• Social Development focuses on the need to “put people first” in development processes. Poverty is more than low income – it is also about vulnerability, exclusion, unaccountable institutions, powerlessness, and exposure to violence. Social Development promotes social inclusion of the poor and vulnerable by empowering people, building cohesive and resilient societies, and making institutions accessible and accountable to citizens.

    Working with governments, communities, civil society, the private sector, and the marginalized, including persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples, Social Development translates the complex relationship between societies and states into operations. Empirical evidence and operational experience show that Social Development promotes economic growth and leads to better interventions and a higher quality of life.

    Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017

  • The World Bank’s work on Social Development brings voices of the poor and vulnerable into development processes by making evidence-based policy and program contributions through:

    • Undertaking timely social risk analysis, including poverty and social impact analyses
    • Enhancing positive impacts, mitigating negative impacts, and managing social and political risks, including compliance with the World Bank’s social safeguard policies on Indigenous Peoples and involuntary resettlement
    • Deepening the understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ issues and needs, especially the interrelationship between cultural and community resilience, and their lands, territories and natural resources
    • Mainstreaming fragility and conflict sensitivity into analysis and operations, and adopting a violence prevention lens wherever high rates of interpersonal violence jeopardize development
    • Strengthening the resilience of communities and institutions to natural and human-induced shocks and changing climate trends
    • Promoting gender-differentiated social and economic empowerment programs for youth and underprivileged groups
    • Ensuring that World Bank-financed projects include persons with disabilities and incorporate disability inclusion by building the evidence base
    • Mainstreaming gender issues and ensuring that operations are gender informed
    • Expanding the evidence on exclusion-based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)
    • Strengthening the links and engagement between citizens and their governments and promoting accountable government structures
    • Empowering communities in rural and urban settings by transferring the control over development decisions and resources to improve the delivery of basic services through the Community-Driven Development approach

    Recent developments

    On August 4, 2016, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) that expands protections for people and the environment in Bank-financed investment projects.

    The safeguards review included the most extensive consultation ever conducted by the World Bank Group. It concluded nearly four years of analysis and engagement around the world with governments, development experts, and civil society groups, reaching nearly 8,000 stakeholders in 63 countries.

    The ESF is part of a far-reaching effort by the World Bank Group to improve development outcomes and streamline its work.

    The ESF brings the World Bank’s environmental and social protections into closer harmony with those of other development institutions, and makes important advances in areas such as transparency, non-discrimination, social inclusion, public participation, and accountability – including expanded roles for grievance redress mechanisms.

    The World Bank has begun an intensive preparation and training period to pave the way for the implementation of the new Framework which is expected to go into effect in early 2018, once all the elements are in place for the launch.

    Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017

  • Recent World Bank projects that address core Social Development issues include:

    • The Azerbaijan Second Rural Investment Project supports the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and financing of livelihood activities, with over 1,200 sub-projects and six livelihood pilot initiatives completed as of March 2016. As a result of the rehabilitation of rural roads, travel times to schools and markets were reduced by 47% and 26% respectively, and primary school enrollment increased by 25% after school rehabilitation.
    • In Egypt, the Cairo Airport Terminal 2 Rehabilitation Project supported the review of the airport’s design and costs to improve accessibility measures, making the new airport disability friendly.
    • In Iraq, the Emergency Disabilities Project supported the delivery of improved rehabilitation and prosthetic services for people with disabilities.
    • The second phase of the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF II) in Laos targeted poor communities, especially Indigenous Peoples, who make up 75% of the program’s beneficiaries. PRF II benefited some 650,000 rural people, or about 10% of the national population, through more than 1,900 sub-projects to improve access to infrastructure, sanitation, and dietary intake. An evaluation showed access to water improved by 58% and travel time to the nearest village was reduced by 114 minutes in the dry season and 73 minutes in the wet season. Phase III of the project was approved in May, 2016.
    • The Myanmar National CDD Program was the first World Bank project in Myanmar following the World Bank’s re-engagement with the country in 2012. To date, the project has reached over five million beneficiaries, with over 14,000 sub-projects completed in 47 townships. Communities have built or rehabilitated more than 1,500 schools, constructed over 2,500 kilometers of footpaths and access roads, and generated over 1.2 million paid person-days of labor. The project plans to expand to a total of 63 townships, covering 11,000 villages and 7 million people.
    • The Nicaragua Land Administration Project significantly reduced registry times and transaction costs. The policy and legal framework for land administration was strengthened through the preparation of a National Land Policy Framework and the passing of three fundamental laws, one of which allowed the poor and marginalized indigenous communities to collective titles to 15 ancestral territories comprising over 22,000 square kilometers – nearly 19% of the national territory.
    • The Honduras Safer Municipalities Project is the World Bank’s first stand-alone project that specifically aims to prevent interpersonal violence. Qualitative evidence indicates that the project helped nine highly volatile and violent communities develop solid social networks and drastically reduce homicides and violent incidents. In the three communities of Choloma, for example, homicides dropped from 40 in 2014 to 1 in 2016.
    • The Nigeria Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) supported more than 350,000 community-managed micro-projects and benefitted over 2.5 million people across 28 states. An impact evaluation of CSDP indicated reduced maternal and child mortality; increased school enrolment and attendance; reduced distance, cost and time of accessing water, healthcare services, and electricity; and increased earnings from farming. This led some states and local governments to adopt the CDD approach and increase local budget allocations to community-led activities. The World Bank approved an additional loan of $75 million to expand welfare provision and enhance services to communities, especially the internally displaced affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria.
    • The $245 million Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund II (PAF) has directly benefitted 716,385 households, and, through infrastructure sub-projects, indirectly benefitted an additional 50,663 households, with 64% categorized ultra-poor. The project’s impact evaluation showed a 22% increase in real per-capita consumption of households within the first three years. The evaluation indicated that the annual incidence of food insecurity was reduced by 19%, and school enrollment increased by 17% among 6 to 15 year olds. The project was restructured to accommodate the needs of the communities in 14 districts affected by the April / May 2015 earthquake.
    • The Rapid Employment Project (REP) in the Solomon Islands generated over 664,000 labor days, provided short-term employment to over 12,400 people in Honiara, and transferred a total of US$2.83 million in wages. The project is reaching vulnerable groups, with women and youth participation at 58% and 53%, respectively. REP made a positive difference to their household wealth, and 11% of respondents (three-quarters of whom were women) reported investing some or all of their REP income in business activities.
    • Jointly undertaken with the United Nations, the Special Financing Facility for Local Development in Somalia pilot project aims to strengthen government systems, visibility and legitimacy through providing basic infrastructure and services. Specifically, this project supports the Ministry of Finance to procure and supervise small capital grants identified by communities and the emerging federal states, and strengthen the emerging federal architecture in a country coming out of 20 years of conflict.
    • In Uganda, the $40 million Strengthening Social Risk Management and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Project focuses on community-based interventions for the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and on strengthening critical sectors to provide quality response services to survivors of GBV.
    • In Vietnam, the $300 million Results-based Scaling Up Rural Sanitation and Water Supply Program incorporated ethnic minority guidelines to ensure measurable and equal benefits for rural sanitation and water supply to ethnic minorities in 21 provinces. 

    The World Bank’s Social Development group also undertakes analytical work that explores key social sustainability issues. Recent analyses and programs include:

    • 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. In India, a programmatic platform called “Social Inclusion and Gender Cluster” applies recommendations from the report.
    • A recent report, Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century, 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.
    • Opening the Black Box: The Contextual Drivers of Social Accountability provides guidance to strategically support citizen engagement at the country level and for a specific issue or problem in challenging country contexts.
    • Being Fair, Faring Better: Promoting Equality of Opportunity for Marginalized Roma focuses on Roma across the EU member countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) with substantial Roma populations. It notes that inequalities between Roma and non-Roma are striking and usually start early in life and often reflect “hard-wired” family circumstances.
    • In Central Africa, the World Bank is working with the Network of Indigenous and Local Communities for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems (REPALEAC) to strengthen capacity working with government entities, donors, and NGOs.
    • Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector, a joint World Bank-United Nations sourcebook offers governments a framework for analyzing budget planning, financial management, financial accountability and oversight in the security sector.
    • A joint World Bank-UNDP study titled Investing in a Research Revolution for LGBTI Inclusion identifies lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) research priorities and provides key recommendations on investing in LGBTI data and research.
    • The World Bank supports several programs and interventions that facilitate the full inclusion of persons with disabilities, which include promoting inclusive education, accessibility and rehabilitation, providing skills development, creating economic opportunities, and influencing policies and institutional development. It is currently preparing a new disability-inclusion and accountability framework for mainstreaming disability across Bank projects and practices.

    Social analysis undertaken by the World Bank has informed the Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCD), which form the basis of the World Bank's multi-year program in a given country.

    Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017

    • 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.

    Last Updated: Sep 22, 2017





More Photos Arrow

In Depth

Conflict & IDA

The International Development Association, the World Bank's fund for the poorest, provides the finance needed to rebuild the state and develop the infrastructure people need to resume peaceful and constructive lives.


Societal Dynamics and Fragility

This report frames fragility as a problem not only of state capacity, but also of relationships in society.

Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA)

PSIA looks at the distributional impacts of public policies, with particular emphasis on the poor and vulnerable.


Environmental and Social Safeguards

The World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies are a cornerstone of its support to sustainable poverty reduction.

Additional Resources

Media Inquiries

Washington, D.C.
Kristyn Schrader-King