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Many of the world's poorest countries possess astounding natural wealth. Paradoxically, those governments that choose to exploit their mineral, oil and gas reserves often find their citizens worse off as a result. Not only do local citizens fail to accrue financial benefits from the extraction of these resources, communities often bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse social and environmental impacts that are generated. Despite this, the World Bank has played a critical role in promoting private sector investment in the extractive sectors in lesser developed countries.
In response to a growing chorus of affected communities and civil society organizations, then World Bank President James Wolfensohn agreed to evaluate the role of the World Bank Group (WBG) in the extractive industries. The Extractive Industries Review (EIR), which was uneertaken between July 2001 and December 2003, sought to assess whether the World Bank's involvement in the extractive industries is compatible with its goals of promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction.