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Designed for the Future?

Assessing Principles of Sustainable Development and Governance in the World Bank's Project Plans

As the challenges facing the world—from economic uncertainty and political unrest, to the increasingly severe impacts of a changing climate—have grown, the World Bank is seeking to reinvent itself and help its developing member countries address these challenges.

To understand the World Bank’s ongoing reform efforts, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has examined the extent to which the World Bank is integrating elements of sustainable development and effective governance considerations into the design of a sample set of projects.

This report was co-written with Joonkyung Seong, a former intern with WRI.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

The World Bank has sought to reinvent itself in the face of a growing number of global development challenges, including economic uncertainty, political unrest, and the increasingly severe impacts of a changing climate.

This report examines the extent to which the World Bank is integrating elements of sustainable development and effective client-country governance considerations into the design of a sample set of projects. The authors offer ten recommendations for how the World Bank can improve its project plans to meet these global challenges.

The World Bank was founded more than half a century ago with the goal of reducing, and eventually eliminating, poverty worldwide. As the challenges facing the world—from economic uncertainty and political unrest, to the increasingly severe impacts of a changing climate—have grown, the World Bank has sought to reinvent itself.

As part of its reinvention, the World Bank has announced two new goals. The first is to reduce global extreme poverty 1 to 3 percent of the world’s population by 2030. The second is to promote shared prosperity, which requires fostering income growth for the poorest 40 percent of the population in every country. Importantly, shared prosperity also entails securing development gains for future generations. In pursuing these goals, the World Bank has a unique opportunity to distinguish itself in the development finance landscape by integrating sustainable development and effective client-country governance into the core of its operations.

To understand the World Bank’s ongoing reform efforts, the World Resources Institute (WRI) examined the extent to which the World Bank is integrating elements of sustainable development and effective governance considerations into the design of a sample set of projects. This report builds on similar studies conducted by WRI in the past.2 The projects that WRI assessed were selected from a list of sectorally relevant, sampled projects approved by the World Bank between January 2012 and June 2013.

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