the NR group development professionals     

The World Bank/IFC Social (& Environmental) Performance Standards & Extractive Industries
Transparency-Social Development Science’s Ten Year Journey

Dr Kate Meadows

In 2003, after 20 years ‘conventional’ International Social Development work in Environment, Education and Community Investment, I was asked to contribute to a less conventional development area, namely forming the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

To take-time out from rewarding and award winning projects with women and children, to work with (mostly) men in a ‘social responsibility testing’ industry, took some thought. My education work was with schools & universities, my Livelihoods, Evaluation and Consultation missions, mostly with United Nations. My Gender, Socio-economic & Community Development experience was with DfID and the World Bank. Whilst these institutions are conversant in, and understand the importance of, social development, I was being invited into a comparatively ‘hard-nosed’ corporate world where Social Responsibility was oft seen as ‘PR’ or ‘a tick-box-waste-of-time’. And, while Social Scientists scoffed of ‘selling out,’ I was reluctant of stepping outside a relatively ‘cosy development community’ where we ‘spoke the same language’, at sociable meets whether it be Farmer Field Schools or comfy conferences, to walk into a Tower of Babel and tackle Mad Max(s),  in hostile territory…..

Monitoring and Evaluating United Nations (FAO) Post Conflict Reconstruction,

Farmer Field Schools, Mozambique 2004

Initial reluctance notwithstanding, as my (not always easy) Social Development work was largely in Conflict Environments, experience taught me that extractive industry (particularly mining, oil and gas) played significant positive and negative role in conflict risk and consequently social development. Moreover, it was a time when ‘public/private’ partnerships were a new way forward for development in general and, as global energy supplies became increasingly gas orientated, it was imperative that these industries, operating in emerging, fragile countries, had guidance for positive impact and negatives risk reduction.  Finally, I’d long been aware of the importance of integrating energy and development-my PhD, although with a ‘traditional’ social theme of Gender Analysis, focused on something less usual i.e. public/private sector energy provision, electrification and services construction for post ‘conflict’ resettlement. At that time it was an unusual foray into an area where social scientists were habitually averse; a rare examination of an industry oft regarded as social development nemesis to be protested of, but not engaged with.

Community Investment Livelihoods Adviser for World Bank Project- Voluntary Social Protection standards were trialled, Sierra Leone, 2005/6

Whilst I poised to ‘amend route’ towards the extractive industry and public/private partnerships, development policy also steered new course. As war in Iraq and elsewhere continued, aid and development organizations repositioned and so did international development guidance; most influential being IFC Environmental and Social Performance Standards to support Public/Private Social and Community Development Partnerships with greater focus on conflict/risk reduction, transparency and good governance in oil, gas and mining. Having worked in Africa’s two largest post conflict Resettlement, Reconstruction and Development programs, I was well versed in conflict, energy and mining and better placed than many to support companies to attain stable operating environments. For risk reduction and community development, Governments and organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank, aimed to reduce conflict, to sustain stable social situations for livelihoods, social and community development.  Due to my experience, interests, work on EITI (2003/4) and IFC contacts, in 2004/5, I was asked to trial case studies for progressing the IFC’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards and, being a sub-Saharan, Middle East and North Africa specialist, to take part in IFC Social Performance  meetings/workshops in Washington, Nairobi and Cairo.

Preliminary Social Impact Assessment using framework IFC Social Performance Guidelines, Niger 2006

Specifically, our aim was for increased, appropriate Social Understanding and Social Inclusion in extractive industry operations in developing countries and communities. A voluntary set of environmental and social guidelines and Equator Principles (based on IFC safeguard policy) were produced and trialed. Then, in 2006  became legal obligation with revised Equator Principles (EP2) reflecting IFC’s 2006 Policy & Performance Standards on Social & Environmental Sustainability. Baseline socio-economic surveys using inclusive community consultation and empowerment for participatory Social Management Plans became industry requirement. First steps are production of Public Consultation and Disclosure Plans and Social Impact Assessments and the IFC teams produced useful handbooks in stakeholder engagement, resettlement and the like.  Few of us, however, anticipated the far reaching impact of these standards, guidelines and handbooks.

Public Consultation for IFC Performance Standard Guided Construction Project, Cairo, 2008

By 2008 the IFC’s E&S PS had extraordinary influence- 60 banks, i.e. the majority of project investments in developing countries, declared adherence to Equator Principles & IFC E&S Performance Standards. Moreover, the IFC initiative stimulated other public sector bodies/multilateral agencies to progress similar Environmental and Social Performance Standards the combined application of which setting the bar higher for what should and what could be achieved for social protection and social development by the private sector. What I also didn’t anticipate, was how my small role in corporate Social Performance and EITI progression, rather than stepping through a passing project, would result in all-embracing career change. Since 2003, I’ve applied Social Performance Standards in over 20 countries, to support small companies, as well as business leaders including Newmont, Alcoa/Alcan, Total, Statkraft and EVN, in coal, gold, iron & aluminum mining, energy (oil & gas, hydro), infrastructure development (dam, road, rail construction) to increase meaningful application of social responsibility from PR to the science of social protection and social development. And companies better understand the worth (Business Case) of Social Science; we became known less as ‘tick box waste of time’ or ‘charity’ and more as ‘engineers’ – high recognition from miners, energy and construction industry albeit I’d mixed feelings when first introduced as a company’s new ‘Social Engineer’! 

However, the path’s not smooth and remains strewn with challenges. But whilst misunderstanding and even maltreatment, has been experienced, I’ve also had never dreamed of appreciation and even zealot-like conversion to the ‘business case for stable social operating environments’. In 10 years, we’ve developed a new language, part development, part business-speak. During this time of physical and emotional exhaustion (and intense stimulation, satisfaction and achievement), I’ve found the territory less hostile than expected-confused, bumpy and extraordinarily busy but,  for every ‘Mad Max’ I’ve encountered, I’ve many times valued colleagues from exceptionally diverse cultures, education, socio-economic situations, skills backgrounds and interests. Living closely camped in isolated environments, I’ve grown to better value Texan oil men, Norwegian energy engineers, Albanian professors, French geologists, Canadian pipeline builders, Yemeni weavers and welders etc.  Mutual acceptance has deepened alongside honing application of conventional social science methods in unconventional working context. For instance, whilst I may never get insurance risk adverse companies to let me work completely without security guards, I now know how to convince a guard that pointing AKA 47’s at quaking community focus groups is not conducive to ‘free, fair and fluid’ discussion as well as appreciating my status and responsibility in a company is different to that working with the UN and the like.

Negotiating Community Discussion for participatory plotting gas pipeline route, Nigeria, 2006/7

After lone years of being ‘token female’, where the arrival of ‘Dr Meadows’ was sometime greeted as ‘nobody told us to expect a girl’, who I work with is also changing; I wanted to hug each of the five young, female pipeline engineers and geologists who one day pitched into our remote camp in the intimidating border territory of Mauritania, Niger and Algeria where even military special forces fear to tread. Such advancements in extractives workers gender dynamics improve understanding of wider social development dynamics.

Nevertheless, challenges remain, one of the most significant being capacity shortfalls. To ensure continued application of effective public consultation the ‘Meadows’ Mantra & Method’ is to integrate capacity building within social baseline and SIA surveys so social risk findings can be mitigated in the Social Management Plans implemented by experienced/capacity built/trained teams when the Meadows/lead Social Scientist, moves on. However, more often than I am proud of, in the line of fire/on the job, I’ve given social science assistants “Template and F*** You” training (to quote a USA student/assistant, 2010 who is currently, 2013, publishing my questionnaires/templates) rather than the nurturing they’d get in development organisations with better understanding of the complexity of the skills needed and the time required for capacity development. Nonetheless, I’ve also rapid taught/skill transferred, opened doors, made introductions, smoothed the way into responsibility and positions they’d take years to achieve elsewhere and follow with joy and admiration what  ‘my students’ from UK, Europe, Africa and beyond, attained through ‘Template and F***You’ on the job training and what they go on to achieve with hard won maturity and skills.

Capacity Building-Formal (Classroom) and Informal (on the job training), Yemen, 2009:
. Classroom

Capacity Building-Formal (Classroom) and Informal (on the job training), Yemen, 2009:
B. on the job

Recently, as part of the Standards/guidelines 2009-2011 IFC PS Review, I’ve contributed in workshops/meetings part of the consultation process to review the Standards.  Some of the challenges we’ve experienced, are being addressed (IFC Jan 2012).

Dr Kate Meadows, theNRGroup, April 2013




Page last updated October 2, 2013