Social Development focuses on the need to “put people first” in development processes. People’s voices tell us that 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 and the private sector, 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 29, 2015

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
  • Mainstreaming fragility, conflict-sensitivity, and responsiveness into analysis and operations
  • 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
  • Deepening its understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues and needs through analytical studies to improve the design and implementation of projects and programs that involve Indigenous Peoples’ communities and through direct dialogue with their leaders and representative organizations
  • Promoting social inclusion of persons with disabilities through technical assistance for disability inclusion in operations and by building evidence to support more disability-inclusive projects
  • Mainstreaming gender issues, ensuring that operations are gender-informed, and expanding the evidence on exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)
  • Strengthening links 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 the communities through the Community Driven Development approach
  • Enhancing positive impacts, mitigating negative impacts, and managing social and political risks, including compliance with the Bank’s social safeguards policies on Indigenous Peoples and Involuntary Resettlement

Last Updated: Sep 29, 2015

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

  • Azerbaijan: the Second Rural Investment Project supports the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and financing of livelihood activities. Through additional financing, the project is expected to reach over 3.5 million beneficiaries in 1,800 poor rural communities across the country and as of August 2015 over 740 subprojects and six livelihood pilot initiatives have been completed, with another 179 subprojects under implementation. Results from the first phase of the project indicated that mobility had improved as a result of the rehabilitation of rural roads, with travel times to schools and markets reduced by 47 % and 26 % respectively, and primary school enrollment increased by 25 percent after school rehabilitation.
  • Bolivia: the $40 million Community Investment in Rural Areas Project has transferred responsibility and resources to 551 communities (10 % above target), and supported 612 sub-projects to improve access to basic and productive infrastructure for 25,871 rural households. Forty percent of the sub-projects were identified and implemented by women, and measures of social capital show improvements in 94 % of the participating communities. The project is being expanded to reach an additional 200,000 beneficiaries.
  • Egypt: The Cairo Airport Terminal 2 Rehabilitation Project supported review of the design and costs to improve accessibility measures, making the new airport disability-friendly.
  • The India Social Inclusion and Gender Cluster is a multi-year, programmatic platform that applies recommendations from the flagship report Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity. It has shown impressive results in generating frontier analytical work and in applying the social inclusion framework to the India portfolio and to technical assistance to the government. 
  • Morocco: the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) was launched in 2005 to improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable groups through enhanced economic opportunities, better access to basic services, and improved governance. Phase 2 of INDH (2011-2015) expanded the target population and geographic scope, from 667 to 1,234 communities, and almost doubled resource allocation. During its first phase, more than 46,600 community-driven sub-projects were financed, providing over 9.7 million beneficiaries (50% of which are in rural areas) with access to basic social and economic infrastructure services, and training.
  • Nigeria:  the Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) aims to increase access by the poor to improved social and natural resource infrastructure services and has reached more than 2.3 million households in 4,000 communities spread out across 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Impact evaluation results show that it has contributed to increased school enrollment and attendance, and health services utilization; improved access to potable water; reduced the rate of illness; and increased rural road access and mobility, especially for farming and trading communities.
  • The Papua New Guinea Urban Youth Employment Project provides training for unemployed youth, job placements, sets up access to financial services, and carries out public works activities, which in turn provide valuable services for all the residents of Port Moresby. A total of 7,350 youth between the ages of 18 – 35 have directly benefited from the activities and services provided by the project. All program participants have received Basic Life Skills Training and have been assisted to open a new bank account; 5,900 youth have been provided short-term work; 3,000 have participated in pre-employment training; and 1,600 youth have acquired work experience through a 5-month placement with a Port Moresby-based employer. In addition, the project has supported the maintenance and up-keep of critical public infrastructure to the benefit of neighborhoods and communities in Port Moresby.
  • Philippines: Originally operating from 2003-2014, the KALAHI-CIDSS National CDD Program in the Philippines (KALAHI-CIDSS/NCDDP) covered 362 of the poorest municipalities in the country, and supported over 5,000 subprojects. A robust impact evaluation found that the project had contributed to improvements in household access to municipal centers, increased access to safe drinking water, greater participation in local level government activities, and increased trust within and outside communities. Since 2014, this success has led to a new and expanded 5-year CDD program, estimated at more than $1 billion, covering all 847 municipalities with poverty rates above the national average, to date through more than 12,000 subprojects.  The program is also being used to help respond to the widespread destruction caused by super-typhoon Haiyan.

The 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 policy makers, academics, activists, and development partners to help understand and move toward social inclusion..
  • Societal Dynamics and Fragility: Engaging Societies in Responding to Fragile Situations is a study that draws on relevant literature and fieldwork in five countries to explore the role of dysfunctional relationships in society in preventing a state to be formed or sustained.
  • 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.
  • The program on social and gender-based violence is a significant and growing area of work in social development.  Of particular note is the WeEvolve campaign, which brings the fashion industry and the arts to focus on violence against women. The Global Platform on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), funded by the State and Peacebuilding Fund across five countries, pilots innovative tools on prevention and provision of services to SGBV survivors, undertakes South-South exchange, and generates new analytical work. The launching of the Great Lakes regional program in Africa on health and gender-based violence  is an example of how such initiatives are influencing the Bank’s operations.

Social analysis also informs the assessments that form the basis of the World Bank's multi-year program in a given country. Among the first round of such completed assessments (Systematic Country Diagnostics or SCD), social analysis has informed those in Panama, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Recent developments

In 2012, the World Bank began a process to update and consolidate the Bank’s social and environmental safeguard policies. Two global multi-stakeholder consultations have been concluded with several thousand participants from more than 65 countries. The most recent consultation phase lasted from August 1, 2014, to March 1, 2015. Both phases together are the largest consultation effort the Bank has undertaken. Participants from government, private sector, and civil society provided detailed comments on the proposed Environmental and Social Framework. The feedback received from shareholders and stakeholders was incorporated into a revised, second draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). In July 2015, the Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors authorized a third round of consultations on this draft. The goal of the review is to enhance protections for the poor and for the environment, ensure inclusive access to development benefits, and strengthen the World Bank’s partnership with client countries.

Last Updated: Sep 29, 2015

People will benefit from Myanmar National CDD Project in its first year of operation.
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