If you are like me, you most likely have heard of the World Bank, but may not have a great deal of knowledge on the organizations environmental and social safeguard policies or the consult process that is taking place to elicit feedback on the newly updated policy document. In addition, you may not recall ever hearing of the Bank Information Center (BIC).
To understand about the consult that took place, it is helpful to first have some background information on the institutions involved. Before I attended "La Consulta", I did a little research on the World Bank, BIC, and the newly updated safeguard policies
Established in 1944, the World Bank provides low-interest loans, zero to low-interest credits, and grants to developing countries. The World Bank is primarily a development institution. Its central purpose is to promote economic and social progress in developing countries. The World Bank exists to promote the development of impoverished countries by providing them with technical assistance and monetary funding for projects and policies that will realize the countries' economic potential. The Bank provides most of its financial and technical assistance to developing countries by supporting specific projects.
The World Bank is composed of two major institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). These institutions work with governmental bodies and are managed by member countries. There are 188 member countries in the World Bank Group* (including the U.S & Peru). The member countries govern the World Bank through the Board of Governors and the Board of Executive Directors. Along with the IMF and Regional Development Banks, the World Bank is one of the largest sources of development finance in the world.
* In reality, the World Bank Group is comprised of 5 institutions: (IBRD, IDA, IFC, MIGA, ICSID). The IBRD and IDA work with governments and together are called the “World Bank”. The IFC and MIGA work with private business and the ICSID works to resolve arbitration and investment disputes.
BIC: Bank Information Center
BIC is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank Group and regional development banks. The Bank Information Center (BIC) partners with civil society to influence the World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs) to promote social and economic justice and ecological sustainability.
BIC states that the funds loaned by International Financial Institutions, such as the World Bank, promise to reduce poverty and encourage economic development. However, according to BIC, (and possibly many others) ill-conceived loans, projects, and programs have often caused widespread environmental and social damage including irreversible impacts of natural habitats, displaced communities and indigenous people. BIC contends that many IFI (World Bank Group) projects are carried out without the informed participation of communities, non-governmental organizations, and-in many cases-the legislatures of the borrowing countries.
BIC aims to ensure that local communities and civil society have an important voice in decisions that affect them. BIC assists these groups through its information dissemination and capacity building activities, coalition building, project and policy monitoring, and advocacy support services.
Beginning in the 1980s, the World Bank began to develop safeguard policies for the projects they fund. These “Safeguards” identify and minimize harms to people and the environment. The safeguard policies were developed after strong public criticism of the World Bank’s involvement in controversial projects, such as the Narmada Dam project in India. These “Safeguards” require borrowers to reduce certain risks in order to receive bank financing. Examples of this include conducting environmental and social impact assessments, consulting with affected communities, and restoring the livelihoods of displaced people.
The safeguard policies are very important; they protect people and help guide World Bank projects. However, there has been criticism over the management and comprehensiveness of these policies. Many people believe that the “Safeguards” need to be updated, and should prioritize protection for laborers, children, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, gender and sexual minorities. There are also significant advocacy efforts surrounding the creation of a climate-focused safeguard.
In 2012 the World Bank launched a multi-phased process to review and update its environmental and social safeguard policies. In July of 2014, committee members from the World Bank released a revised environmental and social safeguard policies proposal document. This document is a draft, and the World Bank is currently seeking feedback on its content by consulting with interested stakeholders on how to improve and strengthen the proposal document. As part of the consultation process, the World Bank has been meeting with organizations, conducting online platforms, and carrying out focus groups since the proposal document was released.
BIC partnered with INFANT to include children from Peru in the safeguard policy consult process. The World Bank does not typically consult with children regarding their policies, so BIC consulted with children from INFANT on behalf of the World Bank. Children from Villa Maria del Triunfo, Villa El Salvador, Iquitos, Cantagallo, Tarma, and Nazca gathered in Lima to learn more about safeguard policies and how the World Bank uses these policies to protect the rights of children. One of the major criticisms of the old safeguard policies, was that they did not take into account the rights of children and there were no requirements within the policies to assess how World Bank projects impacted children.
Old: No requirement to assess how different groups (including children) are impacted by Bank projects
New: The borrower should consider specific impacts on vulnerable groups, including children as part of their social evaluation
Old: No policy on child labor
New: A policy on labor, which includes a section on child labor and hazardous work and the minimum age for employment
Old: No policy on the involvement of children
New: A policy on the participation of stakeholders, which includes references to the need to involve all stakeholders, regardless of age , in the process. It also contains references to the need to ensure that vulnerable groups (defined to include children ) are included in the process.
The inclusion of these new policies is a great step forward for the rights of children. With that said, there is also criticism of the new policies, and many believe that more could be done to protect children. For example, in the new policy, the the minimum age to work is defined by the national law of the borrowing country. Therefore, if the national law is not consistent with ILO Convention 138 (i.e: in Bolivia the legal working age for children is 10yrs), the bank could theoretically still allow children to work on projects it funds. Additionally, the new policy does not address the issue of child labor in supply chains.