The World Bank and gender equality: Development Policy Financing

15 August 2019 | Briefings

Workers at this garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, formed a union with the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation. Credit - Solidarity Center

Find the full briefing here.

Acceda al contenido en Español aquí.

BWP’s new briefing explores how the World Bank addresses gender equality in Development Policy Financing (DPF), the World Bank instrument that provides credits, loans or guarantees to borrowing countries through fungible budget support, conditioned on policy reforms. It aims to stimulate further discussion around the linkages between gender equality, macroeconomic policy, and the role of the World Bank, ultimately to help create an enabling macroeconomic policy environment for gender equality.

The briefing presents the Bank’s role in shaping macroeconomic and gender policymaking, examining how DPF is designed and illustrating how gendered impacts are examined in policy and practice. In its overarching policy, the Bank states that staff must determine whether “specific policies supported by the operation are likely to have significant poverty and social consequences, especially on poor people and vulnerable groups.” Yet the recent operations outlined as case studies in BWP’s briefing highlight a number of gaps and remaining questions regarding the Bank’s approach to analysing the potential gendered impacts of policy reforms introduced through this lending instrument.

Without critically and comprehensively reviewing its DPF from a gender perspective, especially in relation to macroeconomic policy reforms, the World Bank is at risk of supporting inconsistent and counterproductive policy reforms, which could undermine its own aims to promote gender equality and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To strengthen and operationalise gender analysis in DPF, the World Bank should, in the first instance:

  • Adopt a formal definition of what constitutes “significant poverty and social consequences”, including in relation to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment;
  • Publicly re-commit to operationalising the 2013 guidance on Integrating Gender into PSIAs and its corresponding good practice note;
  • Ensure each Poverty and Social Impact Analysis is informed by those with gender expertise, including the World Bank’s gender department, and ensure inclusive consultation with local women’s rights organisations is included in the design of Development Policy Operations.

This briefing was produced as part of the Gender Equality and Macroeconomics project, a joint project of the Bretton Woods Project and the Gender and Development Network.