World Bank launches a new environment strategy

The World Bank has launched a new strategy to improve the organisation’s policy towards environment and sustainable development issues, and has admitted some shortcomings that have constrained the Bank’s strategy towards sustainable development in the past.

According to the Bank, their commitments in the past have sometimes outpaced their own and their clients’ abilities to deliver on them. The environment is also still not part of the Bank’s policy mainstream, and although staff are aware of environmental issues, they tend to see them as separate from business issues. Finally, the importance of environmental issues also needs to evolve further in a number of the Bank’s client countries.

In response to this, the new environment strategy states that the Bank and other organisations concerned with development assistance need to work with clients in order to develop and implement policies, programmes and investments that not only support continued economic development, but also distribute the gains of this development more equitably. The Bank also says that it intends to avoid sacrificing the interests of future generations, and build on the global consensus that natural resources are an asset that needs to be managed sustainably.

The environment should not be a self-standing agenda, says Kristalina Georgieva, Director of the World Bank Environment Department. “We intend to work with our clients to define to what extent environmental factors matter, both as opportunities and as constraints for their development, and how to best integrate them into development planning. In the end, this strategy is all about people, the quality of their lives, and their prospects for the future. And a healthy environment is fundamental to both.”

The Bank has three new objectives, that of improving people’s quality of life, improving the prospects for and the quality of growth, and protecting the quality of the regional and global environmental commons. This will include aspects such as improvements in the design and performance of environmental projects, and environmental components of projects, and applying a ‘location-specific focus’ on how projects are addressed which acknowledges that different areas have different issues associated with them.

Institutional improvements which the Bank intends to implement include raising accountability, with the Environment Board responsible for guiding and overseeing the implementation of the new strategy and reporting regularly to senior management and the board. There is also to be training and assessment of both environmental and non-environmental staff, and an increase in bank funding towards poverty alleviation. The Bank also intends to build up partnerships with development organisations and civil society, and will also be monitoring its own environmental progress.

“We have strived to integrate environment into the development agenda of the Bank because sustainability is at the heart of development,” said Ian Johnson, Vice President for the Bank’s Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network. “The strategy reflects a meeting of minds coming from different perspectives. Given the complexity of development, inevitably there are a variety of views about directions, priorities, and speed in integrating environment into development.”

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