‘Dear Future World Bank President…’

From the letter below: “For example, elimination of the senior level Indigenous Peoples’ Expert was a mistake – that position should be reinstated and the capacity of the Bank relating to indigenous peoples must be strengthened.”



Dear future World Bank President

9 April 2012

The Future President

The World Bank

1818 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20433

Dear Future World Bank President,

Congratulations on your appointment as president of the World Bank. We wish you great success, and offer you the support of our organizations as you take on this challenging and critically important role.

As the new World Bank president, it is vital for the world and its peoples that you provide transformative leadership for the Bank. Across the globe, the need for fundamental economic, social and environmental change and democratic governance has never been greater, and the Bank itself is equally in need of serious and genuine reform. Below, we suggest a number of areas where it will be especially important for you to provide strong, visionary leadership.

Bank-CSO relations. We understand the rationale behind the Bank’s proposed Global Partnership Facility for Enhanced Social Accountability. At the same time, it is our view that the most important way the Bank can support civil society organizations (CSOs) is in urging governments to protect CSOs’ political space, including freedom of association and expression, and by working to ensure full and informed civil society participation throughout the process of government and Bank decision making at every stage of the Bank project cycle. We hope you will keep this principle foremost in mind as the Bank thinks about how to engage with civil society around the world.

Bank organization. Our organizations are deeply concerned about what we perceive to be a serious, systematic weakening of the Bank’s technical and management capacity on social and environmental issues. For example, elimination of the senior level Indigenous Peoples’ Expert was a mistake – that position should be reinstated and the capacity of the Bank relating to indigenous peoples must be strengthened. More generally, we believe the consolidation of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure vice presidencies is a failed experiment, and we recommend that the Bank re-establish a separate, independent Vice President for Sustainable Development with greater resources for social and environmental implementation, transparency, and accountability. Additionally, incentive structures should be created to reward Bank Management for advancing development outcomes, including close compliance with the safeguards.

Board of Directors. There is a major opportunity to increase the Bank’s effectiveness by improving representation, transparency, and accountability at the Board of Directors. For example, in recent years the Bank has significantly increased public access to information, but even today the Board statements of all but two of the 25 Executive Directors are routinely kept secret from the public. It is the Board’s responsibility to represent the interests of most of the people on earth, including the poorest, and this lack of Board transparency undermines the Bank’s mission and its credibility.

Inspection Panel. Among the Bank’s great achievements of the past two decades has been the creation of independent accountability mechanisms, in particular the Bank’s Inspection Panel and IFC’s Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman, that can respond to the requests of people adversely affected by Bank-supported projects. These mechanisms need the full support and active engagement of the Bank’s president to function effectively and to ensure that the rights of project-affected people are protected.

Safeguards Review. The Bank’s safeguards are social and environmental standards that, if well-designed and implemented, can shield millions of poor and vulnerable people from harm, improve project outcomes, and protect vital environmental resources from irreversible damage. The Bank plans to review its safeguard policies during 2012-2013. We welcome this review, because the Bank’s safeguards contain major gaps and have fallen behind those of other institutions and international law, but at the same time there is serious concern that the review might lead to a dilution of environmental and social standards due to the perception of some that this would help the Bank compete with other financial institutions for business and investment opportunities. This is a test for the Bank – we expect the Bank to regain its leadership on safeguard protections and recognize the value they bring to its investments, and we ask for your written commitment that there will be no dilution of standards, that key gaps will be addressed, and that consistent with the Paris Declaration the Bank will make greater efforts to harmonize standards upward across country systems. Major gaps include the need to adopt binding standards ensuring prior assessment of human rights risks and identification of rights holders, in order to adopt timely due diligence measures to prevent rights violations consistent with international standards; to update the Bank’s Indigenous Peoples policy in light of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and to adopt binding safeguard requirements that apply to all Bank lending instruments and reflect labor standards and working conditions, gender equality and women’s rights, non-discrimination and rights of disabled persons, and land rights, among other human rights issues; and address other key gaps including climate change mitigation and adaptation, and ecosystems and their values.

Program for Results. The Bank is embarking on a new pilot for programmatic lending, the Program for Results, for which little or no information will be available to the public on subprojects that may number into the hundreds. We ask the Bank to make a clear commitment that any expansion of the pilot beyond the 5% cap will be tied to a public assessment of the results of a robust, independent evaluation that explores the effectiveness of risk management, transparency and accountability of proposed means for delivering verifiable results.

Gender. The Bank must integrate gender issues into all of its activities, and provide the budget resources needed to achieve this. The WDR 2012 found a persistent gender wage gap and the over-representation of women in precarious work. The Bank should address these (and other) structural inequalities through emphasis on the importance of decent work for women; the inclusion of child care in equity strategies; the establishment of a Social Protection Floor, which will be of particular benefit to women; increased public investment in basic health and better policies for maternity protection. The Bank should assist countries in setting targets for equality of outcomes, not only equality of access. The Bank needs to replace the gender and development policy with a mandatory gender safeguard policy that includes policy-based as well as investment operations.

Employment and decent work. Building upon the new Social Protection and Labour Strategy, and recognizing the opportunity of the WDR 2013 devoted to “Jobs”, the Bank should develop a new approach to employment, social protection and workers’ rights. This approach should explicitly support the creation of decent work and be reflected in all Bank policies and programmes. The Bank should collaborate with other international agencies to actively support the UN Social Protection Floor initiative, and to agree on a global target year for the universal implementation of SPFs.

Doing Business report. The Bank should take advantage of the ten-year anniversary of the Doing Business Report to critically reassess the value of all of its indicators. Such tools can be used to generate debate and reduce unnecessary red tape, but in their current form they promote neither a balanced regulatory environment nor an inclusive investment climate. Specifically, the Paying Taxes indicator needs urgent reform; the Employing Workers indicator should continue to be omitted from the rankings, and efforts to develop a Workers Protection indicator should be strengthened. Pressure to adopt Bank-preferred reforms, generated by ranking countries against one another and media attention, needs to be replaced by broad, national dialogue on appropriate and priority reforms for each country.

Education and health. One of the most effective ways to tackle inequality is to invest in quality public services, making quality education and health care universally available. A key contribution the Bank can make to tackle inequality is to proactively work with countries to help them abolish health user fees and expand access to good quality education. Poor people need to be able to go to the doctor and send their children to school without paying – otherwise they can’t and won’t. In particular, the Bank must reverse the trend of neglecting basic education in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the greatest burden of out-of-school children, and make good on its recent commitment to increase support for basic education by $750 million by 2015. The Bank’s Education Strategy should promote positive attitudes towards education for women and ensure equal access and attainment of women’s education; and ensure that curricula do not discriminate based on gender, caste, race, ethnicity, religion or beliefs.

Land and Agriculture: The increased scarcity of land and water faced by developing counties, when coupled with spiraling food prices and the threats of climate change, will place increasing pressure on an already overburdened food system. The 500 million small farms in developing countries support nearly one-third of humanity. These farmers depend on the land but have no access to markets, land, finance, infrastructure, and technologies enjoyed by large farms. The Bank needs to set the example for other global investors by supporting agricultural initiatives that serve communities and smallholder farmers directly rather than corporate and government elites, and in ways that ensure greater transparency and accountability and respect environmental and social protection in land investments.

Energy strategy. We hope the Bank will have adopted, prior to your arrival, an effective clean energy strategy focused on increasing energy access to the poor. However, if the issue remains unresolved, your leadership will be essential to reach agreement. Instead of continuing its massive support for large-scale, dirty fossil fuel projects which are not only promoting dangerous climate change, but in many cases also have devastating impacts on the health and livelihoods of affected communities, the Bank must take the lead in providing affordable energy access to the rural poor by scaling up truly low-carbon, low-impact clean energy markets, and prioritize improvements in end use efficiency over expanding supply. Towards this end, the new Energy Sector Strategy should include tools such as Integrated Resource Planning; life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions analysis and clear metrics for increased access for the poor must be mandated across the Bank’s energy portfolio; and the Bank needs to ensure adequate staffing for clean energy and for safeguard implementation.

Kosovo lignite power. This centralized power project would see the creation of a new open-pit lignite (brown) coal mine and the construction of a new 600MW lignite-based power plant just 5 miles outside Prishtina, capital city of Kosovo. The coal-fired power plant would affect the health of around half a million people in a region that already suffers from high levels of industrial pollution. Two recent expert studies undermine the economic case for the project and suggest that alternative energy approaches provide better ways to meet the country’s energy needs. Kosovan CSOs strongly oppose the project, and this case offers an opportunity for the Bank deliver a strong statement in support of clean energy sources over large-scale coal power plants, which pose severe risks to the environment and to human health.

Infrastructure services for the poor: The Bank’s updated infrastructure strategy focuses on big, regional projects with private participation such as the Inga Dam on the Congo River. This approach has for many years bypassed the rural poor, degraded critical ecosystems, impoverished local communities, and engendered corruption. Decentralized water and energy solutions will do more to expand infrastructure services for the poor, support local jobs and businesses, and strengthen climate resilience. The World Bank should shift its support in terms of direct funding, extending guarantees, building capacity and reforming policy from centralized projects to decentralized bottom-up solutions.

Finally, we would like to thank you for your attention and request a meeting with you in the near future to discuss these issues. Many of our organizations have worked constructively with the Bank in the past, and we look forward to working with you on the important challenges ahead.


Signatories as of April 9, 2012:

Accountability Counsel

Alliance Sud – the Swiss Alliance of Development Organizations

Bank Information Center

Center for International Environmental Law


Forum for Civic Initiatives

Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación (México)

Gender Action

Government Accountability Project

Institute for Advanced Studies

Institute for Development Policy

International Rivers

International Trade Union Confederation

Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya

Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)

Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union

Pacific Environment


Youth Initiative for Human Rights

This letter is open indefinitely for signatures. If you would like to add your support, please email Brittany Shannahan at bshannahan@bicusa.org. BIC will also be tweeting about these issues during today’s live Q & A with World Bank presidential candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

© 2012 Bank Information Center


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