Doubling the Damage: World Bank Climate Investment Funds Undermine Climate and Gender Justice

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Policy Paper

Doubling the Damage: World Bank Climate Investment Funds Undermine Climate and Gender Justice

By Anna Rooke, Gender Action
in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung
April 2009

Recent years have seen the World Bank brand itself with two new images: a green “climate bank” ready to tackle tough environmental challenges, and a “gender equality bank” leading the struggle for women’s rights. In September 2008, the World Bank Board approved a Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development with the stated aim of helping poor countries overcome development obstacles posed by climate change. Earlier in the fall of 2006, the Bank launched a Gender Action Plan defining “gender equality as smart economics.” Both initiatives ignited a certain amount of pomp and circumstance; as finance ministers around the globe passed torches for gender equality, filmmakers flooded YouTube with entries for a World Bank FilmContest on Climate Change. Publicity was plenty and widespread.

Yet beyond the World Bank brochures filled with promising images of working women and solar panels, civil society moved quickly to critique the Bank’s new roles. Environmental activists criticized the Bank for continuing to finance dirty energy and extractive industries, undermining the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through new climate financing instruments, and dumping the ecological debt of climate change onto poor countries least responsible for producing greenhouse gases. Likewise, gender justice groups challenged the Bank’s instrumentalist approach to gender equality that marginalizes women’s rights and overlooks the crippling effects of policy-based loan conditionalities on women in developing countries. Few, however, have brought both critiques together.

Based on the premise that “there will be no climate justice without gender justice,” and vice versa, this introductory paper takes a preliminary look at the linkages between climate change, gender justice and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). The paper focuses specifically on the recently approved World Bank Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which necessarily implicate climate change and gender justice debates.
First outlining the CIFs, the paper then examines and connects three previously fragmented arguments: 1. The World Bank administered Climate Investment Funds run a grave risk of exacerbating climate change; 2. Climate change uniquely and disproportionately affects poor women; 3. Gender justice suffers under the CIFs. Ultimately, the paper concludes that the CIFs belie both of the Bank’s new brands, and worse, will significantly set back climate and gender justice goals. In the future, Gender Action hopes to follow up this introductory paper with deeper monitoring and assessment of the CIFs and disseminate additional findings through an
in-depth report.

Click here for the publication (pdf).