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The World Bank, Development Policy, and the Promotion of Gender Equality: New Ways or Old Tricks?

The World Bank, Development Policy, and the Promotion of Gender Equality: New Ways or Old Tricks?

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Title: The World Bank, Development Policy, and the Promotion of Gender Equality: New Ways or Old Tricks?
Author: Power, Luke
Abstract: Alongside the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the World Bank’s (WB) 2015 Gender Equality Strategy may be described as a major endeavour by the global community to promote sustainable development through poverty eradication and gender equality. As succinctly articulated within the document “no society can develop sustainably without transforming the distribution of opportunities, resources, and choices for males and females so that they have equal power to shape their lives and contribute to their families, communities, and countries. Promoting gender equality is smart development policy” (2016:7). Thus, as posited within this quote it may be stated that through gender equality and the promotion of female empowerment the World Bank, amongst other international/ national institutions, is attempting to refocus its developmental programs towards social investment- a clear distinction from the programs endorsed during the 1970s/80s. This reorientation within developmental policy has be termed the Post-Washington Consensus (Birshall and Fukuyama 2011). Incidentally, of critical importance to this investigation is the distinction between equality and equity. Whilst, equality relates to the equal distribution of resources, one for one, equity focuses upon the distribution of resources according to need- need here being a product of a social environment characterized by power differentials and hierarchal structures. The documents failure to comment upon this distinction, and its preoccupation with the former, is telling. Whilst the dominant narrative embedded within the document may be seen as inherently emancipatory and premised upon the development of a socially just system, a plethora of literature challenges these claims (Cammack 2002, 2003, 2004; Harvey 2005a, b; Navarro 1999, 2000, 2014; Peet 2003). Alternatively, these authors propose that the strategies which characterize this apparent ‘reorientation’ are a continuation of past development practices. This is reflected within their proclivity towards the proletarianization of the global work force, the transformation of non-capitalist locations into capitalist ones, and the ascendency of market principles into societal arrangements which they have been historically absent from for example. welfare arrangements. In particular Harvey (2005a) posits that the development practices, both historic and contemporary, are a concerted effort to promote capital accumulation – specifically primitive accumulation- during periods of crisis. In relation to its contemporary form, Harvey maintains the promotion of market liberalization/ privatization, deregulation, and depoliticization (promoting civil society over party based politics) represents both historic tendencies and contemporary issues. These historic tendencies relate to the necessity of accumulation whilst contemporary issues relate to the social/ class based forces which limit the capacity for the historic tendency to occur.
Whilst this crisis relates to the World Bank’s promotion of market values over social justice as embodied within structural adjustment programs (Kolko 2002) – it similarly relates to the crisis in accumulation. Roberts and Soederberg (2012) reiterate this point in their critical examination of the World Bank’s 2012 development report. Utilizing a feminist Marxist position these authors posit that the dominant proposition of financial integration embedded within the report is a product of failed accumulation within this sector. More specifically, Roberts and Soederberg note that this is a product of the 2007/ 08 financial crisis and the subsequent decline in asset productivity that followed this. According to these authors, the development report, and by consequence the World Bank, is focused upon supporting and stabilizing capital accumulation during and through periods of systematic crisis. Thus, through a contextual examination into the current political and economic climate one may argue that this apparent reorientation towards a social investment model is a direct reaction to the simultaneous crisis in both legitimacy and accumulation (Toussaint 2008). Simply, the World Bank is focused upon damage control. Accordingly, in relation to the critical propositions detailed above, we need to critically examine the World Bank and the development strategies that they propose- specifically when they refer to emancipatory goals and the alleviation of social injustices/ inequalities. In order to provide a comprehensive and critical examination of the World Bank’s gender equality strategy, specifically in relation to its health consequences, one must situate it within a historical and political context and highlight both its discursive dimensions and practical implications.
Subject: World Bank
gender equality
Type: Major Research Paper
Rights: The copyright for the paper content remains with the author.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/34228
Date: 2018-01-18

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