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Review and Update of the World Bank Safeguard Policies: Objectives and Scope

Safeguards Consultation image shows different scenes such as green fields, water, and people.
Objectives and Scope of Review

The current safeguard policies have served the Bank, its client countries, and the development community well over the past two decades. They embody core values of the institution and are the cornerstone of the Bank's efforts to protect people and the environment and to ensure sustainable development outcomes. In the spirit of continuous improvement in the face of changing contexts and circumstances, the Bank is evolving these crucial policies to better address new development demands and challenges, and to better meet the varied needs of borrowers.

Objectives and Consultation Process
The safeguards review and update is part of a larger modernization effort within the institution, which includes separate but complementary reviews of Investment Lending, to which the safeguard policies are applied, as well as operational procurement policies. The main objective of the review is to strengthen the safeguards policies to enhance the development effectiveness of World Bank-supported projects and programs.

While the final form and content cannot be determined at the outset, Bank management anticipates that the review process will lead to an integrated safeguards framework that will distinguish principles from policies from procedures; enhance policy clarity and coherence; clarify objectives and desired outcomes; improve synergy across policies; consolidate fragmented or duplicative policies; streamline guidance; and better delineate roles and responsibilities of the Bank and the borrower.

Beyond the objective of enhancing the development effectiveness of the projects and programs it supports, a new integrated safeguards framework can serve as the basis of a renewed partnership between the Bank and its borrowers — a partnership rooted in a common commitment to environmental and social sustainability. Such a partnership would better leverage the increasing capacity of many borrowers to identify and manage environmental and social risks and impacts. Where needed, the Bank would support borrowers to build such capacity, to enhance development effectiveness. In this way, a new integrated framework could be a global public good that can yield sustainability benefits for its borrowing countries, development partners, and the international community more broadly.

Each phase of the review will include a multi-stakeholder consultation process to elicit input and feedback from interested stakeholders in a broad, inclusive and transparent manner. The consultation plan (PDF)[as of 12/2012] provides details on each phase and on the opportunities that shareholders and stakeholders will have to contribute to the review process throughout its duration.

Scope of Review
The policies under review are the eight environmental and social safeguard policies – OP 4.01 Environmental Assessment, OP 4.04 Natural Habitats, OP 4.09 Pest Management, OP 4.10 Indigenous Peoples, OP 4.11 Physical Cultural Resources, OP 4.12 Involuntary Resettlement, OP 4.36 Forests, OP 4.37 Safety of Dams – as well as the Policy on Piloting the Use of Borrower Systems for Environmental and Social Safeguards (“Use of Country Systems”), OP 4.00.

As part of the review and update process the Bank is also considering if and how it could potentially address a number of emerging areas that are not covered by the current safeguard policies. These include climate change; disability; free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous People; gender; human rights; labor and occupational health and safety; and land tenure and natural resources. During the consultation period of Phase 1 these areas have been discussed through internal dialogue and consultations with shareholders and stakeholders, as well as through a global series of focus groups with external experts on each of the seven emerging areas. These expert focus groups – see the Terms of Reference – took place between February through May 2013, and summary notes from the discussion are available here.

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