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, including indigenous peoples’ 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: Apr 07, 2016

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, especially the interrelationship between cultural and community resilience and their lands, territories and natural resources. The World Bank assesses their needs and priorities 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

Recent developments

In 2012, the World Bank began a process to update and consolidate the Bank’s social and environmental safeguard policies. Three phases of global multi-stakeholder consultations have been concluded with several thousand participants from more than 90 countries. The most recent consultation phase lasted from August 4, 2015, to March 15, 2016. The three phases together constitute 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 will be incorporated into a revised, third draft Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), which will be presented to the Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors later this year. The goal of the review is to boost protections for the environment and the poorest and most vulnerable people; drives sustainable development through capacity- and institution-building and country ownership; and enhances efficiency for both the Borrower and the Bank.

Last Updated: Apr 07, 2016

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. As of March 2016, over 1,200 sub-projects and six livelihood pilot initiatives have been completed, with another 95 sub-projects under implementation. Impact evaluation results indicate that mobility, access to services and markets and farmer productivity have all increased 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% after school rehabilitation.
  • Benin: The $76 million Decentralized Community Driven Services Project (PSDCC) aims to support the Government of Benin’s decentralization policy by helping local governments to work with poor communities to improve basic service delivery.  Under the project, about 1,000 communities have signed or will sign contracts with local governments to carry out low-complexity infrastructure sub-projects in education, health, water, commerce (public markets), and rural roads.
  • 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 program. 
  • In Iraq, the Emergency Disabilities Project supported the delivery of improved rehabilitation and prosthetic services for people with disabilities.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Nepal: The $245 million Poverty Alleviation Fund II commenced in 2007 with an aim to improve living conditions, livelihoods and empowerment among the rural poor, with particular attention to groups that have traditionally been excluded for reasons of gender, ethnicity, caste, and location. The project is now operating in 55 districts and has made agreements with 25,139 Community Organizations (COs) and 74% of CO members are female. The project has to date directly benefitted 716,385 households and, through infrastructure sub-projects, indirectly benefitted an additional 50,663 households. About 64% of these households fall under the category of ultra-poor—indicating food sufficiency for less than three months. The project’s impact evaluation showed that the project resulted in a 22% increase in real per capita consumption of households within the first three years, with a 7% increase in household consumption over the medium term. Additionally, the evaluation indicated that each year of PAF exposure reduced incidence of food insecurity by 19%, and increased school enrollment by 17% among 6 to 15 year olds. The project has been recently restructured to accommodate the reconstruction needs of the communities in 14 districts affected by the earthquake in April/May 2015.
  • Myanmar:  The National CDD Program started in 2012 with the World Bank’s re-engagement with the country, and was the first World Bank project in Myanmar. In the first two years of project implementation, communities built or rehabilitated more than 500 schools, constructed over 500 km of footpaths and access roads, and jointly designed and implemented more than 2,100 sub-projects. To date, the project has created more than 500,000 paid person-days of labor. Over 5,000 additional sub-projects are expected to be constructed as part of the ongoing community cycle in villages that are home to three million people.
  • 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, including basic life skills training and opening 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.
  • The Vietnam Second Northern Mountains Poverty Reduction Project improved access to markets and services for rural poor and ethnic minorities in northwest Vietnam through the paving and upgrading of more than 4,230 kilometers of rural roads and the construction of small bridges. Water flow for irrigation improved, affecting more than 9,000 hectares of farmland and over 8,600 households have access to improved water quality.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 and creating economic opportunities, and influencing policies and institutional development.

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.

Last Updated: Apr 07, 2016

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