What were BIC’s main takeaways from the 2024 World Bank Spring Meetings?

The 2024 Spring Meetings provided an opportunity for civil society to provide their views on the current work from the World Bank and IMF and emphasize which issues they feel the Bank needs to address better moving forward. This perspective from civil society is critical in keeping the Bank accountable and transparent in their work.

In the World Bank’s 2024 Spring Meetings, civil society had an opportunity to exchange opinions with the Bank on key development issues, including ESF streamlining, the corporate scorecard, and IDA replenishment. 

Updates on Bank Standards

The Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) is a critical tool civil society has utilized to hold the Bank accountable for its work. The ESF is an important safeguard that protects civil society from harm in Bank projects, laying out a framework for remedy when they occur in projects. The Bank agrees with the importance of the ESF, but has also been looking for a way to streamline its implementation in its projects. As such, President Ajay Banga updated civil society on the framework during the meetings with an announcement about how the Bank is working to speed up and simplify project approvals. Especially with low- and moderate-risk projects, the Bank wants to rely more on country systems in implementation of the ESF. While we understand the Bank’s desire to streamline project design, close consideration should be given to the level of risk in specific areas of projects. For example, a project could have a mostly moderate risk level but have a substantial risk of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). In this case, the Bank needs to review if the country’s system for preventing and responding to SEA is strong enough, otherwise use of country systems won’t be enough to prevent harm. Additionally, the streamlining and shift to country systems must be accompanied by increased monitoring and supervision by Bank staff so that the reality on the ground can begin to match what is promised in Bank documents.

The Corporate Scorecard is another central topic on which civil society has placed considerable focus. The Scorecard provides metrics for both civil society and the Bank to use in holding the Bank accountable for their work. With this in mind, the Bank published a new framework for the Scorecard with 22 indicators that it will use to evaluate the impacts and results of the Bank’s operations. The inclusion of transparency and governance in the indicators was notable, but it will be crucial for the Bank to disclose the full methodologies for how they will measure these indicators. The Bank is also developing an online platform where stakeholders can look more into data behind the indicators. There should be an emphasis on disaggregating the data on these metrics and others moving forward. We look forward to learning more from the quarterly implementation updates the Bank will provide to the Board. 

IDA Replenishment

The International Development Association’s (IDA) 21st replenishment (IDA21), underway this year, was a key focus of the Spring Meetings. During the Spring Meetings kickoff event, President Banga called for a robust replenishment and greater ambition from donors. In addition to negotiating the financing package, IDA21 is also an opportunity for donors to advocate for policy reforms and seek greater ambition from the Bank. While IDA has not released its proposed policy package for IDA21, the Bank has indicated that it will align these commitments with the Corporate Scorecard, seeking harmonization across its portfolio. While we support the Bank’s initiative to increase consistency across its projects and operations, we are concerned that this change will diminish IDA’s additive value and many priorities will be left behind. For instance, the Corporate Scorecard does not address preventing sexual exploitation, assault, and harassment (SEA/H), particularly of children, which is an inherent risk in all IDA projects and particularly acute in fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) contexts.

Civil Society Policy Forums (CSPF)

The CSPF provides an opportunity for civil society to arrange panels on topics of concern during the sporting meetings. This year, BIC sponsored, along with civil society partners, several panels focused on the inclusion of marginalized groups in Bank projects, Bank accountability in remedy, and the energy transition and Paris alignment. 

In a CSPF session on prioritizing marginalized groups in social protection projects, panelists talked about the need for social protection projects to be more inclusive of LGBTQI+ people and persons with disabilities and a need for child protection elements to be incorporated into project design. Key points from the panel included the fact that different marginalized groups have unique needs that must be addressed individually, but that it is also important to consider issues of intersectionality, such as thinking about the needs of children with disabilities. The specific needs of each group must be addressed by concrete, actionable measures and project components to address different barriers to accessing project benefits. For example, panelists noted that the Bank must work on increasing its technical capacity on child protection, including improving it by appointing an Advisor for Child Protection. Furthermore, they recommended that the Bank should draft a technical note on LGBTQI+ inclusion in its social protection projects. Beyond this, speakers urged that disability inclusion should be prioritized in all components of social protection projects. 

BIC also participated in a panel on energy transition, assessing the local impacts of energy and mining projects in Latin America and looking at the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) role as a private investment catalyst for climate finance. As a region, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) faces unique challenges as a result of its growing role as a global supplier of natural resources for the just energy transition, while experiencing a considerable amount of the impacts of the climate crisis, including biodiversity loss and social inequalities. During the discussion, panelists cited the example of Sal de Vida, a lithium mining project in Argentina supported by IFC where the cumulative impacts of the project have not been publicly disclosed. They raised the point that, if the additionality of IFC is in supporting clients in implementing projects with high social and environmental standards and strong access to information policies, those impacts should be disclosed. Panelists further underscored the role IFC has to play in fostering a just energy transition, including strengthening the implementation of environmental and social standards and protecting the people who live in mineral-rich territories so that the extraction of critical minerals also benefits them. 

BIC also sponsored a CSPF panel on responsible exit, which focused on weaknesses in IFC’s development of its responsible exit principles and the potential to contribute to harm when exiting a project early. Panelists shared examples and data demonstrating that when IFC exits a project while there is an active CAO complaint and without community consent, it affects the communities’ access to remedy and can exacerbate threats and reprisals for those supporting complaints on the ground. Panelists shared recommendations to improve IFC’s responsible exit principles, highlighting how it’s critical that IFC does not exit projects during ongoing accountability processes without community consent. Beyond this, they recommended that the IFC should seek to leave communities better off than they were before IFC’s exit from a project.

Bank Announcements

A significant announcement from the World Bank was its new initiative to power Africa. In this initiative, the Bank plans to provide affordable electricity to 250 million people across Africa by 2030, with the African Development Bank bringing electricity to an additional 50 million people. The plan is for this increased energy to come from renewable sources, including solar, wind, and hydropower. While we applaud the Bank for prioritizing energy access and recognizing that renewable energy is the best way to provide it, we also urge caution around large hydropower or other renewable energy sources that may lead to loss of biodiversity and displacement of communities. With this in mind, the Bank should prioritize decentralized, community-owned power generation and energy storage for reliable sources of electricity. If they are going to succeed, they must begin to require the so-called 'last mile' be built into all investments. 

The other major initiative announced by the Bank was a new push to help low- and middle-income countries provide 1.5 billion people with quality, affordable health services by 2030. According to Banga, the Bank will need to mobilize 50% more money per year in healthcare compared to pre-pandemic levels to achieve this goal. While the Bank works to accomplish this initiative, it must emphasize the inclusion and prioritization of marginalized groups in health services.