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  • Social Sustainability and Inclusion – formerly known as Social Development – reflects the World Bank’s focus on addressing long lasting barriers to development, strengthening the focus on people who have been excluded from economic and social opportunities, and increasing investment in inclusive growth.

    Social sustainability is about inclusive and resilient societies where citizens have voice and governments respond.  Social sustainability is also about expanding opportunities for all people today and tomorrow. Together with economic and environmental sustainability, it is critical for poverty-reduction and shared prosperity. 

    The core tenet of Social Sustainability and Inclusion’s work is to help people – regardless of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or disability – overcome obstacles that prevent them from fully participating in society, and supporting their efforts to shape their own future. It does so by working with governments, communities, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders to create more inclusive societies, empower citizens, and foster more resilient and peaceful communities.

    Last Updated: Oct 01, 2020

  • The World Bank’s work on Social Sustainability and Inclusion has a new strategic direction that focuses on four things:

    Creating opportunities for all people and addressing deep rooted systemic inequalities

    Persistent discrimination and exclusion of the most marginalized come at a high cost to both people and the economy. Globally, the loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality is estimated at $160.2 trillion. Afro-descendants continue to experience significantly higher levels of poverty (2.5 times higher in Latin America). 90 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. In many countries, it is especially difficult to tackle LGBTI exclusion, discrimination, and violence. To date, 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality.

    Social Sustainability and Inclusion focuses on increasing opportunities for all marginalized people to participate fully in markets, services, technologies, and society. In Panama, for example, this means working with Indigenous communities and their traditional leaders to improve the quality of health, education, water and sanitation services. In Serbia, it means leading a study on the socio-economic outcomes of exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Empowering people to be drivers of their own solutions

    The centerpiece of our operational work has focused on Community-Driven Development (CDD) programs, which empower communities to be architects of their own solutions for growth and poverty reduction. Building on participatory approaches and a community’s own values, CDD programs improve community services and basic infrastructure to help residents, especially the most vulnerable, reach their potential and develop their livelihoods. They also strengthen the capacity of residents and community leaders to articulate their needs and engage with local and regional governments.

    We also work across task teams to build citizen engagement tools into our investment projects.  Engaging citizens is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it provides insight into how the crisis affects communities and can enable real-time course correction.

    Creating resilient societies requires working in the most fragile and difficult environments

    For people living in the most challenging environments, we strengthen resilience by creating opportunities to thrive. We do this by building strong households and communities that can withstand divisions caused by conflict, violence and exogenous shocks such as climate change or pandemics. That’s why the majority of operations in SSI focus on building social cohesion in countries that are tackling conflict and violence, and we are expanding our work to help address the social dimensions of climate change. In fragile countries, we support monitoring, participatory service delivery, peace building and reconciliation processes, and targeted efforts to reduce interpersonal violence.

    Making the Environment and Social Framework an integral part of everything we do

    The Environment and Social Framework (ESF) boosts protections for people and the environment, builds country capacity on social and environmental management, and makes important advances in areas such as transparency, accountability, nondiscrimination, and public participation.

    It was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors in 2016, after a Safeguards review that 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.

    Across Bank projects, important social issues include gender empowerment, gender-based violence, labor and working conditions, inclusion of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, and stakeholder engagement. The ESF, effective as of October 1, 2018, underscores that 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: Oct 01, 2020

  • 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: Oct 01, 2020





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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