Two new official reviews examine the World Bank’s efforts to protect the environment. They are being circulated just as the Bank nears completion of its new Environmental Strategy, to be discussed by the Bank’s Board in mid-July.
A February report How Far into the Mainstream? A Review of Environmental Issues in International Development Association Activities found that there is increasing integration of environment concerns into project work, but that “mainstreaming the environment into the macroeconomic policy dialogue, as reflected in the CAS (and now the PRSP), has been slower and the achievements mixed”. The report, by the Bank’s IDA staff, says “there is clearly more to be done to ensure that appropriate attention is paid to the long-term sustainability of natural resource use and to the impacts of environmental degradation on development”. Environmental Assessments are too project specific “often introduced too late in the project cycle to have major impacts on identification and design” and there is “inadequate follow-up during implementation”. Thus “better measures of progress need to be developed for all aspects of environment work, covering both process steps and progress on the ground”.
A leaked draft review (March 2001) by the Bank’s Operations Evaluation Department is more critical. It argues that “what is missing is evidence of a clear, operational institutional commitment. And that is worrisome”. Among the review’s recommendations are to:
- ensure that the safeguard policies and standards for their implementation are clear and fully understood by managers and staff;
- define policies and practices for treating environmental issues in adjustment and programmatic lending;
- provide adequate independent funding for oversight of safeguard processes and shield compliance review processes and staff from conflicts of interest.
On 12-13 June 2001 the Royal Institute for International Affairs and Forum for the Future held a London workshop on “Increasing the contribution of international financial institutions to sustainable development”. Report available soon on the RIIA website.