World Bank: Missed Opportunity to Protect Communities

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Draft Guidance Notes Offers Little Practical Advice to Borrowers

(Washington, DC, December 4, 2017) –

Draft Guidance Notes that will accompany the World Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework are inadequate to protect people in communities affected by the bank’s projects, 29 nongovernmental groups said today in a letter to bank officials.  
The framework, developed over the past four years, will replace the bank’s current safeguard policies that aim to mitigate potential environmental and social harm from the projects it finances. In a departure from those policies, the World Bank’s new standards place much more responsibility on borrowers and give them more leeway to police themselves, leading Human Rights Watch and other organizations to worry that the World Bank will not have effective oversight and some borrowers may not effectively follow the standards. The Guidance Notes, which are non-binding, were billed as a way to provide much-needed clarity to borrowers and assist their implementation of the new standards. 
“If the World Bank is serious about protecting communities against harm from its projects, it needs to make sure borrowers have a detailed and practical blueprint on how to do that,” said Jessica Evans, senior researcher and advocate on international financial institutions at Human Rights Watch. “But the draft Guidance Notes are so vague and offer woefully little help to borrowers on how to implement the new Environmental and Social Framework.” 
The groups said that the draft Guidance Notes, published on November 1, 2017, largely lack practical guidance for borrowers, and frequently restate the vague language of the standards. The groups asked the bank to make substantial revisions and provide another round of drafts for public comment to address the serious gaps in the documents. 

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