Monitoring World Bank Citizen Engagement

ARC supports civil society efforts in the global South to hold their governments and the World Bank accountable for their commitments to citizen engagement. Since 2017 ARC has facilitated policy dialogue between the World Bank and civil society and provided technical support to groups monitoring World Bank citizen engagement commitments and practices. The evolution and growth of ARC’s World Bank-citizen engagement work has been a small but strategic approach to enable civic actors to hold this powerful institution accountable.


The World Bank has made high-level commitments to include citizen engagement measures in all investment projects. Whether and how the World Bank implements these policy and project level commitments is of great importance to civil society.

Since 2017, ARC has combined research, facilitated dialogue, and capacity building to support civil society stakeholders in the global South to hold their governments and the World Bank accountable on citizen engagement. The program includes these inter-related components:

1. Facilitating sustained policy dialogue on citizen engagement with the World Bank and civil society

2. Conducting and supporting independent action-research on trends in World Bank reforms

3. Partnering with civil society groups in the global South to monitor citizen engagement implementation in 12 countries

4. Expanding our focus to include sovereign debt monitoring (new pilot in 2021)

The evolution and growth of ARC’s World Bank-citizen engagement work has been a small but strategic approach to enable civic actors to hold this powerful institution accountable.

IDS publication cover

Rachel Nadelman’s March 2020 Policy Brief co-published by ARC, the Institute of Development Studies, and Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA), summarizes key findings of ARC’s early research on World Bank citizen engagement. To read the brief, see How Do World Bank Projects Commit to Citizen Engagement?

More About ARC’s Evolving Work

1. Facilitating sustained policy dialogue

ARC facilitates an informal working group that brings together World Bank staff and civil society organizations to address institutional transparency on stakeholder and civic engagement in projects. This working group has become a go-to advisor for different communities of staff within the Bank. Civil society and World Bank participants co-design the agendas for what has become a sustained policy dialogue. Meetings center on priority and often sensitive issues, (e.g. government reprisals against critics). The Bank has invited the working group to offer guidance for Bank staff on critical and timely issues, such as how to maintain meaningful engagement as Covid-19 further constrains threatened civic space. Through this working group, ARC aims to foster opportunities for Southern civil society to directly dialogue with Bank officials about the projects and policies they find most relevant. ARC’s unique role as a university-based action-research center allows it to facilitate and moderate sensitive issues among diverse perspectives and agendas.

Civil society members of the joint working group include: Oxfam International, Mercy Corps, Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Accountability Lab, BRAC USA, International Accountability Project, and the Arab Watch Coalition.

2. Building tools for project monitoring for policy research

In 2017, ARC developed the World Bank Citizen Engagement Assessment Tool (WB-CEAT) to analyze World Bank citizen engagement commitments in project design. The tool was tested through extensive desk reviews in nine countries. After these desk reviews, ARC piloted field-based monitoring to track implementation of these commitments by directly supporting partners in Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Uganda.

On a parallel track, ARC has undertaken an in-depth, independent analysis of the internal World Bank processes to support citizen engagement. Combining institutional analysis with a study of staff perceptions, this forthcoming research identifies the institutional incentives and openings for citizen engagement as well as the challenges and constraints to putting commitments into practice.

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) interviewing Ugandan Health Ministry staff as part of joint ARC-AFIC World Bank citizen engagement project monitoring. Photo Credit: Ruth Namara, AFIC

3. Expanding support to civil society monitoring in 12 countries in the global South

In 2020, ARC provided modest seed funding and technical support to 12 partners in 12 countries to independently monitor implementation of citizen engagement commitments in practice. Four partners (G-Watch, CEGSS, Justicia Racial, and AFIC) had prior collaborations with ARC. The project, funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), enabled ARC to establish connections in eight countries: Bangladesh, Morocco, Malawi, Bolivia, Ghana, Tunisia, Nepal and Nigeria. Five partners used ARC support to monitor World Bank fast-track COVID investments. Having been prepared rapidly, many COVID relief projects relied on minimal community consultation and lacked transparency, increasing the need for independent community-based monitoring. Our collaborators have reported that the systematic monitoring of World Bank projects has strengthened their ability to advocate directly with their governments and World Bank officials.

4. Broadening our approach to include sovereign debt monitoring

In 2021, ARC secured a new OSF grant for a 6-month pilot project entitled “Strengthening civil society voice in global debt relief.” The new grant expands the scope of ARC work in the Global South related to a broader range of issues and challenges involving International Financial Institutions (IFIs).


ARC scholar-in-residence Rachel Nadelman leads our work on World Bank Citizen Engagement. Rachel facilitates the World Bank-civil society working group, provides strategic support to our collaborators, and has been the lead investigator on a range of different World Bank-focused research and publications. ARC researcher Mariana Cepeda supports monitoring of World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank projects in Colombia. ARC researcher Joy Aceron in The Philippines is the convenor-director of G-Watch, which also monitors anti-poverty and Covid 19-related World Bank projects. Additional support is provided by Jonathan Fox and Naomi Hossain.

Civil society collaborators monitoring World Bank citizen engagement in the global South include:

1. Access Bangladesh Foundation (Bangladesh)
2. Africa Freedom of Information Center (Uganda)
3. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi)
4. Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (Guatemala)
5. Colectivo Justicia Racial (Colombia)
6. Fundación Tierra (Bolivia)
7. Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (Ghana)
8. Governance and social Accountability Tunisia (Tunisia)
9. Government Watch (The Philippines)
10. L’Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (Morocco)
11. National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (Nepal)
12. Public and Private Development Centre (Nigeria)

Support for ARC’s work has come from: The Institute for Development Studies Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research program and the Open Society Foundations.

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