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Published on: 19/04/2011

Development aid should refocus on strengthening national institutions and improving governance in ways that promote citizen security, provide justice and create jobs, particularly in fragile states, the World Bank’s latest World Development Report (WDR) suggests.

Some 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence, and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal.

While water and sanitation do not play a major role in the report, two of the input papers have links with the sector:

The WDR stresses that true institutional transformations require time.

It typically takes 15 to 30 years for weak or illegitimate national institutions to become resilient to violence and instability, according to new research commissioned for the report.

The report provides a set of tools that have helped countries make successful transitions and rebuild confidence between citizens and the state. These include transparency measures, budget allocations for disadvantaged groups and credible commitments to realistic timelines for longer-term reform.

A major omission in the report, according to Overseas Development Institute research fellow Jonathan Glennie, is the failure to mention the Paris agenda on aid effectiveness.

Fundamental to the legitimacy of institutions is where their money comes from. So the report is right to focus on the donor-recipient relationship, which muddies the supposed accountability links between citizen and government. It is good that this link (a particular beef of mine) is being recognised in such an important report.

But to engage in a long list of (very welcome) suggestions for how international agencies should reform without mentioning the major international initiative seeking to achieve such reform is strange. While calling for donors to work better together, the World Bank is in danger of looking like it prefers to go it alone, setting up a new group of "WDR principles".

Related web site: World Bank - World Development Report 2011

Source: World Bank, 11 Apr 2011 ; Ivy Mungcal, Devlopment Newswire,, 11 Apr 2011 ; Jonathan Glennie, Poverty Matters Blog, Guardian, 11 Apr 2011

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