Climate and civil activists criticise proposed World Bank environmental and social framework



The World Bank released its draft social and environmental safeguards on Wednesday, following their leak last week. Environmental groups and activists have said the new framework weakens protections for disadvantaged groups and doesn’t address climate concerns.

The proposals aim to improve upon the bank’s old environmental and social framework and be more relevant to today’s world. The bank launched a review to update its safeguard policies in 2012 and will now accept comments on the draft until December, although final approval will not go through until 2015.

Concerns were previously raised by some of the bank’s managers in leaked emails seen by the Observer.

The emails raised concerns that World Bank’s loans could become more readily available, but this could lead to lower environmental and social standards.

Now the Bank Information Center (BIC), an independent organisation who monitors the World Bank, has criticised the draft proposals, saying they are “weak” and there are not enough protections for the poor and the environment.

“The World Bank has fallen far short of its goal of setting a new global standard when it comes to protecting the poor and the planet. Instead, it is setting off a race to the bottom”, said Vince McElhinny, the Bank Information Center’s senior policy advisor.

Activists have said, along with limited protection for the poor, not enough is included about climate change. Soumya Dutta, convener of Beyond Copenhagen collective and other climate justice groups in India said,

Despite the bank’s warning of the dangers that a warming world poses to development, there is only sporadic mention of climate change in the safeguard proposal. Nowhere does it lay out what governments have to do to assess if their projects will exacerbate climate change or how climate change will affect the viability of their projects.”

The BIC also says new loopholes in the proposals allow governments to, “opt out of previously guaranteed protections for indigenous peoples”.

The World Bank said in a statement that they realise the challenge of these complex issues and hope the framework can help make a difference to people around the world.

“The proposed standards aim to provide clearer definitions and guidance, and clarify the roles of the bank and the borrowing country.

“This proposal also aims to strengthen our ability to manage environmental and social risks and impacts in the projects we fund and ensure that risks are assessed, managed and mitigated throughout the lifetime of the project,” said Stefan Koeberle, director of operations risk management at the World Bank.

Photo: US Embassy New Delhi via Flickr

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Further reading:

Leaked emails show World Bank could ease loans at expense of environment

World Bank to invest $775m in India’s renewable energy

World Bank lowers growth projections for developing countries

World Bank: ‘dramatic’ gender gap among African farmers


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