World Bank overhauls environment strategy

The World Bank is preparing a new environment strategy aimed at integrating environmental concerns into its mainstream poverty alleviation and economic development efforts.

The central thrust of the proposed strategy is that poverty reduction is possible only if the environment is able to provide the services people depend on, and if natural resources are used in a manner that does not undermine long-term development.

The proposed strategy, Toward an Environment Strategy for the World Bank Group Progress Report/Discussion Draft, emphasises local ownership and partnerships. The strategy also calls for a fresh look at the Bank’s policies on environmental safeguards, guidelines, regional environmental strategies, environmental sector work, and sector strategies such as the forest and water sectors.

“To effectively reduce poverty, we must integrate environmental concerns into poverty alleviation and economic development strategies,” says Kristalina Georgieva, Director of the World Bank’s Environment Department. “The roughly 2.8 billion poor and near-poor people – those living on less than $2 per day in the Bank Group’s client countries – are disproportionately affected by poor environmental conditions. They are particularly vulnerable to shocks from environmental change and natural disasters.”

The three main objectives of the World Bank Group’s proposed new environment strategy are to:

  • improve health by reducing exposure to indoor and urban air pollution, water-borne and vector-borne diseases, and toxic substances
  • enhance the livelihoods of those who depend on land, water and forests by helping to manage natural resources sustainably
  • reduce the danger presented by environmental risks such as natural disasters, severe weather fluctuations, and the impacts of climate change

The strategy proposes to focus on three key areas:

  • Integrating environmental considerations into strategies and actions for poverty reduction – this will include an examination of macroeconomic and sectoral strategies and lending
  • establishing public policies that support sustainable private-sector-led economic growth
  • addressing regional and global environmental challenges – the strategy will emphasise the relationship between local, regional, and global issues and will facilitate international cooperation, enabling financial resource transfers to developing countries

Internal and external reviews of the draft strategy are planned over the coming months. Regional consultations – from Africa to East Asia – will be held between now and October 2000. The plan is to finalise the strategy by December 2000.

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