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MDB safeguards

MDB safeguard systems

The World Bank conducted a comparative review of environmental and social safeguards (IBRD/IDA) and the corresponding safeguard policies of the other major Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The review found convergence between the different policies as a result of their iterative evolution and deliberate efforts towards harmonization.

Regarding the thematic issues singled out in the Addis Agenda (human rights and gender), the comparative review concluded that most MDBs refer to human rights in supportive aspirational terms, while recognizing the responsibility of clients to respect human rights. 

The review also found that the World Bank Gender Mainstreaming Strategy applies at the strategic level rather than the project level, although there are occasional references to gender in the Bank’s specific safeguard policies. Other MDBs either have issued gender policies that are explicitly designed to be applied at the project level or have more systematically integrated gender considerations into their operational safeguard requirements.

The World Bank Environmental and Social Framework

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), following extensive consultations. A number of IATF members, including the ILO and OHCHR, actively engaged in these consultations within the scope of their respective mandates and expertise. The ESF affirms that World Bank’s activities support the realization of human rights, seeks to avoid adverse impacts, and support its member countries as they strive to progressively achieve their human rights commitments. It also broadens the thematic coverage of the Bank’s safeguards, introducing labour and working condition protection and an over-arching non-discrimination principle, among others. Finally, it places greater emphasis on the use of borrower frameworks and capacity building, with the aim of creating sustainable borrower institutions and increasing efficiency.

Some stakeholders raised a number of concerns relating to potential gaps in supervision derived from the increased resort to borrower’s systems, potential protection gaps in relation to co-financing, and insufficient alignment with international standards in some thematic areas. The World Bank is currently disseminating the ESF through the preparation of guidance notes and capacity-building activities in preparation of the entry into force of the ESF in 2018.

New Development Banks

Also in 2016, the recently created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) adopted its own Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The AIIB ESF incorporates the commitment to support human rights and encourage respect for them, and recognizes the importance of gender equality for successful and sustainable economic development and the need for inclusiveness and gender responsiveness in the projects it supports. The AIIB safeguards include two thematic standards, on involuntary resettlement (ESS2) and indigenous peoples (ESS3).

The New Development Bank (NDB), whose objective is to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and other emerging economies and developing countries, adopted its ESF in 2016. The NDB policy affirms that gender equality is important to successful and sustainable economic development and commits to mainstream gender equality issues in all its operations. The framework includes specific thematic standards on involuntary resettlement (ESS2) and indigenous peoples (ESS3). However it does not incorporate an express commitment to respect human rights, and stakeholders have expressed concern over the lack of consultations and called for an open consultation process going forward.