• 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: Sep 25, 2018

  • 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 social safeguard policies on Indigenous Peoples and involuntary resettlement
    • 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 by building the evidence base
    • 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
    • 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

    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, 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 was 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. The ESF also applies to additional financing after October 1.

    Last Updated: Sep 25, 2018

  • 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 1,507  sub-projects and14 livelihood pilot initiatives completed as of April  2018, benefiting nearly 3.5 million rural people. As a result of the rehabilitation of rural roads, travel times to markets, hospitals, schools and safe water sources were reduced by 68 %.
    • 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 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. To date, 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 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.
    • 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. In the three communities of Choloma, for example, homicides dropped from 40 in 2014 to 1 in 2016.
    • The Nigeria Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) supported more than 9,282  community-managed micro-projects and benefitted over 2.6 million people across 28 states. An impact evaluation of CSDP indicated reduced maternal and child mortality; increased school enrolment and attendance; reduced distance, cost and time of accessing water, healthcare services, and electricity; and increased earnings from farming. This led some states and local governments to adopt the CDD approach and increase local budget allocations to community-led activities. 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.
    • The $245 million Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund II (PAF) has directly benefitted 317,450  households, and, through 4360 infrastructure sub-projects, indirectly benefitted an additional 56,832  households, with 64% categorized ultra-poor. Overall, the project has directly benefited 988,879 beneficiaries 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 project was restructured to accommodate the needs of the communities in 14 districts affected by the April / May 2015 earthquake.
    • The Rapid Employment Project (REP) in the Solomon Islands generated over 775,731  labor days, provided short-term employment to over 13,093  people in Honiara, and transferred more than  US$2.83 million in wages. The project is reaching vulnerable groups, with women and youth participation at 58% and 53%, respectively. REP made a positive difference to their household wealth, and 83% of respondents reported increase in their household incomes, and16% (three-quarters of whom were youth) reported investing some or all of their REP income in business activities.
    • 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 Uganda, the $40 million Strengthening Social Risk Management and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Project focuses on community-based interventions for the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and on strengthening critical sectors to provide quality response services to survivors of GBV. Similarly, the $100 million Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Project aims to help to help prevent GBV in the DRC.
    • 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: Sep 21, 2017

    • 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.
    • In India, Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project and the North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) enhanced economic opportunities for rural populations and the most vulnerable groups, including those with physical disabilities, though self-help groups. The Teacher Training on Inclusive Education initiative focused on inclusive education for children with disabilities including those with learning disabilities, while the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project focused on providing services for intellectual and developmental disabilities.
    • Morocco: National Initiative for Human Development (INDH). The project was launched in 2005 to improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable groups through enhanced economic opportunities, better access to basic and social services, and improved governance. Phase 2 of INDH (2011-2015) expanded the target population and geographic scope from 667 to 1,234 communities and from $1.2 billion to $2.1 billion over five years. The World Bank supported the second phase of INDH through its first Program-for-Results operation, focusing on enhancing access and quality in service provision; strengthening participatory local governance and social accountability; enhancing economic inclusion; and supporting capacity and systems development.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Last Updated: Sep 25, 2018





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In Depth


WikiStage: Social Inclusion

Replay the WikiStage and World Bank Group special event on social inclusion in Lima, Peru.

Conflict & IDA

The International Development Association, the World Bank's fund for the poorest, provides the finance needed to rebuild the state and develop the infrastructure people need to resume peaceful and constructive lives.

Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA)

PSIA looks at the distributional impacts of public policies, with particular emphasis on the poor and vulnerable.


Environmental and Social Safeguards

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

Additional Resources

Media Inquiries

Washington, D.C.
Kristyn Schrader-King