News Brief: IMF and World Bank Invite Public Participation in Review of Poverty Reduction Strategy Program

August 3, 2001

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are inviting public participation in a comprehensive review of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) approach. The PRSP approach was adopted in 1999 to help poor countries and their development partners strengthen the impact of their common efforts on poverty reduction. The review will assess progress to date and examine ways in which the development impact of the approach might be improved.

By the end of 2001, 15-20 countries are aiming to complete their first full PRSP. The primary focus of the review will be on the content and process of the PRSPs in these countries. Questions to be covered in the review include: Have governments effectively taken the lead on PRSPs, and to what extent have they internalized the process? Have governments engaged in participatory consultations, and how have they affected PRSPs' content? Has the PRSP approach improved coordination between aid donors and recipients, as well as between finance ministries and line ministries? Have countries prioritized and costed their reforms and policy actions? Has the push for speed in the HIPC process affected quality of PRSPs? How well have Fund and Bank staff supported the PRSP processes?

The Bank and Fund are inviting contributions from developing countries, aid donors, and civil society organizations. Together with analyses by Fund and Bank staff, these submissions will serve as background to an international conference on the PRSP approach to be held in Washington, D.C., in January 2002. Papers prepared for the review will be publicly available. In addition to the international conference, there will also be regional country events to ensure that voices from within PRSP countries are adequately represented.

The PRSP review, and a companion review of the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility being conducted in parallel by the Fund, will be presented to the Executive Boards of the Bank and Fund by endorsing changes in the PRSP framework in March 2002.

Organizations or persons wishing to provide comments are encouraged to submit them to Ms. Sharon White at the World Bank, Mr. Brian Ames at the IMF, to Bank or Fund representatives in countries preparing PRSPs, or by e-mail to or The resulting papers will be available on both institutions' websites by March 2002 and through Bank and Fund country offices worldwide.

Terms of reference for the upcoming review are attached.


In December 1999, the Bank and Fund Boards requested a review of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) approach to be carried out by the end of 2001 with external participation, including contributions from member countries, international agencies, other aid providers, and civil society1. At that time, it was expected that most or all PRGF users and many IDA-eligible countries would have prepared at least one full PRSP by end-2001.

In the event, only five full PRSPs have been presented for Board consideration to date and an additional 10-15 full PRSPs are expected to be presented by the end of the calendar year. With a view to ensuring that the review can be based on a sufficiently large number of first full PRSPs, the staff proposes that the review be completed prior to the 2002 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. This revised timetable would also allow the review to benefit from the various studies and evaluations of the PRSP approach which will be completed by external partners and stakeholders by the end of the year.


The output of the envisaged exercise would be a paper for the Bank and Fund Executive Boards and for the Spring Meetings that would take stock of the experience to date compared to original objectives of the PRSP approach and would propose to the Boards any desirable modifications in the guidelines and modalities of implementation based on this early experience. As a public document, the review would also communicate to the global community about the progress to date and ways in which the development impact of the PRSP approach might be improved.


The review will cover both PRSP content and process. In broad terms, it will consider how much has been achieved in the first two years toward the long-term goal of improving development outcomes through the application of the CDF principles on which the PRSP approach is grounded. With respect to content, the review will examine the quality of PRSPs in terms of the core questions set forth in the guidelines for Joint Staff Assessments of Full PRSPs, dated April 18, 2001. These questions cover (i) poverty diagnostics, (ii) targets, indicators, and monitoring; and (iii) priority public actions. To the extent possible, the review will also consider how the strategies are different from earlier attempts to define national strategies.

With respect to process, the review will seek to address questions such as:

  • To what extent have low-income country governments been leading the process of articulating their own long-term development visions and poverty reduction strategies as a basis for guiding their own policies and external assistance? Have PRSs been adequately integrated with the countries' core processes for policy making, including medium-term expenditure frameworks?

  • To what extent have governments implemented participatory processes intended to improve the design of, and to build understanding and broad-based ownership for, a national strategy? How have those processes influenced the content and implementation of poverty reduction strategies?

  • To what extent have external development partners contributed to the PRSP process within countries and begun to align their assistance behind PRSPs? Has the PRSP approach led to improved partnerships?

The review will also consider how well the Bank and Fund staff have been supportive of government leadership, participatory processes, and partnerships within the PRSP context, including in providing coherent, coordinated and timely advice to governments in PRSP design and implementation.

The primary focus will be on full PRSPs that have been completed by end-December 2001. Attention will also be given to the experience with Interim PRSPs, primarily with respect to process questions (e.g., how well governments have taken the initiative to manage the PRSP process). However, given that many I-PRSPs have been quite elaborate, attention will also be focused on issues of content where appropriate.


There will be five main inputs into the review: (1) reviews and evaluations conducted by external parties; (2) views and contributions from governments, development partners and other stakeholders solicited through the Bank and Fund external web sites; (3) proceedings from PRSP regional country events and other country specific events; (4) analyses carried out by Bank/Fund staff; and (5) the proceedings of a Bank/Fund sponsored international conference on the PRSP approach. In assessing these inputs, it is expected that primary attention will be given to the views expressed by governments and other stakeholders from the low-income countries engaged in the PRSP process.

First, many external partners have carried out, or plan to conduct, independent reviews of the PRSP approach. Bank and Fund staff are presently undertaking a stocktaking exercise with a view to identifying relevant reviews and evaluations that have been carried out by international organizations, bilateral aid agencies, northern and southern NGOs and other civil society organizations, and member countries. Staff are also identifying ongoing or planned reviews and evaluations that are scheduled to be completed before the end of this calendar year. The main findings and conclusions from each of these independent evaluations will be summarized and appended to the review document and serve as input into the staffs' own analysis. With agreement of the concerned parties, these evaluations will also be made available to the Board.

Second, various PRSP regional country fora (i.e., Washington, Abidjan, Addis Ababa, Yamoussoukro, Moscow, Dakar, and possibly Manila) have taken place or are planned to take place before the end of the calendar year. The main findings and conclusions from these events will serve as input into the staffs' own analysis. The conclusions from other country specific PRSP workshops and seminars will also serve as input.

Third, a general call for input from governments, development partners and other stakeholders (including civil society groups) regarding their views of, and experience with, the PRSP approach will be solicited through the Bank and Fund external web sites. A summary of these would be appended to the review document and feed into the staffs' analyses.

Fourth, Bank and Fund staff will also undertake various analytical exercises. In particular, the Bank's CDF Secretariat has been tracking the application of the CDF principles in all I-PRSP/PRSP countries and is preparing a report to the Bank's Board in September that will discuss issues facing countries, partners, and the Bank. Also, Bank/Fund staff will pull together the main themes of the JSAs to date and examine the scope and coverage of key policy issues and sectoral considerations in the PRSPs.

Finally, with a view to bringing together the key actors in the PRSP approach and to draw from and build upon the various analyses and inputs highlighted above, the staff propose holding an international conference in late 2001 or early 2002 to which representatives from governments in PRSP countries, the Executive Boards and staffs of the Bank and Fund, international and multilateral organizations, bilateral aid agencies, and civil society would be invited. In addition to providing their own contributions, the role of the Bank and the Fund would be to facilitate a broad-based discussion among interested parties regarding the progress achieved, the constraints faced, the lessons learned, and the challenges that remain regarding the PRSP approach. Those groups or institutions that have carried out independent reviews or evaluations of the PRSP approach would be invited to present their findings. While we would not expect the conference to reach closure on recommendations, we do anticipate that it will help frame the priority set of issues and areas for possible change for consideration by the Bank and Fund.

In preparing the Board paper, Bank and Fund staff would draw upon the conference proceedings as well as the other contributions highlighted above. The Board paper would present the views of the Bank and Fund staff regarding the experience to date with the PRSP approach, including proposals for any appropriate changes required in guidelines and modalities of implementation. The paper would be made available to Executive Directors prior to the Spring Meetings.

The Joint Implementation Committee will oversee Bank/Fund coordination regarding the carrying out of the review, as well as related external outreach.

1 Separately, the Fund Board called for a review of the PRGF that would also include contributions from external parties. As described in a separate note to the IMF Board, this would be done in parallel with the review of the PRSP approach.


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