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Raising the bar on preventing gender-based violence

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Three girls walk home from school in Bangladesh. Photo credit: Scott Wallace/World Bank
Three girls walk home from school in Bangladesh. Photo credit: Scott Wallace/World Bank

Gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEA-SH), is an unacceptable violation of human values. The impacts of these actions on survivors and victims are devastating and wide-ranging. They undermine their physical and mental health, security, dignity, quality of life and well-being. 

Unfortunately, GBV is a global issue which affects one in three women worldwide, and every community where the World Bank works includes women and girls who have experienced some form of sexual abuse or harassment.

Since 2017, the World Bank has been in the forefront of prevention and mitigation of GBV risk by taking concerted and decisive steps to strengthen prevention and mitigation of GBV/SEA-SH risks in Bank-financed operations. Our Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) sets robust requirements relating to the identification and mitigation of social risks, including GBV/SEA-SH. Our operational policies and procedures address the issue directly. The Bank’s standard operational procurement documents include bidding and contractual requirements which clearly spell out GBV-related obligations and remedies.

We continue to work to strengthen our performance in this critical area. We are also creating incentives for our partners to do the same. Contractors and sub-contractors are responsible for implementing GBV prevention measures in Bank-financed projects and managing GBV risks. We consider them as accountable partners in delivering development results while protecting the communities we serve. While there will be a clear path to improve contractual compliance, we will not tolerate failure to do so.

That is why we are introducing concerted measures to strengthen consequences for non-compliance with GBV obligations. Beginning January 1, 2021, if contractors and sub-contractors fail to implement GBV prevention measures in their contracts, they will be disqualified from further contract awards for a period of two years. This measure will apply to all Works procurements using the Bank’s Standard Procurement Documents (typically large infrastructure contracts) under projects assessed as high-risk for SEA/SH.

The World Bank is the first Multilateral Development Bank to implement such measure. We strongly believe that it will incentivize good performance among contractors. It leverages a tested contractual mechanism consisting in a panel of independent experts who will be monitoring continuously to identify non-compliance. Contractors will be held accountable only for obligations that are within their control. Our borrowers will be protected. The World Bank will fulfill its commitment to our stakeholders to take concrete steps towards freeing development projects from gender-based violence.


Manuela V. Ferro

Vice President, East Asia and Pacific (EAP), The World Bank

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