More webcasting at the World Bank — but is it enough?

World Bank President Jim Kim in front of cameras. Some of the events at this year’s annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be live-streamed online. Photo by: Steve Shapiro / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

As World Bank officials and civil society leaders gather this week at the bank’s annual meetings in Washington, D.C., one of the hot topics is social engagement.

Bank staff and NGO representatives raised questions Tuesday about how to make the institution more accessible and transparent to community leaders and allies — even in the poorest of countries.

One way the World Bank is trying to make this year’s annual meetings more open is through webcasts. President Jim Yong Kim, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and a host of senior executives will reap attention from around the globe as more than 20 webcast events allow hundreds to watch live-streamed coverage and even participate in forums and panels through webchats.

Notably and for the first time this year, civil society will draw a virtual crowd today as both Kim and Lagarde engage with advocates from around the world in a live-streamed “town hall” discussion.

It’s a sign of the times, perhaps, and of technological progress but the World Bank Group has opened up in recent years — part of an ambitious, sometimes controversial, reform plan that’s still in full swing.

There’ve been many calls for the bank to share more data internally and externally. Events like the World Bank Group’s annual meetings should be live-streamed or at least video-recorded, including the plethora of meetings and workshops — many of them organized by civil society — that go in-depth on bank reform and the future of global development.

“The general public and the media … and high-level officials may be interested in what a senior bank planner, or a Jim Kim might say,” said David Shaman, senior fellow at the Bank Information Center, an advocacy group. “But where the rubber hits the road really is where these policy issues are debated and discussed and addressed on a more technical and detailed level. And that’s really valuable content, and that stuff is not getting out.”

BIC has been involved in a years-long push to revive webcasting at the bank. A similar service called B-SPAN was launched in 2000; the bank TV channel was eventually nixed and in 2003, World Bank Live was launched to allow a global audience to watch and engage with bank events online.

Webcasting has picked up — a terrific trend, Shaman says, if only they didn’t focus so heavily on top executives instead of leaders on the front lines who can share the technical advice global development practitioners need to succeed.

Jo Marie Griesgraber, executive director of New Rules for Global Finance, acknowledged that having over 20 webcast sessions at this year’s annual meetings is a step in the right direction. Yet she isn’t satisfied.

“I have been pushing them to webcast these sessions for years,” she told Devex. All of them should be webcast.

The bank’s chief spokesperson calls this week’s gathering “most open annual meeting ever,” citing the record number of webcasts, including Wednesday’s first-ever interactive webcast of the Civil Society Forum with Kim.

“We would like to stream even more events, but we have to be mindful of costs, so we have chosen those that have the most interest from stakeholders or the highest global relevance,” David Theis, World Bank spokesman wrote in an email to Devex.

Bank leaders have vowed to cut $400 million from the institution’s budget.

What do you think about the World Bank’s efforts to open itself up to the global development community through webcasts? Please let us know by sending an email to news@devex.com or leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Jeff tyson 400x400  1

    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.