Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Update and Consolidation of World Bank Safeguard Policies (2012-14)

The World Bank is currently undertaking a comprehensive process for ‘Updating and Consolidation’ of eight of its so-called ‘Environmental and Social Safeguard Policies’ and its policy on the use of Country Systems. ‘Safeguard Policies’ are policies intended to establish minimum requirements to minimise or remove the risk of social and environmental harms being directly caused by World Bank financed activities. The Country Systems policy is intended to allow countries to apply their own social and environmental safeguard systems if they are judged to be equivalent to the Bank’s own standards.

The ‘Updating and Consolidation’ process will have immense importance for indigenous peoples and others impacted by World Bank financing. In addition to all the normal areas of Bank financing, including for infrastructure, agribusiness, extractive industries and development policy loans, the Bank is increasingly involved in financing climate change-related initiatives, including those aimed at reducing deforestation and those designed to improve the adaptive capacity of both eco-systems and communities.

Given increasing pressures on the World Bank to compete with financial institutions in developing countries, there is a genuine concern that the ‘Updating and Consolidation’ process could result in a weakening of safeguards and reduced accountability of the World Bank and borrower countries. There may even be risks that some specific policies could be lost altogether. Forest Peoples Programme and many indigenous organisations and NGOs are engaged in tracking this process in an effort to ensure that it results in strengthened standards and greater World Bank accountability.

Begun in 2010, the process is proceeding slowly, but it is expected that a new set of policies will be in place in 2014. Details of the current status of the review can be found on the World Bank's website.

This FPP website page will provide up-to-date information on the ‘Updating and Consolidation’ process and related critical issues as they emerge.

Relevant resources

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Joint Letter on the World Bank’s Proposed Systematic Country Diagnostic and Country Partnership Framework

11 March, 2014

Critical inputs on the process of developing the World Bank’s new approach to assessing and managing serious risks at the country diagnostic and planning level.

Click here to read the letter

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Indigenous peoples and NGOs urge the UN to focus on the human rights impacts of multilateral finance institutions

1 October, 2013

The UN Human Rights Council – the highest body in the UN tasked with overseeing human rights law – has just finished meeting in Geneva. In a statement, a group of indigenous peoples’ organisations and non-governmental organisations urged the Council to urgently consider, and provide guidance on, the human rights obligations of multilateral finance institutions, an issue of key importance as these institutions review and update their safeguard systems. 

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Civil society organisations urge the World Bank Group to be more transparent in the process of developing the new Change Strategy

25 July, 2013

Thirty civil society organisations, including Forest Peoples Programme, have sent a letter to Pamela Cox (Senior Vice President of Change Management at the World Bank Group) to request updated information on the development of the new World Bank Group Strategy and the related institutional change process underway at the Group. The organisations urge the Bank to ensure that this process is undertaken in a participatory, transparent and inclusive manner.

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Joint NGO technical briefing on the World Bank Safeguard Review sent to the UK Executive Director

ADD International, Amnesty International UK, Bretton Woods Project, Christian Aid, FPP, PIPLinks, Keeping Children Safe, London Mining Network, Oxfam GB, Save the Children UK, Trades Union Congress (TUC)

15 July, 2013

Following the closure of Phase 1 of the World Bank's safeguards review consultations, various international NGOs, including FPP, have written to Gwen Hines (UK World Bank Executive Director) to urge her to engage with the safeguards review team ahead of their presentation to the World Bank Board on 23 July, on issues of critical importance. These issues include the scope and process of the review, the architecture for the new system of safeguard application, implementation concerns, recommendations on  ‘Emerging Issues’ identified in the October 2012 approach paper, and consultation concerns. More details of these issues are included with the letter in a technical briefing.

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Introduction: Why safeguards matter

29 April, 2013

So-called “safeguard standards” for international finance institutions emerged as a consequence of destructive forestry, agricultural colonisation and extractive megaprojects financed by the World Bank in the Amazon, Indonesia and India in the 1970s and 1980s.[i] Since then many other multilateral development banks and development agencies have adopted their own safeguard policies and related complaints mechanisms. In addition to the need to protect community rights from destructive development investments, it is increasingly recognised that even well-intentioned conservation and ‘community development’ projects can cause damage and violate rights if they are poorly designed and fail to protect human rights and fragile habitats.[ii] 

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Forwards or backwards? The World Bank’s safeguard review and update (2012-14)

29 April, 2013

The World Bank is currently undertaking a two-year “review and update” of eight of its ten social and environmental safeguard policies. NGOs have highlighted how the World Bank must use the review as an opportunity to upgrade its standards and bolster implementation and compliance systems to increase Bank accountability and deliver sustainable development outcomes. At the same time, they have raised concerns that the Bank’s plan to “consolidate” its policies, with greater emphasis on the use of country systems to address safeguard issues, could end up in weakened standards and less accountability of the Bank and borrower governments to affected communities and the public.

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The World Bank’s Forest Policy

29 April, 2013

As the World Bank reviews its environmental and social standards, a major opportunity to overhaul World Bank approach to forests must not be missed.

The negative impacts of World Bank-financed projects on tropical forests have been an issue of concern for civil society and forest peoples for decades. In the 1980s, World Bank megaprojects in the Amazon and in Indonesia in support for infrastructure projects, agricultural colonisation and transmigration generated major criticism from the public. This in turn generated the political pressure that was a key factor in leading the World Bank Group to adopt mandatory social and environmental standards, known as safeguards, to demonstrate its commitment to preventing harm to people and the environment [See Article 1].

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FPP E-Newsletter Special Edition on Safeguards, April 2013 (PDF Version)

Forest Peoples Programme

29 April, 2013

FPP E-Newsletter Special Edition on Safeguards, April 2013

As multiple international agencies adopt and update their social and environmental policies, this special edition Forest Peoples Programme E-Newsletter reviews experiences of communities and civil society with the safeguard policies of various international financial institutions. 

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Submission to the World Bank: 'Effective Implementation: the Key to Safeguard Reform'

FPP, Urgewald, Bank Information Center

26 April, 2013

The World Bank Safeguard Review and Update cannot be successful without explicitly ensuring that implementation is a central concern at every stage of policy review and expressly addressed in any new proposed outcome safeguard approach.

Endorsing organisations:

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