Transport and Social Responsibility

March 14, 2014

Photo credit: Juha Riissanen

The World Bank Transport Strategy “Safe, Clean, and Affordable…Transport for Development” recognizes the importance of transport operations for addressing social and environmental principles in the context of its mission to reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity. Most recently, the World Bank has focused its mainstreaming efforts of the following social dimensions:

  • Inclusive access: transport access for persons with disability, the elderly, the poor;
  • Gender and transport: taking into account the specific mobility needs of women (see Gender and Transport publications)
  • Employment: quality and safety of work; discrimination issues;
  • Health: improving access to health services; mitigating negative health effects; mainstreaming HIV/AIDS institutional responses;
  • Measurability: development of indicators of access and mobility at the national and sub-national levels in relation to the above factors as well as with other priority social indices; and pro-poor growth issues.

The transport sector can benefit the social agenda in a variety of ways. World Bank road investment programs, for instance, are part of a broader poverty reduction strategy and are primarily designed to benefit the poor by improving access to schools, health facilities, and nutrition programs.

Making transport services accessible to the poor, women, persons with disability and the elderly has emerged as a key priority for the World Bank. Indeed, women and men often have different transport needs and do not face the same constraints: the time burden of transport for rural households is estimated to be about four times higher for women than men in the poorest countries; the gender difference for load carrying is even more extreme with women carrying about 90% of the physical burden.

Due to accessibility and affordability concerns, walking remains the predominant mode of travel for many women in developing countries, followed by cycling and animal-drawn carriages. Even in urban areas, other transport modes are often not available because they are too expensive or inconveniently located. Personal safety and harassment risks are also major issues for women using public transport.

In the context of World Bank transport operations, special attention has also been paid to the mitigation of HIV/AIDS; gender issues (through mobility and access mapping to assess specific needs, labor-intensive construction opportunities, participation in the design process; access to maternal health services and education) and on improving the accessibility of transport infrastructure and services (focusing primarily of “universal access” principles and the integration of the disabled and the elderly who are more likely to be among the poorest and without reliable access to transport).

Action to improve the integration of the social agenda in transport operations is often constrained by the serious shortage of data on the access and mobility needs of users, particular the poor, women, the disabled and elderly. Efforts are being made to address social concerns within small-scale and stand-alone projects but the systematic inclusion of social concerns at the policy, institutional and project is a work in progress.