An Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) meant to expand the protection of people and the environment in World Bank-financed investment projects has been approved by the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors following almost four years of review.
4 August 2016: An Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) meant to expand the protection of people and the environment in World Bank-financed projects has been approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, following almost four years of review.
The ESF, which includes 10 “Environmental and Social Standards,” or safeguards, is the result of lengthy consultations that began in 2012 and were held with nearly 8,000 stakeholders, including governments, development experts and civil society groups, in 63 countries.
The ESF, subtitled ‘Setting Environmental and Social Standards for Investment Project Financing,’ outlines policy for World Bank project finance, as well as borrower requirements. It is meant to ensure that projects have broad coverage and access, benefit more people, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, and strengthen partnerships with other multilateral development banks (MDBs), development partners and bilateral donors. The ESF aligns the World Bank’s environmental and social protections with those of other development institutions, and aims to enhance transparency, non-discrimination, social inclusion, public participation and accountability. It also expands roles for grievance redress mechanisms.
The Framework published by the World Bank provides a “Vision for Sustainable Development,” which relays the World Bank’s environmental and social sustainability goals. It then relays the “World Bank Environmental and Social Policy for Investment Project Financing,” which establishes the mandatory requirements that the World Bank must follow with regard to project finance. The Framework then presents ten “Environmental and Social Standards” that outline requirements that Borrowers and projects are to meet through a project’s life-cycle.
The ten Environmental and Social Standards aim to help borrowers manage project-related social and environmental risks with a view to reducing poverty and achieving prosperity. The safeguards address: assessment and management of environmental and social risks and impacts; labor and working conditions; resource efficiency and pollution prevention and management; community health and safety measures on road safety, emergency response and disaster mitigation; land acquisition, restrictions on land use and involuntary resettlement; biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources; indigenous peoples and Sub-Saharan African underserved traditional local communities; cultural heritage; financial intermediaries; and stakeholder engagement and information disclosure throughout the project cycle.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that the safeguards will build “updated and improved protections for the most vulnerable people in the world and our environment” into World Bank financed projects. He also highlighted that the World Bank will “substantially increase” finance for the safeguards, assuring “enough funding for both implementation and building capacity in countries so that they can play a more active role in protecting people and the environment.”
The World Bank will launch a 12 to 18 month preparation and training period for transitioning to the ESF, which is expected to be operational in early 2018. Initial implementation will focus on supporting and strengthening borrower capacity to build sustainable borrower institutions and increase efficiency; training World Bank staff and borrowers to implement the ESF; and strengthening the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Risk Management System. Current safeguards will continue in parallel to the new ESF for approximately seven years, to govern those projects that were approved prior to the ESF’s launch. [World Bank Press Release] [Publication: Environmental and Social Framework: Setting Environmental and Social Standards for Investment Project Financing] [World Bank Safeguard Policies Webpage]