There are five specific lessons that can be drawn from comparable institutions to improve RBA leadership, coordination and governance and these should form the basis for reform.
This section presents the lessons drawn from comparable institutions in global finance and development (IMF and WBG) and from across the global health architecture (WHO and selected partner institutions) to facilitate improved leadership, governance and coordination of the RBAs.
IMF and WBG in Washington
The assessment of the global finance and development institutions for this paper included the IMF as well as the distinct institutions that form the WBG, including the IBRD, IDA, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The analysis of the IMF and WBG provides insights into the coordination across the two broader institutions, but also among the entities within the WBG where concerns about coordination have been raised, including in interviews conducted as part of this research.
While the IMF and WBG have distinct mandates, there is important overlap between the two. A recent evaluation report described the collaboration across the two entities as expansive yet uneven in coverage. It called for (i) concrete frameworks to ensure collaboration; (ii) greater internal incentives for collaboration to overcome a cultural reluctance to engagement; (iii) identification, prioritization and implementation of practical steps to ensure information and knowledge is exchanged; and (iv) that the executive board strengthen its leverage to boost collaboration. As seen in the earlier discussion, many of the issues mirror those of the RBAs.
The IMF and WBG use spring and annual meetings to create awareness and promote participation on key topics and issues. These meetings include discussions at the Development Committee, which is a ministerial-level forum made up of 25 members that represent the membership of the IMF and WBG. The Development Committee was designed for intergovernmental consensus-building on development issues and it usually produces a series of communiques on topics discussed. Because of the senior level of the meetings, there are also numerous bilateral meetings between delegations and IMF and WBG officials. Furthermore, there are numerous forums for high-level discussions of development issues that in the last two decades have included non-governmental organizations. The meetings are a key means of interaction between the IMF, WBG, member states and civil society.
While the IMF and WBG have distinct mandates, there is important overlap between the two. A recent evaluation report describes the collaboration across the two entities as expansive yet uneven in coverage.
The entities within the WBG were formed as part of the group at different times – IBRD (1994), IDA (1960), IFC (1956), ICSID (1965) and MIGA (1988) – and they have varied mandates and governance structures. It was only in 2013 that the WBG launched its integrated service to bring together support functions (budgeting, human resources and information technology) and to create its united approach, which encourages collaborative management of joint projects.Around the same time, the WBG presented an engagement model aimed to help meet country-level goals in coordination with other development partners, which included frameworks designed to increase collaboration across WBG institutions. It is this recent experience at facilitating interaction that has potential implications for the RBAs.
Against this background, discussions for this paper with key informants, and analysis of the global finance and development institutions, focused on three areas: broader strategic vision and leadership at the global level, country-level coordination and collaboration, and internal coordination of back-office functions. The key lessons are summarized below.
1. Coordination across the IMF and WBG is not guaranteed and is dependent on leadership.
The overall leadership and guidance provided by the IMF executive director, the WBG president and the executive vice-presidents of each institution – as well as leadership from regional and thematic vice-presidents and country directors – determines the level of coordination between the IMF and the WBG, and also among the institutions within the WBG. At certain points in history, when the leadership was not there, collaboration was limited.
The culture of the different entities within the WBG creates challenges in working together. The IBRD and IDA are de facto the same entity, but the IFC is focused on the private sector and has adopted a private-sector culture, which tends to be quick and efficient. IBRD and IDA are slower since they work with the public sector and focus more on development objectives. Efforts to have joint country strategies across the WBG has facilitated coordination, but the building of synergies across operations is often limited. While the WBG umbrella makes sense, it is not a panacea for collaboration and requires significant effort and the right incentives. One respondent said:
2. The IMF–WBG annual and spring meetings are considered highly valuable for discussing issues and coordinating efforts, but the perception of their specific value differs.
Respondents noted three types of activities at the annual and spring meetings: (i) formal meetings of the Development Committee, the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the G10 and the G24; (ii) bilateral meetings held by attendees; and (iii) various seminars and events surrounding the meetings.
Respondents tended to note that the bilateral meetings were the most important for cooperation, particularly for government delegations to meet with WBG and IMF staff as well as each other. A significant level of business was done and issues resolved at these bilateral meetings. This was highlighted as particularly key for smaller countries who are unlikely to get a visit from a high-level IMF or WBG official. As one respondent noted:
Civil society representatives interviewed also mentioned the value of bilateral meetings with delegations. While some noted that the various seminars and events were excessive, they also acknowledged that these provided a good opportunity for discussion on larger development issues and a chance for transparent discussions between IMF and WBG officials, governments and civil society. It opened the door for future discussions between officials and civil society. As one civil society respondent noted:
There were a few respondents who questioned the need for two meetings a year, but all agreed at least one joint meeting was useful for the reasons noted. When asked about the possibility of not having annual meetings at all, none of the respondents thought this was a good idea.
3. The Development Committee is necessary for political purposes, but the perception of its value for providing a strong and coordinated strategic vision varies and its value from year to year depends on the global context at the time of the meeting.
Most respondents highlighted that the Development Committee itself was political theatre and it was rare that anything interesting happened at the meeting, but that the preparation and discussions leading up to the meetings were useful and that the communication resulting from the meeting could be important. The value of the meeting depended on whether there were emerging global issues (e.g. debt crisis, COVID-19) that needed to be addressed. At those times, the Development Committee, or the discussions around it, could help resolve issues. A number of those interviewed noted that its value in a given year might be low, but it could be critical when key issues emerged. A respondent put it as:
While the value of the Development Committee was questioned, all respondents thought it should still meet, but that the expectations of the meetings should be limited.
4. Putting the IBRD, IDA, IFC, MIGA and ICSID collectively under the WBG results in efficiency gains and enhances the potential for collaboration.
The institutions within the WBG are separate legal entities and have slightly different shareholders and governance structures, but they are connected through the WBG and many of the representatives on governing bodies are the same. All respondents agreed that the efforts to merge back-office functions made sense and led to efficiency gains.
All respondents agreed that the efforts to merge back-office functions made sense and led to efficiency gains.
There was also general agreement that this created opportunities to collaborate at the country level, in thematic areas (energy, infrastructure, climate) and in setting the broad development agenda. No one thought that having completely separate entities made any sense and, if anything, the coordination should increase. This was put succinctly by a representative from one of the smaller WBG institutions:
5. The lessons learned from the Washington-based institutions have implications for the RBAs.
When asked, all respondents thought that a single meeting of the RBAs would be highly valuable and improve attendance, raise visibility, address key issues and allow for key bilateral discussions. As one former World Bank manager noted:
Even with the limitations of the Development Committee, there was a general view that it might be useful to have a Global Food and Agricultural Development Committee, jointly managed by the three RBA principals and member states, to highlight key issues and to create focus for a meeting.
A number of interviewees saw the value of creating an entity similar to the WBG in the food and agricultural space, but cautioned that it was no panacea for coordination. Concerns were also raised about the practicality of doing this given the governance structures of the organizations and particpants said it should be thought through carefully. All agreed that at minimum there would be efficiency gains from having single back-office support for all three agencies. As noted in one interview:
WHO and selected partner global health institutions
The analysis of global health institutions in this paper focused on WHO and considered a selection of other partner institutions across the broader global health architecture. This included other UN organizations and specialized agencies, such as the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF); the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS); the UN Population Fund (UNFPA); and the UN Development Programme (UNDP); funding bodies such as the Global Fund and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and organizations such as the Stop TB Partnership. This section of the paper provides insights into the coordination across these global health institutions, the director-general election process of WHO, and aims to provide lessons for the RBAs.
The term ‘global health’ encompasses a broad range of actors, institutions and programmes that seek to influence international health concerns. Figure 1 shows how funding flows through the global health network; showing the source of funding (donor organization), the channel of funding (organization managing funds), and the targeted focus area. The figure highlights the large number and range of actors, encompassing bilateral, multilateral, NGOs and development banks. The fragmentation creates overlapping mandates and competition for resources.