Blog Post

Attaining Ajay Banga’s New Bank Vision – Mainstreaming Partnerships with Civil Society

Bretton Woods Committee  | Wed, Feb 7, 2024


President Ajay Banga has huge ambitions for the World Bank. But are they likely to impact climate change, reduce poverty, and strengthen prosperity? Or will they amount to no more than fine phrases in speeches and reports?

Business as usual is not Banga’s approach. He has stated that he plans to shake up the way the Bank operates. The talks of developing a new “playbook” suggest that the Bank forges far-reaching new partnerships with the private sector, foundations, and civil society. 

The forthcoming mid-April 2024 World Bank Spring Ministerial Meeting will see him provide the details of his plans to “Set a new vision to match our ambition – to create a world free of poverty on a livable planet – and a new mission to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity on a livable planet.”

Money is key. And the toughest assignment that he has in this regard is boosting the resources of the International Development Association (IDA), the largest concessional aid agency for low-income countries. The current 2022-25 IDA funding amounts to $93 billion with negotiations upcoming this year for the following three-year period. And, as President Banga told the ministerial Development Committee last October: “Strong donor support will be needed to significantly ramp up the next IDA Replenishment.”

IDA donors – the U.S. being the largest followed by Japan – will need to be convinced of pledging even larger sums to yield effective results. Skepticism of foreign aid has always been widespread with certain past politicians asserting that IDA is a giant “give-away agency” with claims that funds are instead stolen. While this goes too far, there is unquestionably the combination of waste, poor project management and corruption that has led to numerous World Bank group projects falling short of their stated objectives.

In seeking to formulate the structure of the new “playbook,” the Bank has held extensive consultations and received feedback from over 1,000 individuals and institutions from across 181 countries. Among the key recommendations, noted the Bank, is:


“Working with partners to strengthen accountability and efficiency: Stakeholders stressed: greater engagement with civil society; more emphasis on transparency and accountability; improving governance and anti-corruption measures; and improving World Bank agility and efficiency. Enhanced civil society engagement and other country-level partnerships will provide critical inputs to World Bank investments to better reach clients. Encouraging citizen engagement and social accountability in World Bank work will also enhance accountability and governance. Improving efficiency and effectiveness is a key element of the World Bank evolution to increase speed and quality of delivery to clients.”


At the Partnership for Transparency (PTF), we have argued for precisely this approach. Our extensive research, including 25 years of working directly with civil society organizations (CSOs) in developing countries, has convinced us that the Bank can find outstandingly professional CSO partners in its client countries. They can provide expert input on project conditions and project viability, and then serve as independent monitors of project implementation, results and integrity in spending.

Now is the time for the IDA donors and the Bank’s leadership to come together to formally ensure that under the terms of the next IDA funding replenishment there is a detailed action plan for partnerships with civil society. Deepening such relationships will demand that the Bank ensures ample funding for partner CSOs. Investing a tiny fraction of the proposed IDA 21 funds to expand partnerships with local CSOs could have significant financial, social, and economic benefits and help counter corruption.

The crucial change is that for the first time the Bank would mainstream working with local civil society in all its operations in order to make them more effective and deliver higher value for money. It could provide effective and sustainable counter force to the shrinking civic space and to support local CSOs in line with the localization goals of USA and many other donors including the foundations.

          Support from the Bretton Woods Committee can encourage donors and President Banga to adopt this proposal. After all, it was an IDA funding crisis in 1982 that brought about the holding of a one-day meeting at the Brookings Institution where it was proposed that business leaders campaign for substantial IDA funding. That meeting set the stage for establishing the Bretton Woods Committee.

A conclusion of a comprehensive recent PTF report is the Bank should establish a special facility, with contributions from IDA and philanthropic sources, to close funding gaps for the participation of local CSOs in IDA country engagement, delivery of results and accountability activities. Such a funding facility for IDA eligible countries could initially:

  • provide grants to local CSOs for analytical work to enable their meaningful participation in IDA’s Country Engagement activities, including the updated core analytics;
  • finance CSO-led independent third-party monitoring and other oversight activities to enhance process legitimacy, verify and improve results, and prevent and expose waste, fraud, and corruption in government spending; and
  • support programs to build the technical capacity of local CSOs to participate in country engagement and monitoring activities.


This approach could not only make the Bank’s work far more effective. But its incorporation into the Bank’s work, especially in the IDA grantee countries, could encourage both official donors to IDA as well as private sector partners. Anchoring meaningful CSO partnership in the new “playbook” would be a substantive contribution to securing the new Banga Bank vision. 

Vinay Bhargava, is a Counselor to PTF’s President and PTF’s Chief Technical Adviser. Frank Vogl, is a co-founder and former Chairman of PTF and a co-founder of Transparency International.

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