IFI governance


The new World Bank environmental and social framework: Opportunities and challenges for implementation

7 October 2016

7 October 2016 | Minutes

Sponsor: World Bank, Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS)


  • Hartwig Schafer, Vice President, OPCS
  • Mark Alan King, Chief Environmental and Social Standards Officer, OPCS
  • Faith Nwadishi, Founder & Executive Director Koyenum Immalah Foundation (KIF)
  • Michele de Nevers, Senior Associate, Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • Bill Kennedy, Director, Office of Accountability, USA
  • Yahia Abdalrahman Elmahadi, Managing Director, Sudanese Development Initiative (SDI)

Hartwig Schafer

  • This has been a long journey and we appreciate your input in this long process.
  • The focus now is on the implementation, and I can assure you we will not implement until everyone is ready, the staff, the countries, civil society.
  • Over the next 18 months, the team will provide clear guidance material and tools.
  • Then we will role out a capacity building, build institution in our borrower countries.

Mark Alan King (for the powerpoint slides click here)

  • I will give you an update on where we are. In terms of the framework lets remind us how we got there; with extensive global consultations. Second phase was more focused on architecture, and the third phase implementatibility and unresolved issues as identified by board of directors.
  • Both the bank and the borrower will be supported in meeting the needs of this framework.
  • Organisation of implementation plan, borrowers, bank and partners: We need to make countries aware what the new requirements are; where they see they have strengths and weaknesses, with a tailored capacity building approach. Undoubtablty there will be teething problems. Regional capacity building programs. Development of the guidance materials, will be fed into a knowledge portal.
  • Focus on the bank; outcome based, risk based approach. Huge internal learning programme; general awareness raising, more intensive training to environmental and social staff (300 safeguards staff). We have to focus on the software, the processes within the bank. The accreditation of staff, anyone working with safeguards will need training and accreditation.
  • Rolling out this framework around the world is an enormous challenge: Borrower capacity building, short term ESF training in country, project level support and country level support, regional programmes.
  • Developing guidance; cross institutional people on the working groups. Working group to come up with drafts, which will be shared with WB staff and release then on the WB website for review. At times we will organise expert panels to inform the guidance notes.
  • Best practice methodologies and tools and checklists to create a more consistent approach to the projects. The bank needs to work in one risk management system (ESMS).
  • Stakeholder engagement, explorative discussing with some trade unions. There is much scope for stakeholders to provide input. Three weeks ago we had a CSO meeting with BIC and sightsavers about how CSOs can inform the guidance notes.
  • Indicative roadmap for ESF implementation
  • We will have engagement with specific civil society in countries where we do investigations.
  • We will not roll out the framework until a few readiness benchmarks have been met.

Michele de Nevers

  • I very much welcome the new framework, it has been a long time coming. The long timeframe it has taken to get this new ESF out shows the challenge of moving to a new framework.
  • Are the MDBs relevant in todays world? MDBs can be extremely slow; a running joke with the WB being snow wide and the MDBs the 7 dwarfs.
  • What is new and what is needed, we have faith here, but we need trust, we need trust between borrowers and the bank.
  • Looking back at the time I was at the bank (6 years ago): The environmental assessments wouldn’t find their way into the legal documents. Focus on implementation is critical.
  • Country systems, rather than a rules based and process based system. The reliance on the flexibility of the implementation, rather than focusing on set steps.
  • I would urge the bank to focus on awareness raising and training and trust building between staff and management and management and the board.
  • The WB cannot be an effective partner in development in case it is risk averse.With developing countries having so much access to finance nowadays, it is for the WB to focus on new areas.
  • I recommend that in a project move as quickly as possible to accredit the borrower to support use of their own systems and processes.

Bill Kennedy

  • 30 some years of experience in working and assessing environment and social impact: uptake of strategic use of ESFs, biodiversity, improving stakeholder participation, disaster and management, human rights, labour and working conditions, use of country safeguards systems, monitoring and evaluation.
  • The most important procedural issues I think are, monitoring and implementation and the use of country safeguard systems.
  • I looked at infrastructure projects and safeguards. Monitoring is very important. German expression ; ‘trust is good, control is better’. Why is monitoring currently not taking place, because it is left to do by junior staff.
  • The consideration of cost in environmental and social safeguards is important, usually left out.
  • Use of country systems, there are a lot of different views around this. I think it’s a good idea. I think there is definite need to improve efficiency and to give country ownership of projects. Shortcoming with country systems, rarely have requirements of monitoring and lack of sharing information, lack of human resources for carrying out the social impact assessments and reviewing them.
  • 1980s I worked for the Dutch government on the question ‘What are the methods of identifying ESF?’ The answer is: previous experience and professional judgement. It can be local expertise, especially from indigenous peoples.

Yahia Abdalrahman Elmahadi

  • I will reflect on the possible challenges of implementing the framework on the ground: Difficult to get by-in from governments on projects; gap in understanding of the project and ESF; glad to hear there are guidelines and guidance notes, but they seem to stay on the website or in the office.
  • It is important, Mark, to somehow find a way of keeping local people involved in the country offices, the staff who go into the field and know how to speak to people and speak the local language.
  • I attended a session yesterday by the IEG on evaluating citizen engagement and it seemed people don’t think the bank has got citizen engagement down perfectly. The Bank may have a lot to learn from other frameworks that have been developed. Looking at the how the bank does its own consultations, this can be better, and a lot can be done better by the bank in their consultations. We need to consultation as they are being presented. One of the guidelines should focus on how the bank does consultations and have processes that are truly inclusive. And civil society can play a role there.
  • I have been a part of WB projects in Sudan, people coming down from Washington only have time to speak to high-level government officials and staff, because the visits are quick and time is limited, so they do not speak to the locals actually working in the country, which is an issue.
  • Monitoring and learning how the framework is doing, putting that into schedules on time and involving civil society in these evaluations.
  • The role of civil society, they can definitely play a big role, if engaged properly.
  • With the Africa VP, we were talking about really engaging with civil society. And doing a mapping of civil society in the country, making it easier to identify which CSOs to engage with for which project. Work with the country officers.


Q. Friends of Earth Indonesia: Country systems will be different in each country, for example southern vs northern countries. We have a concern under the new ESF for human rights defenders and eco defenders and how will they be protected, as they may not be protected in the country systems. We are very concerned how civil society can engage with the project where the country system doesn’t allow freedom of expression.

Q. Peter Bakvis, ITUC: ITUC represents 180 million organised workers. On ESF 2, the new labour safeguard; as a trade union movement we have a lot of experience with safeguards with other banks. One thing we have learned is that early consultation of those who not have knowledge is important and those organised in a trade union that can come together freely.
EBRD wanted to formalise the exchange of information in implementation, ITUC could provide the information they needed. The partnership that is talked about with CSOs is very important, such as ITUC and UN agencies such as the ILO, to see how to work together on the implementation of the new safeguards. The bank does not have a lot of expertise around the labour issues, are you planning on hiring a labour expert? Do you see the partnership taking place in the (staff) training, could ILO or unions take part of training sessions and in the monitoring phase?

Q. from Peru: How is the WB applying the ESF in developing countries where the country system requirements are lower or different or don’t have enough enforcement mechanism. Could they create a double standard between the WB and the countries? Is there a threat of the sovereignty of the state and how will the bank manage the situation?

Q. centre of international environmental law: This new framework does not have a standard on Human rights, how will you make sure these are respected and incorporated in implementation?

Q. Bank Information Centre (BIC): The assessments don’t take into account the learning from previous projects. All of the guidance that is being developed, how will these pieces be integrated with the specific assessment, how can project effected communities feed into those pieces?

Mark Alan King

  • Country systems being different in different jurisdictions. How can people contribute without any fear of retaliation. The WB needs to do a risk analysis how to conduct this. Clearly we want to hear from civil society and countries. In those countries where its illegal to meet, we have organised meetings in neighbouring countries or country reps in DC.
  • Labour: Early consultation is extremely important. Partnering at what levels, at all sorts of levels at country levels, great deal of benefit of having people involved in training programmes.
  • We look at country systems, we have a lot of experiences what is working and what isn’t working. We are talking about ESF in and around our projects.

Charles, World Bank staff

  • on human rights: This questions came up during the roundtables. Yes the term human rights per se may not be found in the 10 standards, they are at the essence of what we are doing with these standards. There is extensive mention of women, LGTB, people with disabilities and indigenous people.
  • The use of the term has a political connotation, with are 180 members were not comfortable with including that term.

Maninder Gill, Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank

  • On the guidance note gender violence task force, this is where civil society really needs to make contributions and we value your contributions so far.


Q. Ulu foundation: considering the increased unsafety of human rights defenders and that civil society space is shrinking and increased violence. Given that guidance is not mandatory and that the rules for the use of country systems are unclear, are there any mandatory measures considering of country systems and gap filling and can civil society input in these? There is a lot of fears of our colleagues who are being persecuted and arrested.

Q. Urgewald: Increased large infrastructure projects and capacity building is going to be the holy grail. Considering that we should learn from previous experiences, the results into previous large scale projects (dams etc), has been quite disastrous. There has to be a sequencing that the capacity actually exits. Will the guidance note consider the sequencing?

Q. from Cameroon: how will reforms on country level being negotiated?

Mark Alan King

  • guidance is a funny species, it is not mandatory, there is the understanding that it should be followed. The use of country systems is not vague, we have an interpretation note on this that is very clear. We think we have addressed the concerns of all. Having the use of civil society is key, an encourage gap-filling of our knowledge. Country systems have different aspects, what’s in legislation and procedural systems and the track records. We would not endorse a framework that is not efficient on the ground.