March 2017

By Jesica Dobbins Lindgren

“Without better governance, our goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity will be out of reach.”
- World Bank Group President Jim Young Kim

Since 1978, the World Development Report has tackled a pressing global development issue each year. This year's topic is especially timely: Governance—the good and the bad—affects how every country’s political, economic, and social institutions function. When a government is impaired by corruption or fails to enforce its own laws, the power balance can easily shift toward greater inequality and disrupt the delivery of vital services that citizens depend upon.

To address these concerns, the 2017 World Development Report calls for countries to strive for economic policies that ensure “commitment, coordination, and cooperation” to be most effective in serving the needs of their citizens and producing better governance outcomes. Otherwise, countries may find themselves reeling from one crisis to the next, struggling to create or sustain the stability needed for growth, or facing the prospect of failed statehood.

Ultimately, the report challenges governments to rethink how they govern and to transform their approach. Whether the issue relates to the functioning of institutions, identifying the extent of power asymmetries, or strengthening the rule—as well as and the role—of law, the report recommends practical ways that governments can rethink their approach.

To quote from the report’s main messages:

  • Successful reforms are not just about “best practice” (they) must guarantee credible commitment, support coordination, and promote cooperation.
  • Power asymmetries can undermine policy effectiveness…unequal distribution of power in the policy arena can lead to exclusion, capture, and clientelism. 
  • Elites, citizens, and international actors can promote change by shifting incentives, reshaping preferences and beliefs, and enhancing the contestability of the decision making process.

Good governance depends on delivering security, growth, and equity for citizens. In this way, viable policies that promote those goals effectively are fundamentally worth pursuing.  

Click here to see highlights and to download the full report.