In March 2011, the World Bank launched a controversial proposal that would allow projects within so-called programmatic loans to borrower countries to go ahead without application of the Bank’s specific safeguard policies. Civil society organisations and indigenous peoples have raised major concerns about this initiative, which they fear in its current form would reduce the accountability of World Bank finance and could trigger a worldwide race to the bottom in social and environmental standards among multilateral and regional development banks.
"NGOs say Programme-for-Results Lending would allow countries to sidestep tough social and environmental safeguards that recipients of World Bank loans must normally meet."
Towards the end of 2010 the World Bank announced that it was launching a review process of eight of its so-called ‘safeguard policies’, those policies which are intended to establish minimum requirements to minimize or remove the risk of social and environmental harms being directly caused by World Bank financed activities (see list below) and its policy on the use of country systems. The review encompasses the policies that are binding on the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Agency (IDA), the two institutions that make up the public lending arms of the ‘World Bank’[i]. Over the years, the Bank’s safeguard policies have been successively reviewed and updated. While these revision processes have resulted in some useful safeguard standards, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples point to serious remaining gaps and weaknesses in the Bank’s safeguard framework. They highlight, for example, that the Bank’s standards and commitments are beginning to lag considerably behind other financial institutions in areas like resettlement and indigenous people’ rights, and lack an overall framework for social risk assessment.