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anchor link Overview 
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anchor link Involuntary Resettlement
anchor link Indigenous Peoples



The World Bank's environmental and social safeguard policies are a cornerstone of its support to sustainable poverty reduction. The objective of these policies is to prevent and mitigate undue harm to people and their environment in the development process.

The effectiveness and development impact of projects and programs supported by the Bank has substantially increased as a result of attention to safeguard policies. This approach has often provided a platform for the participation of stakeholders in project design, and has been an important instrument for building ownership among local populations.

Key Social Safeguards include involuntary Resettlement and Indigenous People, see below.


The East Asia Social Development unit has a core team of Social Safeguards Practitioners with experience in providing review and clearance support to the Regional Safeguards Secretariat (put in their URL) as well as technical operational support to task Teams on two of the Bank’s Social Safeguards Policies. These are the OP 4.12 on Involuntary Resettlement and OP 4.10 on Indigenous Peoples).

In addition, the EAP Social Team is closely engaged with the Social Development Anchor on the Safeguards agenda.   There is now a newly formed Technical sub-Committee of the Practice Group on Safeguards with representatives from all Bank regions, QACU, LEGEN and SDV.  The main objectives of this group: 

  •  Provide guidance on identifying and addressing social risks in investment projects, including those covered by the Bank’s safeguard policies.  Recommend instruments and approaches to assess and mitigate risks, based on sector, country and institutional context.
  • Suggest ways to enhance social opportunities created by investment lending, to help maximize the benefits of these projects to local communities and other stakeholders.
  • Help task teams calibrate the level of effort to the scope and scale of the social issues in any operation, as well as the institutional context in which it is implemented.
  • Facilitate cross-regional operational support to work on the above issues, based on a systematic mapping of skills and expertise of social scientists across the Bank.

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Involuntary Resettlement

The Bank's Operational Policy 4.12: Involuntary Resettlement is triggered in situations involving enforced land aquasition and restrictions of access to legally designated parks and protected areas. The policy aims to avoid involuntary resettlement to the extent feasible, or to minimize and mitigate its adverse social and economic impacts. It promotes participation of displaced people in resettlement planning and implementation, and its key economic objective is to assist displaced persons in their efforts to improve or at least restore their incomes and standards of living after displacement.

The policy prescribes compensation and other resettlement measures to achieve its objectives and requires that borrowers prepare adequate resettlement planning instruments prior to Bank appraisal of proposed projects.

Indigenous Peoples

On May 10, 2005, the Executive Directors approved a revised policy on Indigenous Peoples. The updated policy, as reflected in the OP/BP4.10, Indigenous Peoples, replaces the earlier policy (OD 4.20, Indigenous Peoples). OP/BP 4.10 applies to all investment projects for which a Project Concept Review took place on or after July 1, 2005.

The policy on Indigenous Peoples has the potential to benefit directly or indirectly 250 million Indigenous Peoples around the world. Indigenous Peoples are distinct populations in that the land on which they live, and the natural resources on which they depend, are inextricably linked to their identities and cultures.
The revised Indigenous Peoples policy has retained the policy requirements of OD 4.20 that Bank-financed projects are designed not only to avoid adverse impacts but equally importantly to provide culturally appropriate benefits.
In terms of changes to the policy, OP/BP 4.10 introduces clarification and simplification in two critical ways:

  • It clarifies numerous ambiguities related to: (a) the need for social assessment; (b) non-coverage of economic migrants to urban areas; and (c) the role of the Bank in screening to determine whether Indigenous Peoples are present in project area; and
  • It simplifies the project processing requirement by establishing five clear steps: screening; social assessment; consultation with affected communities; preparation of plan or framework; and disclosure.

The revised Indigenous Peoples Policy introduces greater flexibility into project processing requirements by: (a) specifying that the level of detail is proportional to the complexity of the proposed project and commensurate with the nature and scale of the proposed project’s potential effects; and (b) proposing a planning framework (instead of an up-front plan) for projects that involve preparation and implementation of annual investment programs and multiple subprojects.
  OP/BP 4.10 strengthens requirements in the following areas:

  • Reflecting Board discussions on the EIR on August 3, 2004 and the Management Response to the EIR, the revised policy affords project-affected Indigenous Peoples a stronger voice through a process of free, prior and informed consultation. The Bank will provide project financing only where free, prior and informed consultation results in broad community support. The Bank will not agree to physical relocation of Indigenous Peoples if they have not provided their broad support; and
  • Commercial development of affected Indigenous Peoples’ cultural resources and knowledge is conditioned upon their prior agreement to such development.

To aid staff in the application of the revised policy, the Quality Assurance and Compliance Unit, in close collaboration with regional safeguards teams, has been organizing orientation workshops on a regular basis.

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