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p4ges - Can Paying 4 Global Ecosystem Services reduce poverty?

Members of p4ges team respond to World Bank consultation on its Environmental and Social Standards



Members of p4ges team respond to World Bank consultation on its Environmental and Social Standards.

The aims of the World Bank are to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. They fund billions of dollars’ worth of projects in less developed countries every year. Over the past two decades the bank has introduced a set of standards aiming to ensure any impact of their projects on people and the environment is identified, avoided and minimised (its environmental and social safeguards or ESS). In 2012 they launched a review of these policies. The review and consultations are now in their third and final phase.

Some of field work the p4ges team has been doing around CAZ has relevance to the implementation of the bank’s social safeguards (see our recent paper in Global Environmental Change). The work of Cecile Bidaud Rakotoarivony (espa fellow linked to the p4ges project) on the social impacts of biodiversity offsets has relevance to the new guidelines on biodiversity offsets. A number of us therefore have submitted a response, based on the field work we have done as part of the p4ges project, to the 3rd and final phase of the consultation which closes on the 15th March.

We made five main points (elaborated in our response):
1) Explicit reference should be made to the importance of ensuring that local people are aware of the existence of the grievance procedure and how to use it. People who are particularly vulnerable (and rightly deserving of special attention in the ESSs) are likely to be particularly isolated from information transfer mechanisms-a reason why this requires special attention.

2) Where World Bank funded projects operate in remote rural situations in poor countries there may not be sufficient information on the location of local communities to allow the borrower to develop an effective plan for identifying and compensating affected persons. We would suggest more emphasis should be given to improving this background information where it is inadequate. We suggest that the borrower should make public the map they are using for planning this process: creating a pressure to improve such maps and an opportunity for advocates of local people to highlight any omissions.

3) “The Bank’s vision goes beyond ‘do no harm’ to maximizing development gains” (p.6) which is a very positive aspiration. However, the wording of specific mitigation plans adds 'or at least restore' their [affected peoples'] livelihoods and living standards. This makes the conditions less stringent than appears in the introduction to the document and means that safeguards do not strictly have to 'go beyond' doing no harm.

4) Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) is not applied universally– it is only invoked in the case of ‘Indigenous Peoples’. Given that, particularly in Africa, many ethnic groups have not self-identified as ‘indigenous people’, we suggest it would be better to talk of ‘indigenous peoples and local communities’ as is done in the Convention on Biological Diversity and apply the same FPIC principle to both.

5) Where biodiversity offsets are applied explicit consideration should be given to the fact that biodiversity offsets may result in physical and/or economic displacement. We suggest a note should be added making it clear that ESS5 (that which refers to economic or physical displacement of people) applies and should be followed in all such cases.

Our response will join the many others submitted online or recorded by the bank teams in their consultations in more than 30 countries. Achieving consensus across 180 member countries is clearly challenging but we are pleased to have had the opportunity to submit our comments on this vitally important document and will be following the outcome of the review with interest.

Julia Jones

Date: 16th March 2016