World Bank Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) : Implementation Update

CICA participated in “World Bank Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) : Implementation Update” in Washington on April 21, 2017.

  • Opening remarks, Hartwig SCHAFER, Vice President, Operations and Country Services (OPCS)

Hartwig Schafer explained this new Environmental & Social Framework (ESF) was a long time in the making and it took some compromise but now it is stronger and more performant than the former one. It was not easy but in the end a consensus was reached that all the stakeholders could agree on[1].

IT makes important advances for the Bank in areas such as Transparency, Accountability, Non-discrimination and Public Participation.

Now the Bank focuses on the ESF implementation. A lot is happening now. A team of dedicated staff has been made. The Manager of this new team is John KELLENBERG.

There are ongoing works with OPCS. The Bank does not have the answer about when this goes into effect. It will depend on readiness indicators[2]. They will be driven by readiness indicators to make sure the Bank and the Borrowers are ready and capacity building is available, shared and discussed. There will be a big effort in the next 12 months. Guidelines notes are being written at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington. Then the Bank’s staff will go to the countries to disseminate it.

One of the areas of concerns raised during the preparation was: does the Bank have the budget and staffing? The moment the Board approved this policy, additional resources have been decided. Resources different from regular spending will be allocated for implementation. Additional staffing will also be there with a footprint on the ground that is to say additional staff in the countries. In particular in fragile States, staff is needed.

ESF should not be seen as an isolated initiative inside the Bank. It is part of the increase of capacity building in client and borrowing institutions. Making flexibility. No more one size fits all. To Hartwig Schafer, the Uganda case was a huge learning opportunity for the Bank, a lot of issues identified are being raised in the new framework. Guidance notes are being written about Labor in the infrastructure projects.

More focus on social issues which are at the center of this new framework.

  • John KELLENBERG, Manager, Environmental & Social Framework Implementation (OPCS)

The aim of the new ESF is to have a consolidated policy to avoid fragmented safeguards and to have an harmonization also with other institutions. Transparency and Accountability are core principles in the implementation of these new safeguards.

The Bank’s staff will go to the countries of operations of the Bank and explain how to implement the new safeguards. The idea is building the ESF itself in the countries with e-learning and face to face meetings.

There will not have a retrospective effect of ESF. Guidance notes should be prepared by next summer. But no date determined. It is revised all the time. IT systems also needs to be adapted to include integrated environmental and social risk tracking.

  • Una MEADES, Lead Counsel, Legal Vice Presidency (LEGEN)

Two sets of guidance notes are being prepared:

General guidelines with each of the standards to help the Borrowers understand what is required – Very synthesized.

Guidelines more in-depth for specific issues, on the context of the standards. Greater understanding of how to address issues – More detailed.

The Bank’s teams from different departments of the Bank have prepared the general guidelines[3]. They are now being reviewed. They want to be sure the colleagues from the Bank could review the guidelines in the light of the projects they work with. Then they comment. Then the notes are adapted and the notes should be published in the summer.

On the specific in-depth guidance: some issues have already been identified as needing specific guidance like aspect of non-discrimination or road safety. They look at the comments they had received during the preparation of the ESF.

  • Julia BUCKNALL, Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Global Practice (ENR)

Because it gives a framework and clear structure of the learning development, the staff is very motivated. A system of training the trainers is in place. There are internal trainings in the Bank and then there will be training sessions in the Borrowing countries. Now there is a more predictable budget which helps. To her, it is a very positive move.

  • Maninder GILL, Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice (SURR)

Maninder Gill confirmed the new ESF is very motivating for the staff working on social risks management. He underlined that for social issues until then there was no global and comprehensive approach. The challenges are the number of staff and the skills of the staff as well as having the good approach and practice. He gave the example of the Uganda inspection panel.

There is a big Management support and the necessary budget now so they are very positive. To him, it is an historic opportunity for environmental and social management issues and especially for social issues.

New issues are on the table such as: non-discrimination, labor standards, the fight against sexual abuses like in Uganda etc. He approves also the huge focus on training which includes peers reviews. All this making sure all the lessons from Uganda have been learned.

  • Sumir LAL, Director, External and Corporate Relations (ECRGP)

The difference with the former ESF which is a very strong step forward is that Borrowers will have to undertake the stakeholders’ engagements through the projects and they will have to comply with it.

To Sumir, the two significant changes are:

The Bank’s presence through all the life cycle of the projects;

The definition of two categories of stakeholders: usual stakeholders and « other interested stakeholders ».

  • Afshan KHAWAJA, Manager, Environmental and Social Safeguards Team (OPCS)

Afshan Khawaja clarified the environmental and social safeguards already existed under OP4.01 “Environmental Assessment” but now she welcomes a real policy.

About non-discrimination: the provisions are now to target the more vulnerable. Sexual orientation, gender, children…

About stakeholders’ engagement: there will be a dialogue with the affected communities themselves. A comprehensive stakeholders’ analysis is privileged as an intuitive process from the beginning to implementation. No one type outreach. Increased focus on standard 10. Explicit focus to make it simple for communities to have issues addressed.

  • Mark KING, Chief Environmental and Social Standards Officer (OPCS)

Mark King insisted on Accountability as the fruit of the due diligence reviewed by another team of the Bank (OPCS). The checks are done to ensure the policy and procedures have been applied.

The checks are also made in the region and on the overall E&S risks. The higher E&S risks projects are identified.

Operations E&S review committee: committee chaired by the Chief Officers to look at high risks projects when the teams are not sure and need guidance. It is to ensure consistency in the approach to projects. Teams in the countries are not left on their own. They have people to ask guidance to. It is part of the management system. It also involves external affairs, the Legal and the countries. The Uganda project is always taken as a reference.

Questions & Answers:

  • About gender: the main intent is to make sure all groups are covered. For gender, the Bank is almost at a state they don’t need to remind the importance of addressing the gender issue in development.
  • Clear emphasis on engaging in a manner appropriate for the identified stakeholders.
  • The importance of meaningful consultations and disclosure of information was underlined.
  • Capacity building: they are starting with e-learning that they are designing. It will be available in all the languages of the Bank. Target towards shareholders (Ministries of Finance) and the Bank’s projects implementation officers. The harmonization in the countries also relies on capacity building to help clients raise their standards on E&S.
  • They expect engagement from civil society in the development process: civil society needs to provide a continued feedback[4].


[1] The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the new ESF on August 4th, 2016

[2] To be collected and distributed inside CICA working group on MDBs Procurement

[3] To be collected and distributed inside CICA working group on MDBs Procurement

[4] CICA is asking OPCS (Hartwig Schafer and his teams) how to have regular contacts to transmit the contractors’ feedback.