“The question is whether the Bank will implement its new approach in a way consistent with its promises,” said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. Obstacles to mainstreaming environmental considerations into Bank operations are elaborated upon in a 12-page WRI policy note, Sustaining the Environment at the World Bank, being released today.
In the June 2006 restructuring, the World Bank integrated its Vice President of Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development and its Vice President of Infrastructure into one position: Vice President of Sustainable Development.
“This reorganization raises a number of questions regarding how the Bank’s safeguards framework will function without an independent vice presidency for the environment,” said Smita Nakhooda, who is here in Singapore representing WRI at several events.
“For the Bank to realize its potential to help client countries integrate environmental considerations into development projects and policies, and to exercise global leadership on environmental challenges, it must do more than design appropriate organizational structures. Success is at least as dependent on getting the concepts, incentives and politics right,” she added.
The WRI policy note details how the evidence has never been stronger that protecting the environment is both compatible with the World Bank’s development objectives and essential to achieving them. The Bank lends about $20 billion per year in pursuit of its mission to fight poverty. But findings from the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) indicate that the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 cannot be met in the absence of more effective stewardship of the environment.
The MA is gaining currency among environment and development professionals and links improved ecosystem management and better governance of natural resources to opportunities for poverty reduction. In further recognition of the link between poverty and the environment, the G-8 has asked the Bank to take a leadership role in addressing climate change, which poses a particular threat to poor countries and communities.
In the long term, the impact of the Bank’s recent reorganization and reaffirmation of its commitment to sustainable development will be demonstrated by changes in the Bank’s overall portfolio, and changes in the Bank’s positioning as a global leader on environmental issues, according to the report.
“The global community is in desperate need of environmental and sustainable-development leadership, and the Bank - in appropriate partnership with others - has the potential to provide it,” added Frances Seymour, who authored the note as director of WRI’s Institutions and Governance Program. Seymour has also worked with the World Wildlife Fund, the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development before joining the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia last month.
The policy note is available online at www.wri.org.