Tag: World Bank

“Securing the 21st century. Protecting the Planet” address by James D.Wolfensohn

Look what I found in my home library! The address of the World Bank President to the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. October 2004.

It contains some promising headlines: “We can meet the challenge”; “Protecting the Planet: Environment Sustainability”; “Scaling up the Fight against Poverty”; “Youth and Education”; “Global Leadership for the21st Century”; “Conclusions: Promises to keep”. All the right words and calls for action.

An address or a speech is not a report. It is still a public statement by a person with power. People in power are accountable in every deed and word. I know I am a bit over-stretching it. Still, I am curious if there was any follow-up. Fifteen years forward, according to Greta Thunberg, a voice of youth, who took seriously the decades of silence: ‘Almost nothing is being done’ (COP25 summit,  Madrid 2019).

In development management there are many who say that they will do it and then do not. My take-away – if you say you’ll do it, do it. Be one of the rare ones.

Text available here: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/801111468149959845/Securing-the-21st-century-protecting-the-planet

Performance metrix

“We cannot measure it. Our project is too technical” or “too specific” or too something else can unfortunately be heard in some development management circles.

Scientists say “if you cannot measure it, it does not exist”. Development management is about change (positive, preferably). So if we cannot measure change, it does not exist. Now, let’s go with that to the Project’s Board or, even better, the project’s beneficiaries. Yes, right…

Developing, agreeing on and monitoring project’s indicators is not an easy fix. It is a necessity. All stakeholders need to know and see the progress towards the objective of the project. It is true that in development projects we deal with institutions (in the sense of an established law or practice) and concepts, such as governance, corruption, transparency, accountability, empowerment, access to justice. Thanks to extensive research over the last two decades+ and due to efforts of organisations such as the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Freedom House, Council of Europe (through its Commission for the Efficiency of Justice), OECD and many more it is possible to measure. These institutions are no longer abstract concepts they have dimensions we can grasp, measure and report on. Let’s look at the six dimensions of the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) of the World Bank:

  1. Voice and Accountability: measuring political, civil and human rights;
  2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence: measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism;
  3. Government Effectiveness: measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery;
  4. Regulatory Quality: measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
  5. Rule of Law: measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts as well as the likelihood of crimes and violence;
  6. Control of Corruption: measuring the exercise of public power for private gain, including both petty and grand corruption and state capture.

When you start to develop a project, I learned how important it is to give to the performance metrix the time and effort it deserves. My experience helped me put together a couple of road signs in this respect, which I share below:

a. Identifying, selecting and agreeing on project progress indicators is a collective exercise and should be done in a participatory and inclusive way.

b. Discharge things you cannot measure or, if you are keen on them,  double check on them during the inception phase of the project.

c. Use data already available from credible sources. Creating your own set of data and measurement tools is costly and time consuming.

d. If there is no data and the project absolutely needs a tailor made measuring stick, make sure to budget for it.

e. For measurements designed specifically for the project, make sure you take the measures (right) at the project start. It will give you a reliable baseline.

f. Regularly monitor progress for signs of trouble or delays. Use your performance metrix as a tool. It can help you “measure twice, cut – once”, as illustrated by the old adage, or “measure constantly, optimize continuously”, as the context of your project demands it.

g. And perhaps, the most important the performance metrix serves the achievement of the project objective (and not interests or circumstances).

Post inspired by: “Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption”, by Daniel Kaufmann World Bank, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/2-1_Governance_and_Corruption_Kaufmann.pdf

“Kaufmann, Daniel; Kraay, Aart; Mastruzzi, Massimo. 2007. Measuring Corruption : Myths and Realities. Africa Region Findings & Good Practice Infobriefs; no. 273. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/9576 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”

Risks? What risks?

Development management professionals looked in wonder at the U.S. Supreme Court case against IFC. In brief, America’s top justices handed down a landmark ruling in favor of a group of Indian villagers looking to sue the International Finance Corp. — the private sector arm of the World Bank — for its support for the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant. The villagers said the project contaminated groundwater, killed marine life, and ejected coal ash into the air. IFC did not contest that the damage occurred, but argued it is immune from liability under U.S. law. Tata Mundra – named “India’s first ultra-mega power project” – gave already in 2015 some indications of headaches to come, if you read The Guardian article at that time. The World Bank projects go through internal assessments of impact and risks. The Guardian’s investigations seem to suggest that the standard assessments of social and environment impacts have been carried out.  Those affected had used the available remedy of applying to the Compliance Ombudsman who also looked into the matter (http://www.cao-ombudsman.org/cases/document-links/documents/IFCresponsetoCAOAudit-CoastalGujaratPowerLimited.pdf). If you are interested, there are further details on the case https://www.devex.com/news/calls-for-stronger-accountability-after-ifc-supreme-court-ruling-94387

This post is not about the legal implications of the ruling on whether it will open or not the floodgates of litigation against International Organisations. Reading the above analysis reminded me of the importance of accountability and the related risk management in project design and implementation.

With due consideration paid to the accountability framework of the organization/client, a project manager works for, the risks assessments are an inherent part of the latter’s job. While project managers are not (always) magicians with abilities to foresee the future, taking time to do a proper risk assessment from smallest internal projects to largest (infrastructure) projects is worth every second of it.

It is not unheard of to tick the boxes and fill in the risk logs (or risk registers) with standard information at the projects design phase. How much time and thought is dedicated to risks assessments and diligently answering to the question “what could go wrong” depends on a number of factors, including the risk threshold of those who design the project and the context of the project. Not taking time to do a proper risks assessment results in project delays or even damages. And no project manager wants to have to recover a troubled project or the client/organization to pay for that.

Risk logs are live documents. They are like growing children: need to constantly keep an eye on them throughout the entire project management lifecycle.


  • identify risks as early as possible in projects;
  • consult stakeholders on the risk assessment and risk management plan;
  • apply rigor to risks assessments and risk management plans;
  • complement qualitative methodologies with data-driven approaches to risk assessments (see OECD (2019) Analytics for Integrity http://www.oecd.org/gov/ethics/analytics-for-integrity.pdf);
  • avoid ‘blind spots” and biases by means of third party monitoring and evaluation, if/when possible;
  • be mindful of and monitor eventual third party risks, which could impact the project; take legal/administrative steps to reflect them in the agreement with the third party;
  • constantly monitor risks and apply remedies.

There are a variety of project risk management tools available on the internet. I found this risk log of practical use in some projects. Feel free to download it. Template_Risk Management Plan_EN