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World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law: Share your comments with us

Luis F. Lopez-Calva's picture

Rationale and Goals
The World Development Report (WDR) 2017 seeks to shed light on how a better understanding of governance can bring about more effective policy interventions to achieve sustainable improvements in development outcomes.
The Report makes three main arguments.  First, it illustrates how for policies to achieve development outcomes, institutions must perform three key functions: enable credible commitment, enhance coordination, and induce cooperation. Thus, laws and institutional forms matter only to the extent that they are able to generate these functions to induce the behavior of actors necessary to implement desired policies. 

Second, the Report argues that the effective performance of these three functions is shaped by the policy arena through which state and non-state actors interact to design and implement policies. Specifically, the relative power of different actors in the arena is critical to enabling – or constraining – policy effectiveness. Unhealthy power asymmetries can lead to persistent policy failure through exclusion, capture and clientelism.  Ideally law serves to provide checks and balances on the exercise of power, but often either reflects the interests of the powerful, or gives way to informal deals.
Third, the Report examines how the agency of elites, citizens and international actors can reshape the policy arena to expand the set of effective implementable policies. Ultimately this requires changes in the incentives of actors to pursue reforms, a shift in actors’ preferences and beliefs, and changes in the way decision making occurs to enable contestability by marginalized actors. Law can be a powerful instrument to reshape the policy arena by changing payoffs that in turn affect incentives, by enhancing focal points around which coordination can occur, and by increasing contestability by under-represented actors.
As the Report team is preparing a final version for publication, they are seeking a final set of robust and thoughtful comments to ensure that the Report is as clear as possible, and that where refinements and clarifications need to be made, that these can be accomplished prior to the final publication.

Three aspects of this consultation are of note. First, although we have engaged in a number of consultation exercises over the past year, we recognize that there have been inevitable limitations of time and resources. 

Second, although the consultations support the dialogue and enrich the perspectives present in the Report, eventually it is the Report team which takes responsibility for integrating and synthesizing the many (and often conflicting) comments received. While a broad range of perspectives has and will be considered and analyzed in the preparation of the Report, the final output will reflect the judgments of the team and the rigorous internal World Bank review process.

Finally, within these constraints, the team strongly believes that the pressing importance of the Report’s themes make it essential that as many different voices are heard not only in the completion of the Report but, equally importantly, as guidance to ongoing discussions following the Report’s publication.  To that end, the World Bank will sponsor a range of dissemination events to encourage all partners and stakeholders to participate in active discussions and further examination of this topic.

For this purpose, the team is sharing a “Green Cover" of the Report for public consultation. The WDR 2017 goes through 4 stages of drafting and reviews, traditionally referred to by different colors. The “Green Cover" refers to the third stage of this drafting process.

The draft will be available in WDR 2017 site until Friday, September 16th at 6 pm EST, when the consultation formally closes.  Comments will still be welcome after that via email website or email. 


Submitted by Kyle Slipy on

World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law:

Interventionist policies as practiced for many decades by all governments have brought about all those effects which the economists predicted. There are wars and civil wars, ruthless oppression of the masses by clusters of self-appointed dictators, economic depressions, mass unemployment, capital consumption, famines.

But it is not these horrible events which have led to the crisis of interventionism. The interventionists and their followers explain all these undesired consequences as the unavoidable features of capitalism. As they see it, it is precisely these disasters that clearly demonstrate the necessity of intensifying interventionism.

The failures of the interventionist policies do not in the least impair the popularity of the implied doctrine. They are so interpreted as to strengthen, not to lessen, the prestige of these teachings. As a vicious economic theory cannot be simply refuted by historical experience, the interventionists have been able to go on in spite of all the havoc they have spread.

The interventionist doctrine and why it fails:

The idea underlying all interventionist policies is that the higher income and wealth of the more affluent part of the population is a fund which can be freely used for the improvement of the conditions of the less prosperous. The essence of the interventionist train of thought is to take from one group to give to another. It is confiscation and distribution. Every measure is ultimately justified by declaring that it is fair to curb the rich for the benefit of the poor.

Unfortunately the interventionist advocating additional public expenditure is not aware of the fact that the funds available are limited. He does not realize that increasing expenditure in one department enjoins restricting it in other departments. In his opinion there is plenty of money available. The income and wealth of the rich can be freely tapped. In recommending a greater allowance for the schools he simply stresses the point that it would be a good thing to spend more for education. He does not venture to prove that to raise the budgetary allowance for schools is more expedient than to raise that of another department, e.g., that of health. It never occurs to him that grave arguments could be advanced in favor of restricting public spending and lowering the burden of taxation. The champions of cuts in the budget are in his eyes merely the defenders of the manifestly unfair class interests of the rich.

Today the age of interventionism is reaching its end. Interventionism has exhausted all its potentialities and must disappear. Policy interventions must come to an end because interventionism cannot lead to a permanent system of social organization. Here's why:

1. Restrictive measures always restrict output and the amount of goods available for consumption. Whatever arguments may be advanced in favor of definite restrictions and prohibitions, such measures in themselves can never constitute a system of social production.

2. All varieties of interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters but bring about a state of affairs which from the point of view of their authors’ and advocates’ valuations is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter. If one wants to correct their manifest unsuitableness and preposterousness by supplementing the first acts of intervention with more and more of such acts, one must go further and further until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it.

3. Interventionism aims at confiscating the “surplus” of one part of the population and at giving it to the other part. Once this surplus is exhausted by total confiscation, a further continuation of this policy is impossible.


Intervention is never ever under any circumstances the solution to any problem, large or small, economic or otherwise. When will men ever learn that more intervention is not only never the solution, it is usually part of the problem?

Economies based on secure private-property rights, sound money, the division of labor, social cooperation, freedom of contract, freedom of association, voluntary exchange, and the absence of interventionist control, oversight, and regulation is the only answer.

For now, one of the questions that I’m pondering is how to make sure this WDR has impact on decision makers. In other words, how much attention can such a paper get and what more could be done to turn this into action? This because, despite its considerable merits, the report lacks a memorable meme, diagram or proposition that will stick in people’s heads, and find its way into policy papers and decision-making over the next few years.

The closest it comes is this Box in the overview. So I thought I’d put it up and see what people think, and whether you have any suggestions for improving it – and that does not necessarily mean making it more complicated! Comments at the bottom of this page welcome but also send your thoughts to the Bank before Friday if you can. Here we go.

‘What does the WDR 2017 framework mean for action?

The policy effectiveness chain This Report argues that policy effectiveness cannot be understood only from a technical perspective, but rather must consider the process through actors bargain about the design and implementation of policies, within a specific institutional setting. The consistency and continuity of policies over time (commitment), the alignment of beliefs and preferences (coordination), as well as the voluntary compliance and absence of free riding (cooperation) are key institutional functions that influence how effective policies will be. But what does that mean for specific policy actions?

Figure 0.10.1 presents a way to think about specific policies in a way that includes the elements that can increase the likelihood of effectiveness. This “policy effectiveness chain” reads from right to left, starting with a clear definition of the objective to be achieved and following a series of well-specified steps.

Step 1 What? Define the development objective.

Step 2. Why? Identify the underlying functional problem (commitment, coordination, cooperation).

Step 3. Which? Identify the relevant entry point(s) for reform (incentives, preferences/beliefs, contestability).

Step 4. How? Identify the best mechanism for intervention (menu of policies and laws).

Step 5. Who? Identify key stakeholders needed to build a coalition for implementation (elites, citizens, international partners).

My thoughts: this has elements of a good power and systems approach, starting with a problem and context analysis, looking at the policies that might drive change, and mapping out the stakeholders, but it has some major gaps.

• It operates almost entirely on the Right Hand side of the Rao Kelleher framework, (below) i.e. the formal side. Often, governance problems involve the left hand side, in the world of informal power (social norms, people’s sense of ‘power within’ – assertiveness, confidence, agency)

• It seeks to identify drivers of change, and build coalitions around them (good), but where are the blockers and what does the report advocate in terms of overcoming them?

I suspect there are others, but weirdly for England in September, it’s too hot, and my brain has shut down – anyone care to help? The prize is a World Bank endorsed view on governance and institutional reform that could be really influential – get stuck in. My advice to the WDR team is get a brainstorm going on the big idea, with the right combination of wonks and comms people in the room – it will pay dividends.

Submitted by Finn Heinrich on
WDR Comments:

Given the very short turn-around time for comments, I will focus only on two issues:

1. Systems rather than linear process: While, as a practitioner-researcher, I am happy to see a section on “what does the WDR mean for action”, I am unsure about the practical usefulness of it in its current form. In my view, the use of a linear model (policy process) somewhat simplifies the complex interrelationships among governance actors on a given policy and doesn’t do justice to the thrust of the WDR which highlights these complexities (see also Root/Jones/Wild 2015). In my view, a “system approach”, paying attention to the overall political economy, would be a more just representation of the main arguments in the WDR. While I am not an expert in this area, I would look into the debate on doing development differently, thinking and acting politically to identify potential visual models to represent this complexity.

2. Spotlight on corruption: The section on explaining why corruption is pervasive could be shortened and more focus could be placed on the section “what can be done”. While I agree with the mantra of a contextual approach, the discussion could probably go further. In particular, the short list of strategies (S.10) could be expanded and deepened. Here are some points to consider: - Indirect approach to fighting corruption: As you write, fighting corruption requires increasing the accountability and contestability of elites. Research shows that, to achieve this, ensuring basic civil rights and freedoms (incl freedom of information and expression) are particularly relevant – (see Mungiu-Pippidi, The Quest for Good Governance; Themudo 2013) - Enforcement & sanctioning – There is a growing realization among anti-corruption researchers about the relevance of “enforcement approaches” to corruption, i.e. ending impunity for corruption by more effective sanctioning (e.g. della Porta/Vanucci 2016, Peiffer/Marquette). Studies show for example its positive signalling effects on the electoral behaviour of citizens (e.g. Ferraz/Finan 2008, Sulitzeanu-Kenan et al 2016). You mention the case of CICIG in Guatemala in passing. In my view, the anti-corruption strategy of “prosecution & sanctioning” and the signalling effects it can have to break the collective action problem of corruption deserves to be mentioned more prominently though. There are also a number of supportive strategies to increase law enforcement on corruption, such as whistleblowing legislation and effective reporting channels.

Submitted by Dr Fletcher Tembo on
It is encouraging to see this WDR framing of policy change as around dealing with problems of 'commitment', 'coordination', and 'cooperation', with incentives as the major variable informing all three. However, in moving to dealing with incentives, the report seems to put undue weight on the role of laws. This is likely informed from the title of the WDR, where 'law' appears in the title and hence the profile for laws has to be more visible throughout the document than perhaps needed in the context of the issue at hand. The problem with this is that the solution is then very much driven towards formal mechanisms (the right side of the Duncan Green's diagram) when it should, as Duncan Green also observes, be about dealing with blockages that occur in the informal spaces.

In my work as a Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on the Mwananchi Governance Programme, one of the key lessons from action research was that transforming incentives has to first deal with actor relationships, and then out of this some formal institutions can be developed, and not the other way round. For this work see

The conceptual framework for working from understanding prevailing relationships around an issue or problem to then understanding the incentives in play was developed was based on Ostrom's work and the more than 60 action research projects that we observed over five years. This work demands an embedded and ongoing Political Economy Analysis as part of 'adaptive programming', conducted not by 'experts' but local actors with some external actor support. In this way, the interface with formal institutions (including laws) becomes a way of anchoring and strengthening the changing relationships and rules of the game. These too cannot be set in stone because informal relationships are dynamic and hence any useful formalisation has to always relate back to what seems to work at a particular time in a given context. As repeated interventions are made around specific issues, some of the formal laws can then be codified for general application and further reinforcement of the needed and working 'commitments', 'coordination' and 'cooperation'. This does not suggest watering down formal institutions but making them useful for development. This approach is also more fitting in developing countries, where laws are often less understood and enforcements are tougher on the poor than the rich.

Submitted by Will Taylor on
BBC Media Action comments on World Development Report 2017 Green Paper

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the draft of the World Development Report 2017. Given our expertise we have commented on Chapter 8 “Citizens as Agents of Change” and Spotlight 10 Media. We welcome the focus on participation and public deliberation in Chapter 8 and the inclusion of a spotlight on the media. In particular, we appreciate how the authors have considered the broader evidence base to look beyond access to information to consider barriers to people understanding that information and using it to achieve real change. We also welcome how the report highlights the potentially transformative impact of public deliberation. We have two key comments:

1) The media has a vital role in public deliberation that is currently not recognised

In an increasingly connected world, where people all over the world are accessing more types of media, more intensively, the media should have an important role in any strategy to develop inclusive and effective public deliberation. This link is not currently made sufficiently clear in the media spotlight. There is a growing evidence base on the role media can play in public deliberation. For example Paluck and colleagues found that a civic education radio initiative in South Sudan increased democratic attitudes and behaviours in that country.1 In a field experiment on the effect of exposure to FM talk radio in Accra, Ghana, Conroy-Krutz and Moehler also found that partisan media decreased political polarisation.2 Further studies are referenced here: We also have a growing internal research base here at BBC Media Action. The UK Department for International Development is funding BBC Media Action to develop inclusive public dialogue in nine countries. Media programmes we support reached an audience of 104 million last year. Our analysis links exposure to those programmes to increased political knowledge, political discussion and political participation. Regression analysis of data from nationally representative surveys in seven countries show that listeners to our programmes are 74% more likely to participate in politics than non-listeners (activities such as writing to or meeting their elected representative or participating in a local initiative or council meeting).. A full paper on the data set will be available in early October. Other relevant publications include:

2) The report lacks an analysis of how media can be supported to conduct its roles – whether that be as a watchdog, agenda setter or facilitator of public dialogue

If you accept the key role media can play in curating inclusive and effective public dialogue, then the next step for the report is to give some indication as to how best to support that process in complex and highly political institutional environments. The report currently paints a gloomy, if accurate, picture of closing space and media capture in many developing countries. It limits itself to saying that social media can influence mainstream media in some circumstances. However, we would argue that both international political influence and development funding has been generally weak in this area. More is required if the restrictive media climate is not to become increasingly negative. And further, if one takes an institutional approach as advocated in the rest of the WDR, there are also significant opportunities to support media in developing countries. That could be achieved through content-(e.g. using content to changing what the audience expects from its media), capacity strengthening4 or a combination of the two.

Submitted by Alan Hudson on
The World Development Report – Our comments on latest overview - Global Integrity

1. We welcome the focus of the WDR for 2017 (overview here, full report here) on governance and the law, and the clear acknowledgement that politics is central to development. There is huge value in having the World Bank’s flagship report lead with this message.

2. However – as we argued in our July 26th blogpost – the WDR can and should do much more than restate that politics matters. The revised overview goes further in this direction, but we feel that the WDR could and should go further still in exploring the potential of politically-engaged adaptive learning, and adaptive programming, to address the political dynamics that are a key factor in creating the implementation gaps that para 0.2 of the WDR Overview notes.

3. Going further in this direction would also – as we began to outline in our July 13th blogpost – help to build a bridge towards the operationalization of the thinking in the WDR, and offer a response to the question recently posed by Stuti Khemani and Shanta Devarajan: “If politics is the problem, how can external actors be part of the solution”.

4. We welcome the emphasis on implementation gaps (para 0.2), best-fit rather than best practice (paras 0.11 and 0.31) and function more than form (para 0.12 and on). The World Bank and others have huge experience on trying to support governance reform using a best-practice model that often replicates forms while failing to deliver on functions. The shift of emphasis signalled by the WDR Overview is therefore very encouraging.

5. We appreciate the changes that have been made to the overview since the yellow version of the WDR, providing some additional conceptual clarity. For instance, we appreciate the useful additional clarity on commitment, coordination, cooperation.

6. In para 0.19, the first two sentences are confused/confusing. Policies appear twice. Are they the same policies or different? Is policy the dependent or independent variable? Or both?

7. Overall, the overview has many dimensions/concepts, with sub-categories for each: drivers of effectiveness (x3); power asymmetries (x3); levers (x3); entry points (x3, we think); drivers of change (x3). It’s easy to lose the thread of the narrative. Box 0.11 helps a bit, but many readers may have lost the plot by that stage. Improving the box, and making use of it at an earlier stage, might help.

8. We welcome the inclusion of material from Stuti Khemani and Shanta Devarajan’s recent work on political engagement (e.g. paras 0.65 and 0.66), but feel that it could be better integrated with the overall framework on fulfilling key governance functions, to address implementation gaps.

9. We very much welcome the inclusion of paras on adaptive programming (paras 0.74 and 0.75) and creating the conditions for adaptability (paras 0.84/85/86)

10. We welcome the section on “rethinking governance for development” (paras 0.76 and on) and the attempt to set out what the “new” principles mean in practice. But we feel that it needs additional work; at the moment it doesn’t give the reader a strong sense of what the Bank would actually do/support.

11. There seems to be some duplication between “navigating this report” and “rethinking governance for development”, with “creating conditions for adaptability” sandwiched in the middle but not properly integrated.

12. We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional input into the WDR process. We recognize that producing a WDR on governance, that satisfies a diverse audience, in a flagship publication for an institution that is wary about politics, is a huge challenge. We look forward to being part of the conversation, including around operationalizing the WDR through a stronger focus on politically-engaged adaptive learning, in the coming months.

Submitted by Christina Frey / DAI on

On behalf of the DAI Governance Technical Team:

We welcome the focus on Governance and particularly the emphasis on the role of power and elite bargaining - a factor that is critical but that much of the recent thinking hasn’t been very explicit about.

Overall, the report’s emphasis was on governance; “The Law” seems to be barely covered. There is a vast amount of both literature and practical examples of what “the law” means in the context we work in, how it is bargained, how it shapes behaviour and is shaped by behaviour, and in turn the link between “the law” and power (im)balances. The report has said little about “the law” and the interface with justice and what this practically means for “driving change”. Particularly in the context of today’s politics, and the amount of conflict and fragility many countries are affected by, and the amount of countries that are recovering from or transitioning out of conflict, some more emphasis seems relevant. To take this a step further, there is a question around the correlation between the law and stability, growth and equity that is not covered.

In fact, the quotes on page 34 (para 0.78) sums this up quite nicely "think the role of law, not only the rule of law". It would be good to see more of this.

If the title of the report is to remain as it is – it would be good to see these two topics and their interrelatedness covered more comprehensively.

Power and political settlements: Impact on Security, Growth and Equity. Commitment, Coordination and Cooperation are critical for making policies effective – Yes, absolutely. But Effective for whom? This is where the power linkage comes in, but the report then seems to stop there.

It is quite clear on how important it is to understand the power asymmetries. What this section doesn’t capture, however, is what this really means for growth, stability and equity. Yes, inclusive political settlements are necessary for stability, growth and equity – but often these are mutually exclusive.

What has happened in a number of cases is that inclusive and stable political settlements have indeed led to economic growth and stability, but have, often by the same measure, undermined socially inclusive policies or policies of redistribution (i.e. equity). This is especially the case in many of the so-called success stories (such as Botswana, just to use one example).

Legitimacy is Trust: “Outcome legitimacy is related to trust…” (footnote 14). Legitimacy is critical for policy effectiveness and trust is indeed critical for legitimacy. But this seems to assume that trust is given on the basis of rationality, rather than personal factors and underlying incentives. So trust will lead to legitimacy but legitimacy of what? Not necessarily “good” policy outcomes (the Brexit would be a prime example of this). How can the analysis link legitimacy clearer to power dynamics and representation of wants or needs? And what does this mean for development practitioners?

Entry Points: Page 15: “… to consider how the policy arena can be reshaped…” – Given the complex power dynamics, we can only assume that we can look for ways of reshaping the environment we work in, but realistically must also find ways of driving incremental change within the existing policy arena. Practical steps seem to be missing out here.

Drivers of Change: Elites, Citizen, International – This conceptualisation of drivers of change seems to be excluding critical players and organised constituencies. For example, civil society, unions, the media, research organisations, the private sector, and others, all of which can play a critical role in driving change.

Submitted by Anne Sophie Ranjbar on

Given time constraints, I will just give a brief comment on behalf of Accountability Lab that, in the section on "Citizens as Agents of Change", we would like to see mention of how youth participation is creating new avenues for citizen engagement. In Pakistan, we have seen young people use Twitter to hold education officials accountable for service delivery commitments. In Liberia, we have seen government officials have interactive discussions about young people's concerns at accountability-themed film screenings. As governments open up more innovative spaces to channel youth creativity and activism into positive engagement in the governance process, can develop new ways to enhance the governance process beyond standard social accountability tools. We appreciate the Bank's open, collaborative approach to accepting feedback throughout the development of this report, and we can give more in-depth comments at a later stage.

Submitted by BDLevy on
Two cheers for the 2017 Governance and the Law World Development Report

The 2017 WDR (made available last week in draft form as an ‘almost-final’ public preview) is a landmark document for the development community.
Historically, the point of departure for development practitioners (including those within the World Bank) has been to promulgate technocratic, ‘best practice’ solutions to development challenges. For more than two decades, this ‘best practice’ approach has been put into question by a growing avalanche of research on the political, institutional and governance underpinnings of development. The 2017 WDR does an heroic job of assembling and synthesizing this voluminous research into a compelling statement of why ‘best practices’ fail to address some core constraints, and thus do not achieve their intended results.

WHY TWO CHEERS? HERE IS A LINK TO THE COMPLETE COMMENT (which appears as a blog post at

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