When the 1997 World Development Report was released it was widely perceived that there had been a substantial shift in the public position of the World Bank in relation to the role of government in development. Generally this has been seen as a change from a state-sceptical to a state-friendly stance. In this Bulletin, European aid and development professionals critically examine the significant contribution that the WDR97 makes to the debate about the role of government in development. They explore the ‘strategy’ advocated by the Report’s authors of ‘matching role to capability’; adapting what governments do, and how they do it, to their capability. In doing so they address two main sets of issues: the validity of the views of the role of the state in development contained in WDR97, and the process by which the WDR97 was produced, involving questions about the role f the World Bank itself.