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The World Bank has reviewed its environmental and social policies at a moment of intense production of international instruments dealing with land tenure, all of which take the form of soft law. This endeavour is motivated by the progressive acknowledgement of the importance of secure and equitable access to land for the realization of human rights and food security. The latest contribution of the World Bank to this debate is of great significance. This article aims to unveil the effects that the new Environmental and Social Framework is likely to generate in this context. It analyses the protection of access to land and security of tenure contained in the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Standards in light of the developments occurring at the international level. To this end, the article reviews the changes to the standards in the context of the social impacts when a lending project affects land holders or users directly or indirectly; addresses the mechanisms for protecting, compensating and improving livelihood opportunities for those affected by the projects; and comments on the safeguarding of indigenous peoples’ lands. The article finds that the World Bank, by incorporating some of these emerging standards, has confirmed the relevance of emerging principles and guidelines on land, even if they are contained in non-binding instruments. On a critical note, the article recognizes the refusal of the World Bank to adopt the underlying discourse and fully embrace human rights achievements in the context of land issues.
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