IBA 2023: IBA and World Bank to forge closer ties to boost development goals

World Bank GC highlights the role lawyers can play in supporting governments and institutions with practical help, writes John Malpas

Left to right: Adam Emmerich, Christopher Stephens and Almudena Arpón de Mendívil

The IBA and the World Bank’s legal team have pledged to step up their co-operation in order to help the bank achieve its development goals. 

The IBA’s president, Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama, and Christopher Stephens, senior vice president and group general counsel at the World Bank, agreed to explore ways in which their respective organisations could work together more closely than ever during yesterday’s keynote address, when Stephens underlined the private sector’s “crucial role” as a partner. 

“Finding a good and capable resource partner is one thing but you have to find partners who have the energy and commitment to get things done,” he said, adding that he had been energised by the IBA meeting in Paris. 

“There are endless ways in which we can use lawyers either directly as consultants or through cooperation with the IBA and its many committees,” he said. “Best practices and tool kits are invaluable to us, we’d like to do one on access to justice on legal aid, and this is the place to come to create that.” 

During his keynote – and the subsequent question and answer session, which also featured Wachtell Lipton corporate partner Adam Emmerich – Stephens expounded on the need for “capacity building” whereby governments and institutions are provided with practical help. 

He said this went beyond model laws and cited, as examples, the introduction of a new arbitration act in Fiji that would boost investor confidence and a gender equality law in the Maldives, a first for a Muslim country. In both cases this was achieved with the help of his legal team, he told delegates. 

He said that the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private arm, did run a panel system. However, he added that he is keen to inject more flexibility in the process due to frustration at the frequency with which key lawyers moved between firms, which may not be on the panel. 

Referring to his own legal team, he said he is pursuing a policy of putting more legal staff into the field to increase their engagement with local teams. 

He said a key benefit for in-house teams, compared to lawyers in private practice, is that they are brought into deals and projects much earlier. 

He said his team is using novel legal structures in a bid to ensure the success of projects.

This article first appeared in the daily newspaper for the IBA Annual Conference 2023, which is published in partnership with The Global Legal Post  

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