• In every country, certain groups—whether migrants, Indigenous Peoples, or other minorities—confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in their nation’s political, economic, and social life. These groups are excluded through a number of practices ranging from stereotypes, stigmas, and superstitions based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, or disability status. Such practices can rob them of dignity, security, and the opportunity to lead a better life.

     Left unaddressed, exclusion of disadvantaged groups can also be costly. And the costs—whether social, political, or economic—are likely to be substantial. One study found that exclusion of the ethnic minority Roma cost Romania 887 million euros in lost productivity. In addition, exclusion also has damaging consequences for human capital development.

    Acknowledging this, the United Nations has committed to “leaving no one behind” in an effort to help countries promote inclusive growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Social inclusion is an integral part of—and vital to—achieving the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

    The World Bank Group defines social inclusion as:

    1. The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society, and
    2. The process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity to take part in society.
  • Including those who are most likely to be left behind is a complex global challenge, which affects developed and developing countries alike. But it can be planned and achieved.

    The World Bank’s work on social inclusion aims to broaden and deepen the knowledge of exclusion and its impact through research and actions.  For the former, it means developing:

    1. Tools to assess the manner and extent to which projects and programs address social inclusion;
    2. Better approaches to measure the costs of exclusion and for diagnosing its root causes;
    3. More sophisticated analyses of which strategies are most likely to foster social inclusion; and
    4. Mechanisms for gauging when inclusion efforts are working and when they are not.

    The Bank has also prioritized and committed to promoting social inclusion through a range of programs and actions:

    • The World Bank Group (WBG) Strategy aims to align all WBG public and private sector interventions to the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
    • The WBG is committed to citizen engagement, specifically in its treatment of inclusion, in its operations, which entails empowering citizens to participate in the development process and integrating citizen voice in development programs to help accelerate the achievement of results.
    • In 2014, a Global Disability Advisor was appointed to strengthen the inclusion of people with disabilities. The Bank integrates disability into development through its analytical work, data, and good-practice policies.
    • In the same year, the World Bank Group established a multi-sectoral task force to spearhead work on sexual orientation gender identity (SOGI) issues while increasing research on the economic impact of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons as well as other groups. Two years later, in November 2016, the Bank announced a Global Advisor on SOGI—a senior position responsible for promoting LGBTI inclusion throughout the work of the World Bank.
    • In October 2016, the World Bank launched a Global Gender-Based Violence (GGBV) Task Force to strengthen the institution’s response through its projects to issues involving sexual exploitation and abuse.
    • The Bank engages on issues of Indigenous Peoples through its operations, and works to deepen the understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues at the country and regional levels worldwide.
    • A new Gender Strategy aims to help countries and companies achieve gender equality as a pathway toward lasting poverty reduction and shared prosperity and security.
    • Community-Driven Development (CDD) approaches and actions are important elements of an effective poverty reduction and sustainable development strategy. The Bank has supported CDD across a range of low to middle-income—and conflict-affected—countries to support a variety of urgent needs.
    • Global Lead on Social Inclusion provides technical leadership and guidance to advance these efforts.
  • Examples of the Bank’s projects and analytical work on social inclusion include:

    Analytical work

    • Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity is one of the most comprehensive reviews of social inclusion available. It provides a frame of reference for policymakers, academics, activists, and development partners to help understand and move toward social inclusion. The report suggests how policies and programs can be designed through the lens of three main domains in which individuals and groups want to be included: markets, services, and spaces.
    • Scaling the Heights: Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development in Himachal Pradesh looks at Himachal’s achievements and the factors underlying the Indian state’s success in fostering social inclusion and boosting shared prosperity. The report found empirical application of the main concepts illustrated in the Inclusion Matters report.
    • Social Inclusion and Gender Platforms have been established by the World Bank as a consolidated approach toward social inclusion. Platforms in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan provide strategic support to project teams on social inclusion and gender issues by sponsoring frontier technical and analytical work, promoting innovation and knowledge sharing, and mainstreaming through Bank operations. In-country partnerships are a significant part of the implementation strategy of these platforms.
    • As part of the Bank’s analytical work on gender-based violence, the Violence against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia report gathers all available data and information on gender-based violence in the South Asia region.
    • Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century is a report that shines new light on the situation of Indigenous Peoples across the region and concludes that despite important advances, indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by poverty and continue to face widespread economic and social exclusion.
    • Social Inclusion in Macro-Level Diagnostics reviews the extent to which the first 17 Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs) conducted by the World Bank addressed social inclusion. The paper develops and refines a methodology to assess social inclusion. It also frames social inclusion into the ongoing dialogue around the implementation of the SDGs.
    • Handbook on Improving Living Conditions for Roma provides program managers, national-level authorities, and local actors with strategic guidance and best practices from past experience working with Roma communities, one of the most marginalized ethnic minorities in Europe. The report offers global insights, experience, and ideas to broaden the range of interventions and actions considered by stakeholders, and also to inspire further innovations.
    • Tunisia: Breaking the Barriers to Youth Inclusion is the result of extensive research that combined quantitative and qualitative analysis to inform proposals for youth-specific policies and approaches in Tunisia. It has developed a comprehensive framework that highlights the importance of addressing the economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions to find solutions for youth inclusion.


    • Burundi Emergency Demobilization and Transitional Reintegration Project. The project had a strong focus on social inclusion, particularly through supporting ex-combatants with mental or physical (e.g., surgeries, physiotherapy, prosthetics, etc.) disabilities and providing housing to those with severe disability. To facilitate social inclusion of ex-combatants, the project also included conflict mitigation activities.
    • In India, Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project and the North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) enhanced economic opportunities for rural populations and the most vulnerable groups, including those with physical disabilities, though self-help groups. The Teacher Training on Inclusive Education initiative focused on inclusive education for children with disabilities including those with learning disabilities, while the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project focused on providing services for intellectual and developmental disabilities.
    • Morocco: National Initiative for Human Development (INDH). The project was launched in 2005 to improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable groups through enhanced economic opportunities, better access to basic and social services, and improved governance. Phase 2 of INDH (2011-2015) expanded the target population and geographic scope from 667 to 1,234 communities and from $1.2 billion to $2.1 billion over five years. The World Bank supported the second phase of INDH through its first Program-for-Results operation, focusing on enhancing access and quality in service provision; strengthening participatory local governance and social accountability; enhancing economic inclusion; and supporting capacity and systems development.
    • Nicaragua: Second Support to the Education Sector Project. It is a primary education project designed to address the needs of rural and indigenous communities. The project seeks to increase student retention rates in Nicaragua’s primary education schools. It also aims to improve infrastructure and services for displaced people and build social capital to promote trust. The project has a longstanding commitment to incorporating social inclusion into development agenda.
    • Philippines National CDD Project. The project tracks the inclusion of excluded groups in local planning and budgeting. The project aims to empower communities in targeted municipalities, ensure their participation in local governance, and help them develop their capacity to design, implement, and manage activities that reduce poverty.


Additional Resources


Washington, D.C.
Kristyn Schrader-King