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  • 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, civil society, the private sector, and the marginalized, including persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples, 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 09, 2019

  • 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
    • Enhancing positive impacts, mitigating negative impacts, and managing social and political risks, including compliance with the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), including policies on Indigenous Peoples and involuntary resettlement
    • Partnering with 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
    • Deepening the understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ issues and needs, especially the interrelationship between cultural and community resilience, and their lands, territories and natural resources
    • Mainstreaming fragility and conflict sensitivity into analysis and operations, and adopting a violence prevention lens wherever high rates of interpersonal violence jeopardize development
    • 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
    • Ensuring that World Bank-financed projects include persons with disabilities and incorporate disability inclusion
    • Mainstreaming gender issues and ensuring that operations are gender-informed
    • Expanding the evidence on exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)
    • Strengthening the links and engagement between citizens and their governments and promoting accountable government structures

    Environmental and Social Framework (ESF)

    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, and promotes sustainable development.

    The Safeguards review included the most extensive consultation ever conducted by the World Bank Group. It concluded 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 ESF offers a broader and more systematic coverage of environmental and social risks, with an increased focus on the poorest and the most vulnerable. The ESF also requires attention to environmental and social issues throughout the preparation and implementation of a project. The scope of social issues explicitly addressed has been broadened and now includes specific reference to community health and safety, labor and working conditions, and occupational health and safety. The ESF also highlights additional environmental topics, for example, climate change and the management of natural resources, including water.

    The ESF is effective as of October 1, 2018. All investment projects with a Project Concept Note (PCN) decision on or after that date must apply the ESF rather than the Safeguard Policies.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019

  • Recent World Bank projects that address core Social Development issues include:

    • 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.
    • The Honduras Safer Municipalities Project is the World Bank’s first stand-alone project that specifically aims to prevent interpersonal violence. Qualitative evidence indicates that the project helped nine highly volatile and violent communities develop solid social networks and drastically reduce homicides and violent incidents.
    • The second phase of the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF II) in Laos targeted poor communities, especially Indigenous Peoples, who make up 75% of the program’s beneficiaries. PRF II benefited some 650,000 rural people, or about 10% of the national population, through1,931 sub-projects to improve access to infrastructure, sanitation, and dietary intake. An evaluation showed access to safe water increased   by 61 % for the poorest households and travel time to the nearest village was reduced by 114 minutes in the dry season and 73 minutes in the wet season. Phase III of the project 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. The project has reached over seven million beneficiaries, with over 18,000 sub-projects completed in 61 townships. Communities have built or rehabilitated more than 3,300 schools, constructed over 8,000 kilometers of footpaths and access roads, and generated over 6.4 million paid person-days of labor.
    • The $245 million Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund II (PAF) has directly benefited 317,450  households, and, through 4,360 infrastructure sub-projects, indirectly benefited an additional 56,832  households, with 64% categorized ultra-poor. Overall, the project has directly benefited 988,879 people as of July 2018. The project’s impact evaluation showed a 19% increase in real per-capita consumption of households within the first three years. The evaluation indicated that the annual incidence of food insecurity was reduced by 19%, and school enrollment increased by 15% among 6 to 15-year-olds.
    • 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 – over 20% of the national territory, benefiting more than 100,000 indigenous people.
    • In Nigeria, the Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) supported more than 9,300 community-managed micro-projects and benefited over 2.6 million people across 28 states. An impact evaluation of CSDP indicated reduced maternal and child mortality; increased school enrollment and attendance; reduced distance, cost and time of accessing water, healthcare services, and electricity; and increased earnings from farming. The World Bank approved an additional loan of $75 million to expand welfare provision and enhance services to communities, especially the internally displaced affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria.
    • In Peru, the Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) achieved the formal recognition of 208 native communities in the Public Registry in March 2019. The project has also supported the fieldwork and administrative process for 88 communities to process formal claims to the government to title their ancestral land, achieving the issuance of formal land titles for 14 communities as of March 2019. In addition, the project has benefited 56 native communities with technical and financial support to 40 forestry subprojects, 10 of which are run by women.
    • Jointly undertaken with the United Nations, the Special Financing Facility for Local Development in Somalia pilot project aims to strengthen government systems, 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, and to strengthen the emerging federal architecture in a country coming out of 20 years of conflict.
    • In Vietnam, the $300 million Results-based Scaling Up Rural Sanitation and Water Supply Program incorporated ethnic minority guidelines to ensure measurable and equal benefits for rural sanitation and water supply to ethnic minorities in 21 provinces. 

    The World Bank’s Social Development group also undertakes analytical work that explores key social sustainability issues. Recent analyses and programs include:

    Social analysis undertaken by the World Bank has informed the Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCD), which form the basis of the World Bank's multi-year program in a given country.

    Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019





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Environmental and Social Safeguards

The World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies are a cornerstone of its support to sustainable poverty reduction.

Conflict and Fragility

Fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) is a critical development challenge that threatens efforts to end extreme poverty, affecting both low- and middle-income countries.

Citizen Engagement

Citizens play a critical role in advocating and helping to make public institutions more transparent, accountable and effective, and contributing innovative solutions to complex development challenges.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

The World Bank is committed to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) through investment, research and learning, and collaboration with stakeholders around the world.

Additional Resources