Fast-Tracked COVID-19 Financing Requires Communities’ Expertise To Succeed
Multilateral development banks (MDBs) are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing financial support at unprecedented levels and speed. MDBs have approved over USD 58 billion for emergency COVID-19 response in the last month alone, 1and that is just the beginning. The World Bank Group is already preparing to deploy as much as USD 160 billion in commitments over the next 15 months with the hopes of shortening the time for global economic recovery and “build[ing] conditions for broad-based and sustainable growth.”
The need for financial support during this crisis is both immense and acute, and without a doubt, MDBs should rise to the challenge. The urgency of this moment means that every dollar of financing needs to deliver its intended impact; there is no room for unintended consequences.
What is frightening then is that the risk of unintended harm is even greater when decisions are made and implemented quickly, because there is simply less time — and sometimes less will — to incorporate local communities’ expertise and conduct thorough social and environmental due diligence. Communities impacted by bank financing are best positioned to understand whether the money is truly mitigating harms caused by the pandemic because they are the very people the financing is intended to help, and they suffer the most if it does not.
As the pandemic heightens threats to vulnerable communities, it is critical that MDBs take the steps needed to ensure they put these communities at the very center of the financing decisions.