Is the World Bank leaving no one behind?

Working and discussion papers
June 2019
Paula Lucci, Amina Khan, Jennifer Turner and Jacob Sims

In the 2030 Agenda, countries pledged that ‘no one will be left behind’, an underpinning principle that binds together the Sustainable Development Goals. But there is a risk that the promise by governments and development partners to leave no one behind becomes an empty signifier. There is no agreed approach to conceptualising and monitoring the leave no one behind commitment, so countries are free to operationalise this for themselves.

Consequently, there are no mechanisms to assess how development assistance providers contribute to that end. This working paper, which examines the World Bank’s alignment with the commitment to leave no one behind, offers an operational definition for the commitment and devises a set of good-enough indicators of progress for it, which could also be applicable to development cooperation actors. 

Key messages

  • At a strategic level, the World Bank is partially aligned with the Agenda 2030 commitment to leave no one behind, through its twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity and its renewed emphasis on human capital. However, the World Bank needs to do more to account for group-based inequalities and discrimination, two of the major drivers of poverty.
  • The World Bank’s results framework does not currently disaggregate data for vulnerable groups sufficiently to allow effective monitoring of the leave no one behind commitment. However, there are plans to improve disaggregation for critical groups, for example refugees and internally displaced people, in line with the World Bank’s increasing focus on fragility.
  • Of the three left-behind groups called out in the 2030 Agenda and analysed in this study, it is clear that the World Bank is increasing its focus on refugees and people with disabilities in its financial portfolios, however, neither group yet receives as much attention as indigenous peoples.
  • The World Bank’s high priority on social protection is welcome, given this is a particularly poorly funded sector. But earlier analysis by others suggests more could be done to match the Bank’s country and subnational allocations to the places most at risk of being left behind.
  • The International Development Association replenishment (IDA-19) provides an opportunity to redress these issues.
Read the research