World Bank safeguards will see a third round of consultations

A session on safeguards policy reform during the 2014 World Bank annual meetings. The financial institution will hold another round of consultations on its new safeguards with various stakeholders, including civil society. Photo by: International Accountability Project / CC BY

World Bank safeguards watchers will have to wait a little longer to get a glimpse of the final social and environmental protection plan, but they also have another chance to weigh in.

The new World Bank safeguards will see another round of consultations from stakeholders and civil society, pushing the final executive board approval of the document to fall 2015. The bank previously indicated it would produce a board-approved safeguards document ahead of its spring meetings in mid-April, but the process has been plagued by civil society complaints so far.

The safeguards — or “Environmental and Social Framework” — are the standards used to protect people and the environment before, during and after the implementation of bank projects. The ESF has been undergoing a second round of consultations since October 2014 and civil society groups have routinely staged walkouts and protests in cities around the world.

When Devex asked why an additional round of consultations is necessary, Stefan Koeberle, director of operations risk management wrote in a live chat Thursday that another round will allow the bank to accept feedback on a new draft, one which reflects the changes from the first and second rounds of consultations.

“The next draft of the ESF will include revisions and detailed directives/procedures for bank staff,” he said. “Once it has been considered by the Committee of Development Effectiveness (tentatively in June), we will make it available in a third robust and inclusive round of consultations to seek further feedback and refine it.”

The ESF draft drew criticism from civil society groups and stakeholders last year over concerns that the document lacked specific language on human rights and environmental protections. Critics of the ESF requested that the bank extend the consultation period, which the bank has now done twice.

“Both the World Bank's portfolio and the needs and capacities of our borrowers have changed, and new environmental and social issues have emerged,” Agi Kiss, regional environmental safeguards adviser, wrote in response to a question from a live chat participant about why the bank decided to revise its safeguards. The original safeguards had not been overhauled since 1999.

“The bank's Independent Evaluation Group found there was room for improvement in the bank's safeguards and their implementation, including changing from an overemphasis on ‘upfront’ preparation to focusing equally on project implementation, and an increased focus on results rather than procedures,” she wrote.

What can the World Bank do to make a third round of consultations even more comprehensive than the last? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.