• 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: Mar 29, 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
    • 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 the understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ issues and needs, especially the interrelationship between cultural and community resilience and their lands, territories, and natural resources
    • Promoting 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 improve the delivery of basic services 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

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

    The framework 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 now begins an intensive preparation and training period (12-18 months) to prepare for the transition to the new Framework.  The Framework is expected to go into effect in early 2018.

    Last Updated: Mar 29, 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. 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. 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 targets poor communities, especially Indigenous Peoples, who make up 75% of the program’s beneficiaries. PRF II has benefited about 650,000 rural people, or about 10% of the national population, through more than 1,900 sub-projects for improving access to infrastructure, as well as targeted support on basic sanitation and food production for improved dietary intake. A recent impact evaluation shows improvements in access to protected water by 58% and reduction in travel time to the nearest village by 114 minutes in the dry season and 73 minutes in the wet season. A third phase of the project, PRF III, 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 three million beneficiaries, with over 4,700 sub-projects completed in 27 townships. Communities have built or rehabilitated more than 1,460 schools, constructed over 2,340 km of footpaths and access roads, and generated a million person-days of paid labor. The project plans to expand to a total of 47 townships, covering 8,800 villages and 5.2 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 km (nearly 19% of the national territory).
    • The Nigeria Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) has supported more than 350,000 community-managed micro projects and directly benefitted over 2.5 million people across 28 states. An impact evaluation of CSDP indicates that the project has contributed to reducing maternal and child mortality; increasing school enrolment and attendance; reducing the distance (and therefore the cost and time) of accessing water, health care services, and electricity; and increasing earnings from economic activities such as farming. Success has led some states and local governments to fully adopt the CDD approach and increase their local budget allocations to community-led activities. The World Bank approved an additional loan of $75 million to support expanded provision of basic welfare enhancing services to the communities and populations (especially the internally displaced) affected by the conflict in North-East Nigeria.
    • The $245 million Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund II (PAF) has, to date, directly benefitted 716,385 households, and, through infrastructure sub-projects, indirectly benefitted an additional 50,663 households, about 64% of these fall under the category of ultra-poor. The project’s impact evaluation showed a 22% increase in real per capita consumption of households within the first three years. Additionally, the evaluation indicated that each year of PAF exposure reduced the 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 of April / May 2015.
    • The Rapid Employment Project (REP) in the Solomon Islands has 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 effectively reaching vulnerable groups, with participation of women and youth at 58% and 53%, respectively. REP made a positive difference to their household wealth, and 11% of respondents (three-quarters of whom were women) also reported that they had invested some or all of their REP income on business activities.
    • Jointly undertaken with the UN, the Special Financing Facility for Local Development in Somalia pilot project aims to strengthen government systems, and 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, which is anticipated to strengthen the emerging federal architecture in a country coming out of 20 years of conflict.

    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 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.
    • The program on social and gender-based violence is a significant and growing area of work in social development. Of particular note is the wevolve 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, 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 Bank's multi-year program in a given country, in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Myanmar, Panama, and Sri Lanka.

    Last Updated: Mar 29, 2017





More Photos Arrow

In Depth


Societal Dynamics and Fragility: Engaging Societies in Responding to Fragile ...

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.


Indonesia's Nationwide Community Program (PNPM) Caring for the Invisible

This program is helping marginalized members of the community gain a bigger voice and better economic standing.


Conflict & IDA

The International Development Association, the World Bank's fund for the poorest, provides the finance needed to rebuild the state and ...

Additional Resources

Media Inquiries

Washington, D.C.
Kristyn Schrader-King