THIS PROJECT BEGAN with a rather simple observation: very little evidence was available to assess whether investments in evaluation and learning make international organizations more effective. This book is an attempt to understand how project evaluation, strategic planning, citizen complaint mechanisms, and administrative procedures can be used to steer international organizations toward decisions that more effectively achieve their mandates. I focus specifically on the environmental performance of the multilateral development banks, since activities related to preventing environmental harm and promoting good environmental management have faced intense scrutiny over the past three decades. My purpose is not to retell a history about performance diverging from mandate; I seek instead to understand when and why environmental performance can be improved by producing better information about the outcomes of the development and environmental activities of the multilateral development banks.
The other purpose of this book is to propose a better way to give development assistance. Researchers and the development community have converged around the idea that development assistance is most effective when it is provided to recipient countries that have the capacity and incentives to use it well. Most scholarly and practical effort has focused on identifying capacity and aligned incentives at the level of countries, often through indices of the quality of governance or policy. The challenge with this approach is that it tends to shift development assistance toward the middle-income countries that have the least need for it. I argue that by (p.viii) producing better information about the outcomes of development and environmental assistance, organizations that allocate development assistance can be more focused and move toward the projects that have a successful record and away from projects that have an unsuccessful record for individual countries. This book demonstrates that a focused approach can work.
I could not have completed this project without the assistance and support of numerous people. Over the several years that it took to complete this project, our research team poured through hundreds of thousands of pages of more than 1,000 evaluations and compiled primary documentation for a number of case studies that appear in this book. More than 50 staff members and managers at the multilateral development banks provided me interviews. I also received invaluable advice and support from mentors and colleagues as I pulled together the evidence in this book. I gratefully acknowledge these various contributions.
I have benefited greatly from the research assistance of Sarah Freitas, Susan Carter, Selim Selimi, Jacob Wolff, Hannah Freedman, and Varun Kumar. Coding hundreds of documents that are each hundreds of pages long is an arduous and unseen task. This book would not have been possible without their diligent work. I am also grateful to Rahul Madhusudanan, who helped compile the primary documentation for many of the case studies that appear in this book. His keen eye for relevant evidence has been a valuable asset.
I benefited from the time of numerous staff members at the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank, who for reasons of confidentiality must remain anonymous. The interviews that these staff provided assisted me in understanding the incentives at multilateral development banks to use information about performance. The interviewees greatly influenced many of the conclusions reported in this book and I hope will bring to life many of the findings from the statistical analyses.
Many people have offered guidance and suggestion in the design of this research and writing this book. Like many books, the seed of this book was a dissertation. Erika Weinthal was an excellent dissertation supervisor, even when I was not sure of my direction. She has been a steadfast advocate and has always encouraged me to think broadly about the implications of this research. Judith Kelley, through her consistent engagement with the core theoretical issues of this project and her constructive approach to the research process, has shaped my intellectual journey in lasting ways. Chris Gelpi and Meg McKean provided important comments about this research at various points, and this book is surely better for their efforts. I received other important support for this project while I was completing doctoral studies at Duke University, including comments from seminar participants and several travel and fellowship grants. A National Science Foundation Decision, Risk, (p.ix) and Management Sciences Doctoral Research Grant (#0962436) supported this work, without which it would have been impossible to collect the evaluation and interview data that I use as the basis of this book.
I expanded and began refining the dissertation into a book while I was a faculty member in the Department of Government at the College of William & Mary. I owe a special debt to Mike Tierney, who has been one of my greatest advocates as I turned this project into a book. He organized an extremely helpful book workshop, where I received exhaustive comments from Tamar Gutner, Joe Jupille, Christopher Kilby, Paula Manna, Amy Oakes, Brad Parks, Sue Peterson, and Maurits van der Veen. These comments shaped the development of this book greatly and assisted me in honing the arguments and presentation of evidence. I also received excellent and helpful comments on the penultimate version of this book from Sarah Bush and Ron Mitchell. The reviewers for this manuscript took their jobs very seriously and offered insightful comments that have shaped the final product, particularly regarding the presentation of qualitative evidence.
Finally, the long road that is a book project would not have been nearly as enjoyable without the support of friends and family. I would like to extend a special thanks to my parents, Robbie and Jim Buntaine, for always supporting my education and to my wife, Ryoko Oono, who has endured many years of living separately and countless late evenings so that I could complete this project. To them, and a large number of supportive friends, I am forever grateful. (p.x)