Gambling with people's lives

What the World Bank's New "High-Risk/High-Reward" Strategy Means for the Poor and the Environment

In a major new water strategy paper issued in February 2003, the World Bank's management asserted: "To be a more effective partner, the World Bank will re-engage with high-reward/high-risk hydraulic infrastructure, using a more effective business model." In October 2002, the Bank's Board of Directors also endorsed a high-risk approach to the forestry sector; the new Forest Policy allows Bank support for commercial logging operations in rainforests.

Read the reportThe environmental destruction, social upheaval, corruption and repression that are associated with the World Bank's high-risk projects have created tremendous public controversy since the 1980s. This is particularly true for large dams, for projects that affect tropical forests, and for investments in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

This report analyzes how the World Bank's approach to environmental and social risk has changed over time and evaluates the Bank's track record in highrisk projects in the water, forestry, oil, gas and mining sectors. The report presents examples of alternative development approaches that are marked by low risk and high rewards and culminates with some general conclusions and a series of recommendations.

Read the report