World Bank picks up idea of a World Resources Outlook

The 2011 World Development Report is now out, and a must-read for anyone who’s interested in how conflict and state fragility affect international development – and what can be done to prevent them.

But I’m especially pleased that WDR puts the World Bank’s support behind the idea of an integrated World Resources Oulook, an idea set out in Globalization and Scarcity. Here’s what the WDR has to say on the subject in its concluding section:

Knowledge about the impacts of food, energy and resource shocks is limited. Rising global demand for food and energy may impact fragile and violence-affected states severely. New analytical efforts are an important first step in understanding this phenomenon. One forward step would be for the relevant agencies – the World Bank, UN Energy Programme, International Energy Agency, and others – to work together on a World Resources Outlook, bringing together the multiple reports and analysis already undertaken by these agencies independently.

Such a report could give policy makers the valuable integrated analysis they currently lack. It could examine the state of scientific knowledge about the availability of key resources, including oil, food, water, and potentially land, together with how climate change will affect each of them; the economic dimensions of resource availability, including the risk of price spikes, inflationary trends, and how resource prices interact with wider trends in the international economy; and vulnerability to scarcity trends among poor people and regions affected by violence. Without such analysis, the risk of unintended consequences from policy may remain unaddressed – as with biofuels, where the possible food security implications of measures to promote energy security were inadequately considered.

With the Bank now openly backing the proposal, as well as implicit buy-in from the governments on the World Bank’s board, who sign off the WDR prior to publication,  there’s now a real possibility of this report actually happening – an outcome that would not only give policymakers a joined-up overview of scarcity issues that they currently lack, but would also create crucial interoperability between agencies in their single issue silos, by forcing them to collaborate on a joint output.

So what happens next? Well, next summer’s Rio 2012 summit would provide an ideal opportunity for member states to commission such a report, if they wish – watch this space.