Can the World Bank Regain its Lead on Sustainable Development?

After falling behind other development organizations, the World Bank now has a chance to update its environmental and social safeguard policies.

Following the recommendations of an internal report, the World Bank has announced plans to overhaul its influential environmental and social safeguard policies. For over two decades, these safeguards have helped (with varying degrees of success) to minimize the harm that Bank-funded development projects have on local people and the natural environment. Until recently, the Bank’s safeguards also served as de-facto international standards for other development banks and governments. As a result, any reforms to the World Bank’s safeguards—whether progressive or regressive—will have far reaching global impacts.

Leading, then Following, on Sustainability

Although the World Bank was an early leader on environmental and social sustainability, it has fallen behind other development actors. For example, the World Bank’s 1991 indigenous peoples policy requires clients to create an “indigenous peoples development plan,” which gives people a voice in the future development path of their community. This has since become global best practice for governments and companies.

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