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Governance

Getting the basics right: How to manage civil servants in developing countries

Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling's picture
Graphic: World Bank

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

Governments can only be effective if the people in government – that is its civil servants – are motivated and able to implement policy and services well. In many developing countries, this remains a remote aspiration. Corruption, lack of staff motivation and poor performance are both popular stereotypes and real-world facts. For many decades, international aid programmes have invested in civil service reform to change this reality. The track record of these reform programs has unfortunately been poor.

The latest poverty numbers for Afghanistan: a call to action, not a reason for despair

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture

The just-released Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) paints a stark picture of the reality facing Afghanistan today. More than half the Afghan population lives below the national poverty line, indicating a sharp deterioration in welfare since 2011-12.[1]  The release of these new ALCS figures is timely and important. These figures are the first estimates of the welfare of the Afghan people since the transition of security responsibilities from international troops to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in 2014.

While stark, the findings are not a surprise

Given what Afghanistan has gone through in the last five years, the significant increase in poverty over this period is not unexpected. The high poverty rates represent the combined effect of stagnating economic growth, increasing demographic pressures, and a deteriorating security situation in the context of an already impoverished economy and society where human capital and livelihoods have been eroded by decades of conflict and instability.

The withdrawal of international troops starting in 2012, and the associated decline in aid, both security and civilian, led to a sharp decline in domestic demand and much lower levels of economic activity. The deterioration in security since 2012, which drove down consumer and investor confidence, magnified this economic shock. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan’s average annual rate of economic growth fell from 9.4 percent in the period 2003-2012 to only 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2016. With the population continuing to grow more than 3 percent a year, per capita GDP has steadily declined since 2012, and in 2016 stood $100 below its 2012 level. Even during Afghanistan’s years of high economic growth, poverty rates failed to drop, as growth was not pro-poor. In recent years, as population growth outstripped economic growth, an increase in poverty was inevitable.

The School Leadership Crisis Part 1: Making Principals Work for Schools

Ezequiel Molina's picture
Worldwide, hundreds of millions of children reach young adulthood without acquiring even the most basic skills – a phenomenon dubbed "the global learning crisis." Concurrently, few of the principals who oversee these schools exercise strong management practices, which include setting learning targets, using data to guide instruction, observing classrooms, and providing feedback to teachers.

How a silent revolution in rural Bihar is empowering women to be agents of change

Farah Zahir's picture


Women in Bihar, India
Women are agents of change in Bihar, India. Photo: World Bank 

Empowering women in a society is essentially a process of uplifting the economic, social and political status of women and the underprivileged. It involves building a society wherein women can breathe without the fear of oppression, exploitation, apprehension, discrimination, and a general feeling of ill-treatment that symbolized a woman in a traditional male-dominated society like the one in India.

With the implementation of gender quotas since India’s 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, the percentage of women in political activities at the local level has risen from 4-5% to about 35-40%. Reserving one-third of seats for women in the elected bodies of rural local governments in India has unleashed a silent revolution.

For the first time, rural women began to participate in local governance to improve their status and acquire a decisive say in matters crucial to their livelihoods. This decision to ensure the participation of women in local government is perhaps the best innovation in a grassroots democracy, contributing to improving the well-being of rural women.

Control over local government resources and the collective power of women have helped women discover their own self-respect and confidence. In the recent discourse on women empowerment in the 62nd session of the Commission on Status of Women, the government of India has said gender equality and emancipation of rural women is a key driver of inclusive growth.

Mongolia, despite a scattered population, works to make every voice heard

Amarbayasgalan Dorj's picture

With only 2 people per square kilometer, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. While that can make public service delivery daunting, improving health and education outcomes is possible if we include citizens in the decision-making process.

The country is taking steps to ensure this: Its second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan outlines specific measures to improve transparency, public accountability and citizen participation. With the World Bank and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the government is also working to mainstream social accountability to empower the poor and vulnerable segments of Mongolian society.

How to catalyze innovation to end corruption

Ravi Kumar's picture

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva giving opening remarks at a high-level anti-corruption event at the Spring meetings.
World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva giving opening remarks at a high-level anti-corruption event at the 2018 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group. Photo: World Bank

We have to fight corruption by making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place and use technology to give every citizen a voice in this effort, said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva in her opening remarks at a high-level event last Wednesday where leaders from government, the private sector, civil society, media, and academia discussed how to catalyze innovation to end corruption.

During a lively discussion, Thuli Madonsela, an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, emphasized that public officials must have a track record of the highest standard and integrity. Peter Solmssen, Former General Counsel of Siemens AG, and AIG encouraged building trust that can lead to embracing the private sector as a potential partner.

What’s the latest research on the quality of governance?

Daniel Rogger's picture
Photo: Gerhard Jörén / World Bank

Editor's note: This blog post was previously published on the World Bank's 'Let's Talk Development' blog platform.

Last week I attended Stanford University’s Quality of Governance conference, expertly organized by a rising star of the field, Saad Gulzar.  I thought I’d follow in the footsteps of Dave Evans and others and summarize the findings of the papers presented. They provide a sketch of the frontier of research on state capacity. 

What’s the latest research on the quality of governance?

Daniel Rogger's picture

Last week I attended Stanford University’s Quality of Governance conference, expertly organized by a rising star of the field, Saad Gulzar.  I thought I’d follow in the footsteps of Dave Evans and others and summarize the findings of the papers presented. They provide a sketch of the frontier of research on state capacity. 


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