World Bank Trains Gov’t Officials on Environmental, Social Framework

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Madam Leshchenko, World Bank Liberia Country Manager.

The World Bank Group on Monday, June 11, commenced a two-day training workshop for ministers and heads of agencies of government on the importance of Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) in Monrovia.

The ESF offers a broad and systemic coverage of environment and social risks, makes important advances in transparency, non-discrimination, public participation and accountability, including expanded roles for grievance redress mechanisms.

World Bank Country Manager Larisa Leshchenko said the ESF is an important evolution in protecting people, and the environment in project finance, but it is not a radical departure from the existing Safeguards processes.

Madam Leshchenko said assessing and managing environmental and social impacts in World Bank (WB) financed projects has been a core concern of the institution for more than 40 years.

Therefore, she told the over 25 participants that their presence at the training “clearly manifests the importance Liberia attaches to the ESF training, which is critical for smooth implementation for WB supported operations in the country.”

The bank’s current safeguard policies issued nearly 20 years ago, Leshchenko said, set the standards for Multilateral Development Banks in protections for people and the environment.

“The safeguard policies apply to all International Banks for reconstruction and Development, International Development Association, Investment Project Finance, covering 1,345 projects with a net commitment to the amount of US$185.2 billion, representing just over 85% of the bank’s total portfolio in terms of volume,” Leschenko said.

However, the Safeguards have served WB and “our borrowers well, but they needed to be brought up to date to harmonize with other International Financial Institutions, such as International Finance Corporation, Performance Standards; Safeguards must reflect concerns, which have emerged since the operational policies were drafted. For instance, risks related to climate change which were not known when the operational policy on Environmental Assessment was first issued in 1989. This is the accumulated practice that the participants should learn.”

Leschenko: “That is why building on decades of experience with the safeguard policies, good practice and learning from lessons derived from actual projects, the 2010 Independent Evaluation Group review, and the years of extensive consultations, we developed the ESF.”

In October of this year, Madam Leshchenko said that WB will then officially launch the new ESF, which has gone through an extensive consultation period with various stakeholders across the globe.

Therefore, she said, the bank will also do assessments of country ESF, to see the extent to which these frameworks are ready, “but where there are gaps, we will work with our clients to address them.”

According to Leshchenko, the approach in the ESF is also different, because the ESF calls for an adaptive management of environmental and social risks, both in the WB policy and in the first of ten environmental and social standards, which calls for having the flexibility to adjust to changes on the ground, to new information and to new risks. It also anticipates that changes occur, and sets out a process of how to adapt to order to deal with those changes.

However, she said the the bank is committed over the medium and longer term to support the environmental and social capacity strengthening needs of the borrowers.

“We are currently working on a strategy to that effect, so we can be more systemic in our approach. And if our clients’ systems are strengthened, this will impact not just the projects that we finance; it will also have multiplier effect for any follow-on investments, no matter the source of funds,” Leshchenko said.

Charles Ankisiba, WB Senior Social Development Specialist based in Ghana, said to end poverty and promote shared prosperity, stakeholders must take into consideration all aspects of social and environmental sustainability.

Participants at the World Bank’s ESF training workshop in Monrovia

Mr. Ankisiba, who facilitated the training, said the World Bank will boost protection for people and the environment, promote capacity-and institution-strengthening and country ownership and enhance efficiency for both the government and the bank.

“We are also committed to supporting countries in reducing poverty and building shared prosperity in a sustainable manner,” Ankisiba said.

Meanwhile, the training is expected to end today, June 12.

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