Learning lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic: The World Bank’s macroeconomic policies and women’s rights

29 September 2021 | Briefings

Scenes from the municipal market in Tucuru, Guatemala. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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The World Bank has been staunchly criticised by civil society organisations for failing to put a feminist, just recovery front and centre of its Covid-19 pandemic response, and failing to take adequate steps to reduce the harmful impacts of the pandemic on gender equality globally.

This research argues that the Bank’s current frameworks for analysing its work from a gender perspective, guided by its current Gender Strategy, have a critical blind spot which largely neglects the impacts of its macroeconomic policy advice on gender equality. This has resulted in the Bank supporting austerity policies, including through its development policy finance (DPF) instrument, which can be very harmful to gender equality, without adequately assessing their impacts.

This research aims to build on the premise that, despite its proactive gender work, many of the macroeconomic policies that the World Bank promotes, through both policy conditions and advice, undermine gender equality. It will highlight this through five case studies of World Bank loans and credits to Ecuador, Kenya, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Gabon.

This briefing will argue that the World Bank must reconsider its diagnostic tools and policy prescriptions and advice attached
to loans. It is vital that the Bank understands its own role in undermining countries’ fiscal space, decent work and progressive taxation policies, to ensure that similar policy recipes are not repeated, especially as countries attempt to recover from the economic health and social crises triggered by the pandemic.

This briefing was produced as part of the Gender Equality and Macroeconomics project, a joint project of the Bretton Woods Project, the Gender and Development Network, International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IRAW) Asia Pacific and the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice (Latindadd).