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  • In every country, certain groups confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in their nation’s political, economic, and social life. These groups may be excluded not only through legal systems, land and labor markets, but also through attitudes, beliefs, or perceptions. Disadvantage is often based on social identity, which may be derived from gender, age, location, occupation, race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship status, disability, and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), among other factors.

    Exclusion can rob individuals of dignity, security, and the opportunity to lead a better life.

    There is a moral imperative to address social exclusion. Left unaddressed, the exclusion of disadvantaged groups can also be costly. And the costs—whether social, political, or economic—are likely to be substantial.

    At the individual level, the loss of wages, lifetime earnings, poor education, and employment outcomes are the commonest measures of costs. Social exclusion is often solidified through discrimination, which can have physical and mental health costs.

    At the national level, the economic cost of social exclusion can be captured by forgone gross domestic product (GDP) and human capital wealth. Exclusion or the perception of exclusion may cause certain groups to opt out of markets, services, and spaces, with costs to both individuals and the economy.

    A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) paper shows that the current gender gap in the labor force costs countries at the bottom half of gender inequality around 35 percent of GDP. A 2018 World Bank paper estimates that Africa alone lost $ 2.5 trillion in human capital due to gender inequality and 11.4% of total wealth in 2014.  Another study found that exclusion of the ethnic minority Roma cost Romania 887 million euros in lost productivity.

    Acknowledging this, the United Nations has committed to “leaving no one behind” in an effort to help countries promote inclusive growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Social inclusion is also an integral part of—and vital to—achieving the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

    The World Bank Group defines social inclusion as:

    1. The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society, and
    2. The process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity to take part in society.
  • Including those who are most likely to be left behind is a complex global challenge, which affects developed and developing countries alike. But it can be planned and achieved.

    The World Bank’s work on social inclusion aims to broaden and deepen the knowledge of exclusion and its impact through research and actions.  For the former, it means:

    1. Defining the problem through tools that help assess the manner and extent to which projects and programs address social inclusion,
    2. Conducting more sophisticated analyses,
    3. Designing actions that improve social inclusion, and
    4. Using better mechanisms to gauge when inclusion efforts are working and when they are not.

    The Bank has also prioritized and committed to promoting social inclusion through a range of programs and actions:

    • The World Bank Group (WBG) Strategy aims to align all WBG public and private sector interventions to the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
    • The WBG is committed to citizen engagement, specifically in its treatment of inclusion, in its operations, which entails empowering citizens to participate in the development process and integrating citizen voice in development programs to help accelerate the achievement of results.
    • In 2018, the World Bank launched its first Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework and announced ten WBG commitments to accelerate global action for disability-inclusive development. A Global Disability Advisor serves as a focal point for integrating disability inclusion into the World Bank’s development projects through its analytical work, data, and good-practice policies.
    • The WBG has established a multi-sectoral task force to spearhead work on sexual orientation gender identity (SOGI) issues while increasing research on the economic impact of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons as well as other groups. Two years later, in November 2016, the Bank appointed a Global Advisor on SOGI—responsible for promoting LGBTI inclusion throughout the work of the World Bank.
    • In October 2016, the World Bank launched a Global Gender-Based Violence (GGBV) Task Force to strengthen the institution’s response through its projects to issues involving sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information, view a fact sheet.
    • The Bank engages on issues of Indigenous Peoples through its operations, and works to deepen the understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues at the country and regional levels worldwide.
    • A new Gender Strategy aims to help countries and companies achieve gender equality as a pathway toward lasting poverty reduction and shared prosperity and security.
    • Community-Driven Development (CDD) approaches and actions are important elements of an effective poverty reduction and sustainable development strategy. The Bank has supported CDD across a range of low to middle-income—and conflict-affected—countries to support a variety of urgent needs.
    • In 2018, the World Bank developed Social Inclusion Assessment Tool (SIAT), a methodology to assess social inclusion in projects, programs, and policies. The WBG’s Global Lead on Social Inclusion provides overarching technical leadership and guidance to advance these efforts.
  • Examples of the Bank’s projects and analytical work on social inclusion include:

    Analytical work

    • 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. The report suggests how policies and programs can be designed through the lens of three main domains in which individuals and groups want to be included: markets, services, and spaces.
    • Scaling the Heights: Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development in Himachal Pradesh looks at Himachal’s achievements and the factors underlying the Indian state’s success in fostering social inclusion and boosting shared prosperity. The report found empirical application of the main concepts illustrated in the Inclusion Matters report.
    • Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century is a report that 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.
    • Released in August 2018, the Afro-descendants in Latin America: Toward a Framework of Inclusion report is an important step toward better understanding the conditions in which Afro-descendants live to help foster social inclusion and improve their economic situation across Latin America.
    • Social Inclusion and Gender Platforms have been established by the World Bank as a consolidated approach toward social inclusion. Platforms in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan provide strategic support to project teams on social inclusion and gender issues by sponsoring frontier technical and analytical work, promoting innovation and knowledge sharing, and mainstreaming through Bank operations. In-country partnerships are a significant part of the implementation strategy of these platforms.
    • As part of the Bank’s analytical work on gender-based violence, the Violence against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia report gathers available data and information on gender-based violence in the South Asia region.
    • Social Inclusion in Macro-Level Diagnostics reviews the extent to which the first 17 Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs) conducted by the World Bank addressed social inclusion. The paper develops and refines a methodology to assess social inclusion. It also frames social inclusion into the ongoing dialogue around the implementation of the SDGs.
    • Handbook on Improving Living Conditions for Roma provides program managers, national-level authorities, and local actors with strategic guidance and best practices from past experience working with Roma communities, one of the most marginalized ethnic minorities in Europe. The report offers global insights, experience, and ideas to broaden the range of interventions and actions considered by stakeholders, and also to inspire further innovations. Other reports on Roma inclusion include Breaking the Cycle of Roma Exclusion in the Western Balkans and Being Fair, Faring Better: Promoting Equality of Opportunity for Marginalized Roma.
    • Tunisia: Breaking the Barriers to Youth Inclusion is the result of extensive research that combined quantitative and qualitative analysis to inform proposals for youth-specific policies and approaches in Tunisia. It has developed a comprehensive framework that highlights the importance of addressing the economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions to find solutions for youth inclusion. 
    • Social and economic inclusion of forcibly displaced population in Afghanistan. Around six million Afghans live as refugees in other countries. In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Afghans returning to their country of origin. To respond to the most recent wave of population movements, the World Bank has been working with the government of Afghanistan and a range of humanitarian agencies. These efforts have led to development of policies, programs and investments that complement initial relief efforts of humanitarian agencies with longer-term support for the refugees and internally displaced people in their new lives.
    • Burundi Emergency Demobilization and Transitional Reintegration Project. The project had a strong focus on social inclusion, particularly through supporting ex-combatants with mental or physical (e.g., surgeries, physiotherapy, prosthetics, etc.) disabilities and providing housing to those with severe disability. To facilitate social inclusion of ex-combatants, the project also included conflict mitigation activities.
    • Democratic Republic of Congo: Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response Project. The World Bank committed $100 million to help prevent GBV in the DRC. The project aims to reach 795,000 direct beneficiaries over the course of four years and provide help to survivors of GBV, shifting social norms by promoting gender equality and behavioral change through strong partnerships with civil society organizations.
    • Nepal: Integrated Platform for Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response. The project has a focus on supporting capacity building activities that facilitate support to GBV victims, including those from indigenous groups and other vulnerable communities.
    • Nicaragua: Second Support to the Education Sector Project. It is a primary education project designed to address the needs of rural and indigenous communities. The project seeks to increase student retention rates in Nicaragua’s primary education schools. It also aims to improve infrastructure and services for displaced people and build social capital to promote trust. The project has a longstanding commitment to incorporating social inclusion into development agenda.
    • Nigeria For Women Project. This is the first World Bank-assisted standalone gender operation in Nigeria to directly impact 324,000 women beneficiaries through investments in comprehensive skills training, the leverage of financial and technical resources, and support to policy dialogue on women’s economic empowerment. It also aims to create and strengthen Women Affinity Groups to facilitate social networks and increase women’s voice and participation in the economy.
    • Pakistan: Youth inclusion in the digital economy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. World Bank support to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of Pakistan’s poorest provinces, has helped develop and roll out digital skills programs for youth, such as the Youth Employment Program, establish public co-working spaces for youth to promote access and training, and convene thousands of youth and industry experts at the Digital Youth Summits (DYS).
    • Panama: Indigenous Peoples Integral Development.  This project aims to improve public services in indigenous territories, based on the Indigenous Peoples’ own views and development priorities. It also seeks to strengthen the governance and coordination capacity between the government and the indigenous authorities while respecting the indigenous cultural identity and ways of life.
    • Philippines National CDD Project. The project tracks the inclusion of excluded groups in local planning and budgeting. The project aims to empower communities in targeted municipalities, ensure their participation in local governance, and help them develop their capacity to design, implement, and manage activities that reduce poverty.



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Washington, D.C.
Uwi Basaninyenzi