World Bank seeks public input on safeguard policies

Cyril Muller, World Bank vice-president for external affairs, said the bank has kicked off a series of public consultations to inform a two-year review of its environmental and social safeguard policies. Photo by: Edhral / CC BY-SA

The World Bank has kicked off a series of public consultations to inform a two-year review of its environmental and social safeguard policies.

“We’ve begun the process of updating … these critical polices, which have been the cornerstone of our collective efforts to protect people and the environment,” Cyril Muller, the bank’s vice-president for external affairs, said at a public stakeholders meeting held Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.

The meeting is a first in a series of face-to-face consultations and focus group discussions the World Bank would be hosting through March 14 to gather public input as it reviews its eight safeguard policies. The World Bank also accepts comments and input online.

This review of the safeguard policies is part of the World Bank’s broader effort to update all its policies and procedures. Earlier this month, it released a revised investment lending policy that takes effect 2013, as Devex has reported.

The safeguard policies review is a three-phase process that formally began in October. The first phase is dedicated to seeking general public input and runs through Feb. 2013. The World Bank is expected to publish a report about the first phase in April, and run a second round of consultations from May to October 2013. The third phase, which will feature online and targeted face-to-face discussions on a second draft of the revised policies, will be from January to March 2014.

Stakeholders have either welcomed or criticized the review. Among those who expressed concerns is U.S. Democratic Sen. Nancy Pelosi of California, who said the review could weaken instead of strengthen the policies. The lawmaker did say she supported strengthening the safeguards to cover “human rights, working conditions, and a stronger focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation,” IPS News reports.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, stressed that the review is an opportunity for the World Bank president to leave a “legacy on human rights” and “show the bank will change under his leadership,” IPS news notes.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.