NGO Comments ​on Safeguard Policies & Project Implementation

Weasel Words

How Weasel words weaken safeguards for project-affected communities        and the enironment

Despite World Bank President Kim’s guarantee that that Bank’s “review” of its environmental and social protections would not lead to any “dilution” or weakening of protections, the World Bank’s environmental and social safeguards plan reveals a shocking attempt to eviscerate protections for the poor while giving a green light for the destruction of forests and the natural environment. 

One of the ways that protections are weakened, not only at the World Bank, but at other multilateral institutions,   is through the use of vague and ambiguous terminology, difficult to understand or enforce. The draft framework grants unprecedented discretion to Bank staff and fails to establish clear rules. There is so much ambiguous and qualifying language throughout (“where appropriate”, “as relevant”, “as feasible”, , "where financially feasible" [i.e. where the borrower feels it wants to pay], “to the satisfaction of the Bank”, etc.) that neither staff nor borrowers nor affected communities will know what the minimum standards actually are. The lack of clear standards significantly undermines accountability and makes it nearly impossible for affected communities to ensure that the Bank and the Borrower meet their commitments, whether through community-based monitoring or through raising claims to the Inspection Panel and local grievance mechanisms. 

Click here  or here for examples of Weasel Words in the Bank's  Safeguards drafts.