How are World Bank social protection projects including and supporting marginalized groups?

BIC conducted research and analysis on 11 World Bank social protection projects to analyze how social protection project documents address and support marginalized groups.

Now more than ever, strong, inclusive social protection systems are vital to support and protect poor and marginalized people from the long term economic and social implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lock downs. The World Bank recognized the urgent need to scale up social protection in the wake of the pandemic, doubling its portfolio and committing to work with countries to achieve Universal Social Protection (USP). The Bank’s social protection projects have the potential to support and protect the needs of marginalized groups if designed and implemented in an inclusive way. 

To identify how the Bank’s social protection projects are benefitting the most marginalized, particularly persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people; and children, BIC analyzed 11 World Bank social protection projects approved before August 18, 2022, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Our research found four concerning trends in project documents that highlight how the Bank has a long way to go to achieve USP, meet its commitments on disability-inclusive social protection, and adhere to fundamental pieces of the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF):

  1. Trend One: Lack of LGBTQI+ inclusion in projects
  2. Trend Two: Persons with disabilities being lumped in as a “vulnerable group”
  3. Trend Three: Child protection elements not incorporated into project design
  4. Trend Four: Lack of specific inclusion measures in project documents  

In order for Bank-funded social protection projects to truly benefit all, the Bank must adequately assess the specific barriers to project benefits for marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people, and children. It is important that this assessment also takes into consideration issues of intersectionality and how, for example, a LGTBQI+ person with a disability might be more at risk of being left out of project design and therefore unable to receive the benefits of a social protection project. 

Once these barriers are identified, the Bank should work with governments to create specific project design components that address the needs of these groups. Our research found that this was not happening in the majority of projects. Instead, LGBTQI+ people and persons with disabilities were either overlooked in project documents or were lumped in with other vulnerable groups. As designed, the projects were also not necessarily leading to better outcomes for children as they lacked key child protection components. Moving forward, social protection project documents must address the specific social risks faced by persons with disabilities, children, and LGBTQI+ people. They should also have corresponding measures that are concrete, actionable, and include specific details on how exactly these groups will be able to benefit from these projects and participate in consultations throughout the project cycle.

Read the full report here