The International Development Association (IDA) is the arm of the World Bank that provides grants and below-market loans to the world’s 74 poorest countries. In April 2021, IDA took the unprecedented step of accelerating its twentieth replenishment (IDA20) by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing “Building Back Better from the Crisis: Towards a Green, Resilient and Inclusive Future,'' as the overarching theme. That same month, following IDA’s announcement, officials from donor governments, Deputies, met to discuss the status of commitments from IDA’s last replenishment and special themes and cross-cutting issues for IDA20.
In June 2021, IDA Deputies met again to hear the Bank’s financing framework and policy commitments for the twentieth replenishment. Ahead of these meetings, BIC provided key recommendations for the IDA20 policy package, pushing for increased ambition on disability and inclusion, climate, and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). After discussing IDA’s policy papers on each special theme and cross-cutting issue, Deputies also overwhelmingly encouraged management to set higher IDA20 policy goals. As a result, IDA fine-tuned its commitments to include an enhanced focus on nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and increased incentives for vaccine financing.
While BIC appreciates these developments in the IDA20 policy package, we encourage IDA to raise the ambition of its commitments during the October 20-22, 2021 meetings. As one of the largest shareholders, the United States has the opportunity to lead IDA and other donors to set higher IDA20 objectives, underscoring the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change on marginalized groups. During the final pledging session in December 2021, it will be critical that the U.S. makes a robust pledge to IDA20 to enable it to lead on its policy objectives. Therefore, ahead of the October and December IDA Deputies meetings, BIC encourages the U.S. to advocate for the following policies:
- IDA should seek stronger commitments on disability: Disability was a cross-cutting issue in IDA19 and a priority for the U.S. Under IDA20, World Bank management announced that human capital would become a special theme, encompassing health, education, social safety nets, and disability. We are concerned that the commitments on disability within this theme lack ambition. For example, IDA commits to supporting at least eighteen IDA countries to meet the needs of persons with disabilities by implementing the principles of universal access through projects in education, health, social protection, water, urban, digital development and/or transport. However, IDA projects are already required to meet these standards under the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). At a minimum, IDA should significantly increase the number of countries it commits to supporting under this objective. Further, we encourage IDA to increase the ambition within all its human capital commitments to better consider persons with disability and inclusion. For instance, Policy Commitment 2, which focuses on maternal and reproductive health, should also address access to these services for persons with disabilities. As a strong advocate for disability rights, we encourage the U.S. to use its position as one of the largest donors to build support among shareholders and push management to consider disability within the human capital theme more ambitiously.
- The IDA20 nature-based solutions policy commitments should feature the critical role of indigenous communities as ecosystem stewards prominently: We support the prioritization of nature-based solutions under the IDA20 climate change special theme, recognizing the benefits these policies and projects have both in reducing GHG emissions and increasing resilience to climate impacts. However, we encourage IDA to better integrate forests and forest peoples throughout its climate commitments, as the importance of engaging with indigenous communities is only featured under Lessons Learned. Historically, nature-based solutions have received little dedicated climate financing, despite the significant value forests and natural ecosystems have in contributing to human well-being and climate stabilization, such as absorbing and storing carbon above and below ground and regulating rainfall. Further, when indigenous communities and forest peoples manage these ecosystems, there is a lower rate of deforestation, and landscapes are more biodiverse, store more carbon, and benefit more people. The October IDA20 meetings are an important opportunity for the U.S. and other donors to push IDA to prioritize the essential role indigenous communities and forest peoples play in implementing and realizing the full potential of nature-based solutions.
- Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), especially of children, is not sufficiently prioritized within the human capital, fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV), and gender and development themes: There is an inherent risk of SEA in all types of projects funded by IDA. Further, the global economic downturn caused by COVID-19, which is still at its height in many developing countries, has led to significant negative impacts for women and children, especially those out of school, including an increase in SEA. SEA is particularly acute in FCV contexts. However, there are no SEA commitments within the FCV theme, nor is SEA addressed within the human capital theme. Further, the short discussion of SEA in the gender and development paper does not specifically focus on risks posed to children, including boys. These omissions are missed opportunities for IDA to address the unique risks of child SEA that arise from IDA projects. Preventing child SEA and protecting children enables them to complete their education and represents a significant investment in human capital. IDA Deputies should encourage the Bank to include preventing child SEA indicators within the human capital, FCV, and gender and development objectives.
- Stakeholder Engagement should be emphasized across IDA’s special themes: While we appreciate that the IDA20 climate change paper stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement with indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, we would like to see greater recognition of the integral role that engagement with all affected communities plays across special themes. For instance, effective stakeholder engagement is essential to delivering on IDA20’s human capital objectives. However, while Objective 3 under the human capital theme focuses on the importance of stakeholder engagement in addressing social service gaps caused by COVID-19, stakeholder engagement is not sufficiently considered in other policy commitments and objectives under this theme. Finally, stakeholder engagement is not mentioned under the crisis preparedness and governance and institutions cross-cutting issues, which is a missed opportunity.
An accelerated IDA20 replenishment is unprecedented and reflects the level of need and depth of the crises the world is facing. While we commend IDA’s growing ambition for the twentieth replenishment policy package, we encourage IDA to show greater ambition within the disability, climate, and SEA commitments, and in mainstreaming stakeholder engagement. As a long time champion for reform and progress at the World Bank and IDA, the U.S. should make a robust pledge and use its unique leadership position to advocate for more ambitious, inclusive, and green policy commitments from the IDA20 replenishment process.