The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is currently undertaking a review of its environmental and social safeguard policies. The safeguard policies establish mandatory standards and procedures that the borrowing governments and the Bank must follow in preparing and implementing Bank-financed projects. Because these policies inform and direct the management of project-related risks, including potential impacts to communities and the environment, it is critical that they address specific risks to marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities. Currently, the vast majority of IDB policies do not even mention persons with disabilities, so the review is an important opportunity for IDB to ensure its policies are inclusive, and support their needs and rights.
The policy profile, which lays the groundwork for the draft policy, states that the new environmental and social policies will use the 8 International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards (PS) as a template. This has the potential for persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups to be left behind. The PS list disability as part of a larger category of “disadvantaged and vulnerable groups,” but they do not clearly identify the disaggregated impacts of projects on persons with disabilities and the measures necessary to prevent harm and guarantee inclusion and access to benefits in projects.
The World Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) and Good Practice Note, along with international best practice for disability inclusion in development projects, provide a template for what a more inclusive policy and supporting guidance materials could look like at the IDB. The ESF requires the World Bank to examine the disaggregated impact of projects on persons with disabilities, contains explicit reference to persons with disabilities, and emphasizes the inclusion of persons with disabilities in project benefits, as opposed to a “do no harm” approach. Additionally, these policies require meaningful stakeholder engagement, which is the most effective way to assess the needs of persons with disabilities affected by the project.
Persons with disabilities being specifically referenced in the World Bank’s ESF would not have been possible without the robust participation and activism on the part of DPOs around the world throughout the consultation process and beyond. In order for consultations on the IDB safeguards to be effective, the consultations must be accessible to all persons with disabilities, outreach must be conducted to local disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), stakeholders must be notified well in advance and provided with accessible materials, and the IDB must actively participate in consultations and respond to suggestions from civil society. If the IDB is serious about drafting a policy that is inclusive and supports the needs and rights of persons with disabilities, it must be informed by meaningful consultations with civil society, especially DPOs, and must adhere to the highest international standards and best practice on disability inclusion.