UK civil society meeting with Minister of State Desmond Swayne

7 September 2015

20 November 2015 | Minutes

This was a meeting on 7 September 2015 between the Minister of State of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and civil society representatives, focusing on the World Bank’s safeguards review.



Desmond Swayne, Minister of State

Minister’s private secretary

Steven Sabey, Head of World Bank Group team

Rachel Grant, Policy Adviser, World Bank Group team

Phil Stevens, ED Adviser, World Bank UK Delegation



Kate Geary, Land Rights Policy Lead, Oxfam

Helen Tugendhat, Policy Advisor, Legal and Human Rights and Responsible Finance Programmes, Forest Peoples Programme

Owen Tudor, Head of European Union and International Relations, TUC

Elizabeth Drew, Head of International Institutions, International Alert

Natasha Kennedy, Multilateral and Policy Campaign Manager, Sightsavers

Petra Kjell, Programme Manager, Bretton Woods Project



  • Introductions
  • Overarching issues:
    1. General points (BWP)
    2. Accountability and implementation (FPP)
    3. Borrower country systems, incl FCAS (International Alert)
  • Rights:
    1. Labour rights (TUC)
    2. Disability (ADD International/Sightsavers)
  • Land (Oxfam)
  • Consultation process



Overarching issues


NGO points:

  • Amnesty points on human rights
  • Improvement in bringing policies in line with international human rights law and standards (e.g. indigenous peoples), but language in vision statement not improved and contradictory
  • No commitment by WB to abide by HR standards or for projects not to lead to HR violations
  • CSOs do not expect WB to impose HR on borrowers, but be an objective to achieve to ensure Bank projects do not negatively impact on rights on communities affected
  • UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Phil Alston, will be in London in October, welcome opportunity for minister to meet


Accountability and implementation

NGO points:

  • ESS7 indigenous peoples policy has seen improvements
  • ESSF now in near final form, would like to hear more from the Bank on how to harmonise with other lending frameworks, what is the process ahead
  • Technical Assistance is important, but can discuss more in meeting on Friday
  • Concerns over transferring monitoring and supervision layer to WB, problems have been reported by Inspection Panel and IEG in the past, if this is increased how will WB improve


Borrower country systems, incl FCAS

NGO points:

  • Fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS) getting increasing financing, IDA 17 50% rise. Adapting to FCAS conditions is therefore vital.
  • There are improvements in the draft; framework references the need for independent specialists to conduct the Environmental and Social Impact Assessments in situations where Borrower capacity is limited and for projects classified as High and Substantial Risk.
  • But added clarity is needed on how to borrower systems will be assessed and the circumstances in which Borrowers must retain independent third party specialists
  • Independent oversight needs to extend to social and conflict analyses and the Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment in FCAS contexts – so at the macro and project levels.
  • Compliance must also be monitored across implementing parties.


  • Want stronger language on human rights, but difficult to get – considered on a national level and the role that national CSOs can play in presenting the issues that matter to them
  • You may wish to consider how to work with your networks in borrower countries to raise some of the issues that you wish to be addressed
  • Implementation is key – the UK has asked for a detailed implementation plan. There will be some road testing to test for loop holes, including on some inspection panel cases and guidance notes will be developed
  • Risk mitigation around intermediaries will be important


  • Challenging to persuade others on the board
  • Culture change is the issue, need to work out a structure – the new framework has more focus on monitoring and supervision
  • Independent monitors important
  • Not looking at project by project importance – looking at particular countries


  • Focus on perfecting the framework and guidance



Labour rights & disability

Trade union points:

  • Thanks for work of DFID on the labour safeguard, some improvements, but a few more things to raise:
  • Child labour ref, etc, but no ILO standards – it is a priority for HMG to have rules based international system
  • Problem with selective application, e.g. coverage of all project workers, regardless of if defined as public servants
  • Freedom of association respected where upheld, but otherwise not – language not as helpful as it could be


  • Difficulty with name checking ILO – why should WB impose someone else’s standards?, Would you be satisfied if the principles were set out, but not referenced as ILO?

Trade union response:

  • Would prefer to be pinned to requirements
  • ILO core standards have not changed since 1998
  • When talking to other governments who have signed up, why pushing back now?

NGO points:

  • We are a UK led agency on disability
  • Improvements, but lack of consistency, e.g. references to vulnerable groups
  • Could be oversight, but want it to be reference throughout the standard
  • Disability should be included in inclusion, accessibility
  • Risk to undermine great work done to date
  • UK government in good position to push


  • Can’t disagree
  • Difficulty with name checking ILO – why should we impose someone else’s standards?


  • WB board could become policy to check on someone else’s standard
  • Will continue to be discussed
  • On disability, interested in comments you have


  • What if there was a specific guidance note on disability?

NGO response:

  • Don’t want for guidance note to be supplemented
  • Universal and accessibility plans, can’t talk about core principles on vulnerability without including marginalised, disability
  • g. on labour standard, why disability was not included – seemed on oversight
  • We have worked with the Bank Information Center with a board level group
  • We want consistent language

Land and financial intermediaries

NGO points:

  • Thanks to the great work by the UK
  • On land and resettlement – people are not just displaced by land acquisitions
  • There are some positives, but worrying exemptions, e.g. indirect impacts on people’s livelihoods downstream of a large dam – reliance on ESS1 [assessment and management of environmental and social risks and impacts] is not sufficient as no requirement to restore livlihoods – could lead to disasters, e.g. re big infra in Africa
  • Concerned that Board will not have sufficient information re full resettlement impacts, if RAPs are not prepared before Board approval. Nor will communities have a chance to challenge.
  • Latest draft doesn’t address these concerns
  • On ESS9 on financial intermediaries, the second draft is weaker than the first draft
  • It refers to oversight at portfolio rather than project level.


  • Seems reasonable ask
  • Expropriation and compulsory purchase, best if it’s in public interest

NGO response:

  • The definition of ‘public interest’ has been used too often, as shown by Bank’s own research.,Also e.g. India’s definition of squatters – the term squatters is too loosely used leaving people vulnerable.
  • According to WB research 90% of rural lands are unregistered, residents incredibly vulnerable to be defined as squatters or illegal.


  • Adverse possession?


  • The statement from the Indian ED et al, show these are sensitive issues in some countries
  • On the loopholes, some things may have slipped through the cracks inadvertently so we will follow up.
  • WB will be road testing the framework including Inspection Panel cases what would have been included under the new framework. We will also push for an FI project to be included.


Consultation process


  • There will be a public statement on its safeguards position, since others have been doing so – it will be ready at the end of the month or in October
  • We want to be ambitious and go for as good principles as we can get

NGO question:

  • Will you be consulting with other countries?


  • Won’t be a joint statement, but could look to do one later

NGO comment:

  • Added burden and lack of clarity can be addressed, resourcing is a question

NGO points:

  • AIIB point: the consultation is just a month, unclear how CSOs will be consulted or where


  • UK safeguards consultation has happened, also short timeline
  • Q on how to engage CSOs in the time frame
  • There should be a video conference in the UK
  • There will be a 3 year review point – the early engagement place is now, but not the only opportunity

NGO comment:

  • There is no provision for Asian languages, which has been flagged


  • Developing country consultations is the opportunity for WB to clarify points
  • There will be additional countries
  • There are difficult conversations on scale – resources vs consultation

NGO comment:

  • How much to push for original asks if there will be guidance notes – could you let us know one or two areas that the UK will push?


  • Will have to wait for statement
  • We will have to prioritise, there will be formal meetings with the board, we will meet with other countries, and decide priorities


  • Think there are a number of things where the draft could be better, also have to think tactically
  • Thanks to NGOs for engagement and the detailed technical points