At the World Government Summit in Dubai last week, World Bank President Jim Kim renewed his call for an initiative to “help countries invest more, and more effectively, in their people” through education.  More funding for education is a laudable goal, but the bank’s role in such investment won’t deliver on its promises until the bank takes care of its own fundamental problems — its projects, even in the education sector, can still cause harm in violation of bank policy, and its accountability offices are chafing against failed institutional responses to the work of those offices.

In its first decades of operations, World Bank investment left a wake of human rights and environmental abuses at project sites. Decades later, while the bank’s accountability offices are doing their job, many of these abuses continue. Once the accountability offices have investigated harm and reported abuses, it is up to the bank’s leaders to take action. They often fail to do so.

If the bank is searching for relevance in a world where investment in “impact” is a $9 trillion industry, bank leaders could be relevant by doing three things:

  1. The bank should use its investments to improve the situation in places like Assam and others. The World Bank, and other multilateral development banks, can add significant value to their investments by committing to their own social and environmental standards designed to protect against harm from the dams, pipelines, and roads they finance.
  2. The bank could improve its accountability offices, helping the private sector learn what best practice looks like and how they can enhance positive impact for communities around the world.
  3. The bank could work to invest in the civic fabric of communities in a way that lifts the voices of the most vulnerable to ensure they too benefit.

Read the full article about Jim Kim's world bank plan by Natalie Bridgeman Fields at Devex.