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. These policies provide guidelines for Bank and borrower staffs in the identification, preparation, and implementation of programs and projects.

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

Bank projects and activities are governed by operational policies, which are designed to ensure that the projects are economically, financially, socially, and environmentally sound. The Bank's Operational Manual spells them out and provides guidance on how to comply with them ("Bank Procedures" and "Good Practices").

The Inspection Panel helps ensure compliance with Bank policies. The panel is an independent body to which individuals and communities can turn if they believe that their rights or interests have been or could be directly harmed by a Bank-financed project. The panel includes senior compliance experts who report directly to the Board of Executive Directors.

Environmental Safeguards

Environmental assessment is one of the 10 environmental, social, and legal safeguard policies of the World Bank. Environmental assessment helps identify, avoid, and mitigate the potential negative environmental impacts associated with Bank lending operations. The purpose of environmental assessment is to improve decision making, and to ensure that the project options under consideration are sound and sustainable and that potentially affected people have been properly consulted.

The Environmental Assessment Policy is considered the umbrella policy for the Bank's environmental safeguard policies, which include natural habitats, forests, pest management, physical cultural resources, and safety of dams. The details of this policy are described in the World Bank's Operational Manual.

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