Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Work Bank and Legal Empowerment of the Poor

Just as I was announcing the World Bank's Justice for the Poor (J4P) workshop last month, a Bank colleague told me about the Bank's recent efforts to look into issues relating to the Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Given that the Bank's President is on the Advisory Board of the Commission (the President Paul Wolfowitz is represented by Ana Palacio), and the fact that the Commission met for the first time in January of this year, I am curious to see where the Bank might be heading with it's J4P program, or it's strategy on legal issues and the poor. 

Ana Palacio, under an initial consultancy with the Bank to look into property rights, has broadened her focus to Legal Empowerment and recently released a paper highlighting the Bank's previous experience with legal empowerment, as well as recommendations for the Bank moving forward.  Her paper is titled: Legal Empowerment for the Poor: An Action Agenda for the World Bank. She has also prepared a follow-up summary Powerpoint presentation to present her findings to key stakeholders. 

Ana did an excellent job summarizing Legal Empowerment practices as well as in her honest reflections of and  recommendations to the Bank. Brief Summary follows:
  • One of the main objectives of the paper is to contribute to orient the positioning of the World Bank vis-à-vis the High Level Commission for Legal Empowerment of the Poor (HLCLEP)
  • Over the past decade, the World Bank’s involvement with legal programs for the poor has been characterized by an often “piecemeal/scattered” approach:
    • Valuable work on LEP but partial and scattered across Bank units, lacking a common thrust and vision 
    • Parallel approaches that need better coordination:
      • supply-side (institution- building) 
      • more recently, demand-side of governance (community driven development) 
    • Timid engagement with local governments
  • Recommendations for the Bank in creating a “LEP Action Agenda”:
    • The World Bank should articulate a shared internal vision on LEP 
    • Develop a strategic integrated framework 
    • Rethink Bank’s engagement with local governments, which entails exploring direct sub-sovereign lending and grant financing 
    • Expand current engagement with civil society 
    • Improve coordination and integration of Bank activities related to LEP 
    • Use (and adjust when necessary) existing lending instruments and analytical tools to operationalize the LEP agenda 
    • More systematic use of political and historical analysis in Bank operations and programs 
    • Develop benchmark indicators against which to set baselines and measure performance 
    • Identify and manage potential risks and misconceptions
Wow. I'm excited- the World Bank, working more directly with the poor on legal issues? It certainly does not fit well with the Bank's mandate to work with governments and guidelines of non-interference. I definitely will be following this issue. 

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