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The World Bank Safeguard policy requirements are the cornerstone of Bank support for sustainable poverty reduction and the key to effective development. In response to a changing global context, the Bank is considering how environmental and social safeguards must be adapted to its twin goals: ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Civil society organizations (CSOs) from the South and North are engaging in a global campaign to hold the Bank accountable to stronger, more comprehensive and properly implemented safeguards.
On August 4, 2015 the World Bank publicly released the second draft of its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), thus initiating Phase 3 of the safeguards review. The ESF contains the safeguard policies designed to protect communities and the environment in World Bank investment projects. The first draft of the ESF, which was approved for consultation in July 2014, was met with wide criticism from World Bank Vice Presidents, civil society organizations (CSOs), UN experts and local communities. The Bank is already accepting feedback on the second draft as part of the Phase 3 consultation period, which is expected to continue until the end of 2015.
Click here (العربية|Arabic) (Español|Spanish) to see BIC’s Guide to a First Look at the World Bank’s Revised Environmental and Social Framework. See below for further information on the second draft and Phase 3 consultations:
Second Draft of the ESF and Additional Documents
Phase 3 Consultation Calendar
Reactions to the Second Draft
Analysis of Second Draft prepared by the Dutch Sustainability Unit of the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment
Press Releases and Media Coverage of Second Draft
PRESS RELEASE: Serrano, Emmer Urge World Bank President to Help Improve Road Safety in Developing Countries
PRESS RELEASE: Dangerous Rollback in Environmental and Social Protections: World Bank’s New Framework Undermines President Kim’s Commitment to “No Dilution”
World Bank draft raises red flags (Live Mint)
World Bank Safeguard Proposal ‘Dangerous,’ Rights Groups Say (ICIJ)
Rights Groups Say New World Bank Proposal Endangers People And Environment (Huffington Post Business)
World Bank Unveils Conditions on Loans (APF/Yahoo)
How is the World Bank’s Newest Safeguards Document Different from the Initial Draft? (DevEx)
World Bank Regressing on Environmental and Social Protection Say Advocates (Humanosphere)
World Bank Unveils New Conditions for Loans (The Bull, Australia)
World Bank Unveils New Conditions for Loans (Dunya News, Pakistan)
World Bank Unveils New Conditions for Loans (Jamaica Observer, Jamaica)
World Bank Sets New Social and Environmental Rules (SCMP, China)
New Conditions for World Bank Loans (The Star, Malaysia)
The World Bank Unveils New Conditions for Loans(Economic Times, India)
Civil Society Reactions to Second Draft
Why the World Bank Should Embrace Human Rights (Human Rights Watch)
Inspection Panel Questions Role for Accountability in World Bank’s Draft Safeguard Policies (Accountability Council)
How is the World Bank’s newest safeguards document different from the initial draft? (DevEx)
Calls for World Bank safeguards without “policy dilutions” (Bretton Woods Project)
World Bank Safeguard Review (Center for International Environmental Law)
World Bank wants to further weaken environmental and social standards (Urgewald)
WORLD BANK SHOULD STRENGTHEN ITS RULES! (Both ENDS)
Letters to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
World Bank Executive Director Statements on Second Draft
Statement from Mr. Matthew T. McGuire, Executive Director for the United States
Brief of statement made by Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Executive Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka
Statement from Mr. Jose Alejandro Rojas Ramirez, Executive Director for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Spain
The effectiveness of the World Bank’s new safeguards, as published on August 4th, is compromised by several overarching issues, including an over-reliance on borrowers for due diligence, lack of clear timing and procedural requirements for risk appraisal, and no budget or implementation details. The revised ESF also debuts even weaker language on the World Bank’s responsibility vis-a-vis universal human rights. In a joint press statement, BIC and 18 other organizations noted that the new draft “contradicts World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s promise to ensure that the Bank’s new rules will not weaken or ‘dilute’ existing mandatory environmental and social protection measures and calls into question the extent to which the Bank has responded to public input.”
The World Bank formally initiated its three-stage safeguards review in July 2012. Phase I ran from October 2012 to April 2013, and included consultations with a range of stakeholders on an initial safeguards approach paper. Phase 2 of the safeguard review began in July 2014, when the World Bank’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) released the first draft of the Bank’s new safeguards policy for consultation, and ended in March 2015.
BIC focuses on the following safeguard areas of concern:
BIC also works closely with civil society partners who focus on the following safeguard concerns:
Other safeguards issues addressed in the ESF draft include Community Health and Safety, Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Heritage, and Financial Intermediaries. To learn more, see our “Resources” tab below or contact BIC to get in touch with our partners focusing on these issues.
What are the safeguards?
The original safeguards were created largely as a collective call from communities and organized pressure from CSOs. In the 1980s and 90s, in response to strong public criticism of its involvement in controversial projects—such as the Narmada Dam in India, which displaced over 300,000 people—the World Bank developed safeguards to help identify and minimize harms to people and the environment. Since that time, other international institutions have also created their own safeguards. These safeguards require borrowers to mitigate certain risks in order to receive bank financing. Examples include conducting an environmental and social impact assessment, consulting with affected communities, and restoring the livelihoods of displaced people.
When communities believe that World Bank-financed projects have not complied with the safeguards, they can bring their concerns directly to the institution. Since 1993, communities have been able to bring complaints to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel. This opens up additional avenues for dispute resolution, particularly when governments are not responsive to communities’ concerns.
Why is this review important?
The World Bank was the first international organization to adopt safeguards, and its safeguards have since become the most influential model. The new safeguards will shape how other international donors and investors approach environmental and human rights protection.
In recent years, global crises such as climate change, food and fuel shortages, and financial instability have emerged that affect all development projects. The Bank created the safeguards before these issues rose to prominence.
The balance of power has shifted, as well, with the rapidly expanding influence of emerging economies such as China, Brazil, and India, among other large middle income countries, at international institutions. At the same time, the World Bank is facing new competition from banks in emerging economies. In 2009 and 2010, China’s Export Import Bank and its Development Bank lent more to developing countries than the World Bank did. Financial institutions from emerging economies are providing governments with low cost alternatives to the Bank. This has led to a sense of competition and uncertainty over the World Bank’s role as a leader in development finance. The Bank has responded by trying to make its safeguards more flexible in an effort to attract large borrowing countries. These changes have made it more difficult for CSOs to monitor and hold the Bank accountable for its use of public funds.
Nevertheless, the World Bank’s safeguards continue to serve as de-facto international standards for other development banks and governments. As a result, any reforms to the World Bank’s safeguards—whether progressive or regressive—will have far reaching global impacts. Priorities include getting specific and mandatory protections for laborers, children, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, gender and sexual minorities, as well as for forests and natural habitats. There are also advocacy efforts surrounding the creation of a climate-focused safeguard.
The first draft ESF met wide criticism. For many CSOs and stakeholders, it ran contrary to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s promise that the new framework would not represent a weakening or dilution of current Bank social and environmental policies. Of significant concern is the proposed ESF’s use of ‘weasel words’, which protect the Bank from having to assume responsibility for compliance with the safeguards. Phrases such as ‘as appropriate,’ ‘where possible’ and ‘within a timeframe acceptable to the Bank’ allow for deferred risk appraisal, unclear supervision requirements and ‘opt-outs’, all of which undermine the past thirty years’ progress in protecting the poor and the environment from harm in Bank-funded projects. For a collection of media coverage and CSO reactions to the first draft, see our Safeguards Reactions Roundup.
When is this happening?
The draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), the Bank’s overarching policy for safeguards, was released for Phase 2 consultations in July 2014. Materials and submissions from Phase 2 are available under the “Resources” tab.
Phase 3 of the Safeguards Review began with the second draft of the ESF for public consultation in August 2015. A CSO letter on Phase 3 consultations was submitted to the World Bank Safeguards Review team and the World Bank Board of Directors on May 22, 2015. The Bank’s Chief Environmental and Social Standards Officer responded on June 23, 2015 with this letter.
Below are examples of other common criticisms of the World Bank safeguards. While the formal “safeguards review” began in October 2012, many reforms have already taken place that have changed the nature of Bank lending. As a result, the Bank’s safeguards review covers less than half of the Bank’s total portfolio, with the majority of Bank lending not being open to consultation. It is up to CSOs, in coordination and solidarity with Southern partners, to continue working together to broaden the scope of the review.
New types of lending
Non-investment lending activities are growing as a percentage of Bank lending.
Other IFIs, such as the Asian Development Bank and governments provide safeguards coverage of non-IL activities. The Bank has fallen behind international best practice.
The World Bank safeguards review should not be limited to investment lending, but rather should include full and systematic consideration of possible safeguards application to all Bank activities and operations with potential for significant environmental, social, or human rights impacts. Any decision on the coverage of the safeguards should come at the end of the safeguards review, not at the beginning. Whether or not the Bank attempts to limit the scope of the safeguards review to investment lending. CSOs will continue to push hard for safeguards application to all types of Bank activities with potential for significant social, environmental, and human rights impacts.
Although there is good content in the IFC sustainability policy and performance standards (e.g., on labor, FPIC, community impacts, health and safety, among others), IFC’s approach devolves too much responsibility to borrowers, tolerates open-ended compliance, lacks transparency, fails to meet Pelosi Amendment standards for public availability of EAs, and has other major weaknesses that make IFC undesirable as a model for the World Bank safeguards to emulate. Similarly, despite helpful efforts by the US and other EDs, the recent investment lending “reform” (ILR) exercise eliminated or downgraded to non-binding guidance dozens of formerly mandatory supervision and economic evaluation requirements.
Neither the IFC nor the ILR approaches should be considered appropriate as models on which to base the World Bank safeguards update. The Bank should build on its existing strengths and incorporate the best of international law and practice from all relevant institutions, including for example the ADB and OPIC.
Reliance on local laws and borrower systems
The Bank, for example, has developed a “country systems” approach, which allows borrowing governments to rely on their own local laws instead of following the safeguards. This helps to build countries’ own capacity, but can also mean that development projects go forward in the short term in the absence of strong environmental and human rights protections. Many poor communities do not have a voice in how their government chooses a development path or decides on specific high risk investments. While it is important to ensure country ownership over development projects, this ownership should be democratic, environmentally sustainable, and socially just.
The IFC investment model also relies heavily on a borrower’s system for managing environmental and social risks (ESMS). However, recent evaluations of large segments of IFC lending suggest that reliance on borrower systems is not adequately accountable or clearly delivering pro-poor outcomes.
Many borrowers have cautioned the Bank on moving too quickly and without adequate guarantees to the use of borrower systems. The ADB CSS initiative has focused on the careful strengthening of the capacity of country systems before devolving safeguard responsibilities. Bank safeguards can be more effective in strengthening and selectively using borrower systems only if such a process is properly designed, transparent, and accountable to an acceptable set of standards.
Moving safeguards “upstream” in the decision making process
The Bank’s country lending strategies include plans for numerous high-impact activities such as dams, roads, and agriculture. The only way these multi-year plans and resource allocations will not have significant impacts is if the Bank does not fund them. As activities with significant risk, communities that might be affected should have ample space to participate and inform strategies to avoid or mitigate those risks. See ESAM page for more information on CSO recommendations for upstream risk assessment.
Worldwide, indigenous peoples constitute some of the poorest of the poor, and the World Bank was an early leader on indigenous peoples’ rights. For example, the World Bank’s 1991 indigenous peoples policy requires clients to create an indigenous peoples development plan, which gives people a voice in the future development path of their community. This has since become global best practice for governments and companies. However, the World Bank has since fallen behind other development actors.
In 2004, for example, the World Bank slowed the advancement of indigenous peoples’ rights by creating a watered-down alternative to the international legal principle of “free, prior and informed consent.” The principle requires project developers to gain the consent of impacted indigenous peoples before starting a project. The World Bank’s policy only requires developers to conduct “free, prior and informed consultations” with indigenous communities, stripping them of the right to control their traditional lands. Only since the UN General Assembly’s adoption in 2007 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has the more robust “consent” principle moved forward among governments and companies.
Phase 2 Submissions on the Draft Environmental and Social Framework
Letters to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
Nobel Women’s Initiative Letter on draft ESF
Letter to Jim Kim on draft ESF from Boston Common Asset Management and Calvert Investments
Letter to Jim Kim on behalf of twenty-eight Special Procedures mandate holders of the U.N. Human Rights Council
Letter from Bank on Human Rights and signatories regarding the safeguards consultation process
Letter on Child Rights and Safeguards from 55 endorsing organizations
Submissions from CSOs
Critiques and Recommendations on WB Safeguards from Egyptian CSOs
بيان تفصيلى لمؤسسات المجتمع المدنى المصرى حول السياسات الحمائية الجديدة للبنك الدولى(Critiques and Recommendations on WB Safeguards from Egyptian CSOs- Arabic)
Déclaration des institutions de la société civile marocaine (Statement from Moroccan CSOs on the Bank’s Safeguard Policies, French)
بيان من مؤسسات المجتمع المدني المغربي (Statement from Moroccan CSOs on the Bank’s Safeguard Policies, Arabic)
Comments on WB Safeguards from Ulu Foundation- Learning from the ADB
Oxfam Submission on Phase 2 of WB Safeguards Review
Joint Nordic CSO input on World Bank Safeguards
World Resource Institute comments on draft ESF
Transparency International’s Submission on World Bank Safeguards
Comments from Latin American and Caribbean CSOs on Draft ESF and WB Consultation Process
Comentarios de la Sociedad Civil de América Latina y el Caribe sobre el draft ESF y el proceso de consulta del Banco Mundial
Environmental and Social Assessment (ESS1)
Climate Change (ESS3)
Community Health and Safety (ESS4)
Involuntary Resettlement (ESS5)
Indigenous Peoples (ESS7)
Recommendations from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation
Statement from Tanzanian Indigenous Peoples organizations on the proposed ESF (27 endorsing organizations)
Comments on Proposed ESF from Indian Law Resource Center
Information Disclosure and Stakeholder Engagement (ESS10)
Bank Information Center Child Rights Submission
BIC Child Rights Submission- Tata Mundra Case Study
BIC Child Rights Submission- MUTP Case Study
BIC Child Rights Submission- Malawi Water Project Case Study
Redline edits of ESS1 Annex 1_Disability and World Bank Safeguards Campaign
ESS1 Proposal for an Annex 2 on Universal Accessibility and Inclusion Plan_Disability and World Bank Safeguards Campaign
Submission from International Disability Alliance and International Disability and Development Consortium
Input from Light of the World on WB Safeguards Review
Inputs on ESS Framework from Persons with Disabilities in Tanzania/Disabled People International
Gender and SOGI
Submissions from National Governments
Comments from the Government of France
Comments from the Government of Germany
US Government Comments on Draft ESF
Comments and Recommendations from China on the Proposed New Safeguard Policies
Brazilian Government Comments on the Environmental and Social Framework Policy
Comments of the Government of India on the World Bank Consultation of the Safeguard Review
Republic of Indonesia Response to WB Safeguard Policies
Comments from the Russian Executive Director’s Office EDS23
Nordic/Baltic Comments on Draft ESF
Ministry of Labor Tajikistan
Comments from the Executive Director for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, and República Bolivariana de Venezuela
Civil Society Materials for Phase 2 Consultations
Safeguards Consultation Background Packet
ESS1 – Environmental and Social Assessment
ESS2 – Labor
ESS3 – Climate Change
ESS5 – Land and Resettlement
ESS6 – Biodiversity
ESS7 – Indigenous Peoples
ESS10 – Information Disclosure and Stakeholder Engagement
Talking points on Child Rights
Talking points on Disability Rights
Talking points on Gender & SOGIE
Talking points on Gender
Talking points on Human Rights
Talking points on the Environmental and Social Policy (ESP)
What IEG Recommends about the Safeguard Reform – Facts and Myths
Download All Materials (Zipped folder)
Phase 1 Statements and Correspondence
World Bank Response to CSO Top Priorities Letter, April 7, 2014
CSO Safeguard Top Priorities Letter, March 25, 2014
World Bank Safeguards Review Team Presentation at the 2014 Spring Meetings , April 12, 2014
United States Comments on the World Bank Safeguards Review (Phase 1), April 29, 2014
Initial Comments by Civil Society Organizations on the World Bank Safeguards Review, December 2012
Letter to President Kim accompanying CSO Comment on Safeguard Approach paper, December 20, 2012
World Bank reply to letter on Safeguard Policy review, January 13, 2013
Statement by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at CSO Town Hall Meeting, World Bank Annual General Meeting, October 10, 2012
CSO Letter to President Kim on Safeguards and Investment Lending Reform, September 7, 2012
CSO letter on World Bank safeguards review, September 14, 2011
World Bank response to CSO letter on safeguards review, September 20, 2011
World Bank Safeguard Policy Review: Early Issues, What to Expect?, August 2011, BIC
World Bank Safeguards Review Background, July 28, 2011 (Español), (Français)
World Bank gets jittery by Richard Mahapatra, July 15, 2011 (Down to Earth website)
CSO Civil Society Comments and Concerns about the World Bank’s Proposed “Program for Results” (P4R)
P4R Program for Results Lending Update, February 29, 2012, BIC
World Bank Safeguard Policies Official Documents
World Bank Safeguard Review Consultation Page, August 2012
World Bank Operational Manual
Program for Results (P4R, OP 9.0)
Development Policy Lending (OP 8.60)
Investment Lending Policy (OP 10.0)
IFC 2010 Performance Standards and Sustainability Policy Review
World Bank Guidance Note, Stakeholder Consultations in Investment Operations, November 2011
World Bank Business Modernization, April 11, 2012
Annexes to World Bank Business Modernization Report, April 11, 2012
The World Bank Corporate Scorecard, March 12, 2012
BIC Update: World Bank modernization agenda advances, sets stage for Safeguard review, June 18, 2012
How will the World Bank safeguards affect your country?
REDD+ Safeguards in Indonesia, April 2012
Read the executive summary in Indonesian
The Brazilian Safeguard Regime, Its Application, and Recommendations for the Future, April 2012
Read the executive summary in Portuguese
China’s Investments in Hydropower in the Mekong Region: The Kamchay Hydropower Dam, Kampot, Cambodia, April 2012
Read this document in Khmer
Uganda’s Civil Society Perspectives on International Reforms of Environmental and Social Safeguards for Development Finance, April 2012
“Will Safeguards Survive the Next Generation of Development Finance?”, Kirk Herbertson, International Rivers, June 2012
IEG Evaluation Brief, Evaluative Directions for the World Bank Group’s Safeguards and Sustainability Policies, No. 15 (July 18, 2011)
IEG Evaluation, Safeguards and Sustainability in a Changing World, 2010
Development Policy Operations & 2012 DPO Retrospective
Global Witness comment on 2012 DPO Retrospective, August 31, 2012
CSO Comment on World Bank 2012 Development Policy Operation Retrospective (BIC, DAR, FUNDAR) Sept 1, 2012
World Bank defends integrity of Development Policy lending, evidence lacking, January 2012, BIC
World Bank & Development Policy Lending in Brazil: Lessons for Revising DPL Policy, September 2011, BIC
World Bank and DPLs: What middle income countries want, February 2011, BIC
Other International Financial Institutions
Asian Development Bank:
African Development Bank:
Inter-American Development Bank:
Implementing Guidelines – Environment and Safeguards Compliance Policy
Independent Advisory Group on Sustainability Final Report, 2011
FCPF Common Approach Assessment of World Bank, IDB and UNDP – FCPF summary of Common Approach results
CSO statement on MDP Common Approach following PC9, July 13, 2011