July 3, 2014
Our Land Our Business, a multi-continent campaign with more than 210 signatories, is working to end the World Bank’s Doing Business report and the Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA). Following the delivery of the campaign’s joint statement to the World Bank on April 11, 2014 and a phone conversation between members of the campaign and the World Bank on June 4, 2014, substantial changes were made to the World Bank’s Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture website.
When comparing the website between April 3 and June 17, 2014, three significant changes can be identified:
1. First, the six Focus Area Snap Shot documents from the BBA Methodology page have been removed. The Snap Shots included: Seeds, Fertilizer, Finance, Land, Transport, Markets, and Contract Farming. Each Snap Shot included a list of different indicators that the World Bank considered relevant to the given focus area.1 Removal of these Snap Shot documents is significant since the indicators aim to evaluate policies and regulations to be changed in order to increase private and foreign investment in agriculture.
2. The second critical change is the removal of the word “measure”2 from the BBA website. Instead, terms such as “provides data and analyses” and “monitor” have been used.3
On April 3, 2014 the BBA homepage under Project Background stated: “The World Bank Group’s Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture program will measure laws, regulations, policies and infrastructure to provide users with a comprehensive understanding around agribusiness….”4
Currently, the BBA homepage under Project Overview states: “The project will identify and monitor policies and regulations that limit market access for small to medium-size producers.”5
3. The third major change is the Bank’s response to the question: “Does the project intend to rank countries?”
On April 3, 2014 the answer to this question on the BBA Frequently Asked Questions webpage was:6
The World Bank changed its response to the exact same question to now be the following:7
Removing of the term “measure” and indicating that rankings might not be under consideration anymore, suggest that the World Bank might be moving away from comparing countries through the BBA and thus promoting a race to the bottom.
These changes are evidence of the first impact of the Our Land Our Business campaign. However, they do not indicate a change of direction in the Bank’s approach to development and agriculture nor whether it will indeed shut down the Doing Business and Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture activities.
The Our Land Our Business campaign will therefore continue and intensify until its demands are met.
This memo was prepared by Haley F. Kaplan, OI Intern Scholar.