Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

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  • Climate change is deeply intertwined with global patterns of inequality. The most vulnerable people bear the brunt of climate impacts yet contribute the least to the crisis. As the impacts of climate change mount, millions of vulnerable people face greater challenges in terms of extreme events, health effects, food security, livelihood security, migration, water security, cultural identity, and other related risks.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has amply demonstrated that the most marginalized groups often lack access to the services, resources, and information they need to overcome crises. Certain groups are particularly vulnerable to crises, for example, female-headed households, children, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples and ethnic minorities, landless tenants, migrant workers, older people, and other socially marginalized groups. The root causes of their vulnerability lie in a combination of their geographical context; their financial, socio-economic, cultural, and gender status; and their access to services, decision-making, and justice. For instance, more than 90% of the estimated 140,000 fatalities in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh were women.

    Poor and marginalized groups are raising their voices to call for more ambitious action on climate change, conflict, and other global issues. Climate change is more than an environmental crisis – it is a social crisis and compels us to address issues of inequality on many levels: between wealthy and poor countries; between rich and poor within countries; between men and women, and between generations.

    The most vulnerable are often impacted by the costs of addressing climate change. In the absence of well-designed policies, climate actions can place a higher financial burden on poor households; for example, policies that expand public transport or carbon pricing may lead to higher fares or fuel prices which can impact poorer households. Similarly, if not carefully addressed, limiting forestry activities to certain times of the year could impact indigenous communities that depend on forests year-round for their livelihoods. Climate policies need to ensure that people are protected from adverse impacts of climate action.

    Communities bring unique perspectives, skills, and a wealth of knowledge to the challenge of strengthening resilience and addressing climate change. They should be engaged as partners in resilience-building rather than simply as beneficiaries. Research and experience has shown that community leaders can set priorities, influence policies, and design and implement investment programs that are responsive to their community’s own needs. Innovations in the architecture of climate finance can connect communities and marginalized groups to the higher-level policy, technical and financial assistance that they need for enhanced development impacts.

  • The World Bank’s work to address the social dimensions of climate change has a strong focus on poverty reduction and on addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability, including social exclusion. The Bank adopts a whole-of-society approach, working with national and local governments, civil society, grassroots communities, and other partners to strengthen social resilience at the ground level, where the effects of climate change are typically felt the most, and to promote meaningful engagement of communities in climate change decision-making and action.

    The World Bank is committed to promoting socially equitable responses to global crises. As we adapt to a changing climate during COVID-19, it is important that we listen to, and learn from, people and communities. That is why a truly inclusive approach can often begin at the community level. Promoting inclusion and equality in societies around the world is key to addressing climate change. This presents a huge challenge – but it is also a tremendous opportunity to move toward more sustainable societies.

    Strengthening the capacity for all members of society to thrive despite shocks, or social resilience, requires understanding the relationship between climate and social equity and the intersections of different risks (e.g., how fragility and conflict interplay with climate and disaster risk). While there is no silver bullet for strengthening social resilience global experience and evidence points to a few broad categories for action:

    • Supporting community-led approaches that enable autonomous adaptation and empower communities to drive a climate agenda in support of their development goals (community driven development approaches, decentralized climate finance)
    • Engaging communities in climate decision-making and enhancing social learning as a form of regulatory feedback (e.g. citizen engagement, national climate dialogues, and improved governance)
    • Understanding the relationship between climate change, social equity and empowering women and marginalized groups as resilience champions (gender and social inclusion)

    Through these areas of action, the World Bank fosters strong collaboration across different practice areas to bring together and empower poor communities to reduce risks to future crises; and to bridge the gap between the local, subnational, and national levels for effective climate change support.

    The work aims to protect vulnerable groups and design sustainable and inclusive solutions that:

    • harness the power of communities
    • tap into the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples
    • foster the exceptional risk management skills of women
    • promote the experience and perspective of persons with disabilities; and
    • draw on the energy of youth 
  • The World Bank has recognized the need to support locally led climate action and work with communities as equal partners so that we are building on their experience and expertise in managing risk and adapting to change. In other sectors, the World Bank has invested in community driven development (CDD) that emphasize citizen control over investment development planning and decision making and implementation.  For decades, CDD has effectively supported basic service delivery, livelihoods, social services, poverty reduction, and other community priorities at a large scale.  Over $30 billion has been invested in CDD programs over the past decade.  This same mechanism is now being harnessed to deliver effective, local climate resilience support at the necessary scale and its core principles of citizen control and social inclusion are being integrated into innovative approaches to decentralized climate finance.

    • In Kenya, the World Bank is working with the national and county governments to channel climate finance and decision-making to people at the local level to design solutions that meet their specific needs.  County governments will be supported to work in partnership with communities to assess climate risks and identify socially inclusive solutions that are tailored to local needs and priorities.
    • In Bangladesh, the Nuton Jibon project considers extreme weather events in its design with communities who undertake participatory risk analyses, which then informs the locations and design of community centers, rural roads, tube wells, and other works.
    • The Bank’s support to recovery after Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines was channeled through the National CDD Program so that communities could drive the decision-making process: The DAMPA (Damayan ng Maralitang Pilipinong Api) network consists of over 200 community-based women-led organizations representing rural and urban poor communities in the Philippines. It partnered with the government to monitor the delivery of disaster relief assistance after Typhoon Haiyan and facilitated community-based risk mapping to inform the prioritization and design of community-level investments of the National CDD Program.

    CDD programs are also responding to the impact of COVID-19, including cash transfers for vulnerable groups and block grants to communities to reach vulnerable households with food and medical supplies.  Lessons from previous pandemics, including the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, highlight the importance of social responses to crisis management and recovery to complement medical efforts.  In the case of COVID-19, partnerships between communities, healthcare systems, local governments, and the private sector can play a critical role in slowing the spread, mitigating impacts, and supporting local recovery.

    • The Somalia Crisis Response Project (SCRP) will provide immediate support to areas hit by recent floods and droughts, in addition to response to COVID19 and building preparedness capacity for future risk management. The project will ensure women’s inclusion and participation in decision-making bodies, including participation in the development of the integrated community preparedness, adaptation, and response plans.