private setor, and of course , senior World Bank officials

The biggest example of openess of course, is the current Wolfowitz-Shaha affair and the extraordinary public disclosure of information related to it and the position taken by the majority of the staff of the bank.

I'm sure there are many other examples of openness, and probably even more examples of how closed and inaccessible the organization still is. But one thing is for sure, its a far more open place than 10 years ago, thanks to the pressure from NGOs.

It will be nice to have a database of the minutes of the bank's board of directors meetings, or even better; video recording of the meetings themselves. I hope it will not take another decade to get that online.

A Washington source ~ May 12, 2007

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