Rough Guide to World Development Report: Governance and the Law

The annual World Development Report (WDR) is a flagship publication of the World Bank, and often heralds important paradigm shifts in development thinking and policy. The 2017 edition focused on Governance and the Law, examining why carefully designed policies fail or bad policies endure. It is significant for its critical reflection on how power asymmetries undermine effective governance – a departure from the World Bank’s typically technocratic and apolitical approach. 
However, at over 300 pages, it can be a struggle to extract useful lessons from the WDR. As Oxfam’s Duncan Green put it, “If you ask a bunch of economists and political scientists to collaborate, don’t expect a page turner.” CESR’s Rough Guide to the World Development Report 2017 makes the dense WDR more accessible by summarizing its key points on the power asymmetries that undermine policy implementation and ways to address them to achieve reform. 
Most importantly, the Guide addresses the WDR’s lack of engagement with human rights. It outlines how human rights activists might use the WDR’s “policy effectiveness cycle” to design more politically savvy advocacy strategies for advancing economic and social rights in relevant policy arenas. In particular, it argues that human rights policy arenas—spaces where actors negotiate the enforcement of rights—are not immune to the problems identified in the WDR and suggests how these arenas could be critically examined through the lens of the policy effectiveness cycle. 
Through our collaborations with activists around the world, we have seen an increasing demand for resources that can support more strategic thinking around how human rights advocacy can lead to effective policy change. The guide responds to that demand. Our hope is that it encourages a fresh look at human rights actors and their strategies and tactics, in order to increase their influence in policy arenas relevant to the realization of economic and social rights.