Apr 14, 2015 by Coalition

World Bank Driving Hazardous Development

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International Coalition Warns: World Bank Driving Hazardous Development

WHAT:           Demonstration – Civil society groups encircle the World Bank in “Caution” tape, demanding strong human rights safeguards

WHEN:           Friday April 17, 10:00 – 11:30am
WHERE:         
Edward R Murrow Park, in front of the World Bank, H St and 18th St NW

Washington D.C. – As finance ministers from across the globe gather in Washington DC for the spring meetings of the World Bank April 17-19, human rights advocates urge their governments to prevent a watering down of social and environmental protections and to instead ensure that development respects human rights.

The Bank on Human Rights Coalition, a global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, is calling on the World Bank and its member states stop risking human lives and to change how they do development. 

“The World Bank is trying to weaken its safeguards at the same time that it is increasing lending for extremely risky projects like massive infrastructure installations and financing in conflict zones,” explains Gretchen Gordon, Coordinator of the Bank on Human Rights Coalition. “It’s like racing a car through a crowded street with no headlights and no steering wheel – you can’t see the people or the potholes in the road. That’s not development, it’s insanity.”

“The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are responsible for grave violations of the human rights of thousands of indigenous peoples who were devastated by the construction of the Chixoy dam,” explained Juan de Dios Garcia Xajil, a member of the communities forcibly displaced to make way for a Guatemalan dam. “It seems that these banks don’t want to learn from their mistakes as they’re now promoting the Plan for Prosperity with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – a plan that imposes a model of development utterly opposed to the reality and necessities of those countries’ indigenous peoples, a plan constructed without their participation,” he said.

“When the Bank and the borrower country come up with a plan for investment in a given country, that process must focus not only on effective consultation with civil society, but also strong, sustainable monitoring of the real social and rights impact of the projects,” says Reem Abdel Haliem, Economist on Poverty Issues, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “Otherwise the Bank and the government end up funding projects that cause negative impacts, and they may not even realize it until the project is already implemented. This means the Bank is funding anti-development projects, which should not be its role.”

“While the Bank reviews its social safeguard policies, it must listen more to those whose rights will most likely be negatively affected by future Bank lending, such as indigenous peoples,” said Peter Kitelo, Coordinator, Forest Indigenous Peoples Network in Kenya, “rather than to the governments who have been overlooking and trampling on those rights. The Bank should also look at redressing past oversights, such as the Natural Resource Management Project in Kenya, which the Sengwer community believe has contributed to their being forcibly evicted from their homes.”

The outcomes of the World Bank’s safeguards review will inevitably influence the social and environmental frameworks of other development finance institutions, especially the recently created BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” said Caio Borges, attorney with the Brazilian organization, Conectas Direitos Humanos. “Despite their shortcomings, the safeguards set minimum requirements necessary to prevent development projects and policies from violating human rights or harming the environment. Civil society is closely monitoring the process and pushing governments to uphold the current safeguards, and more importantly, to make them more rights-respecting.”

The Bank on Human Rights Coalition’s concerns and recommendations regarding the World Bank Safeguards Review are available at: http://bankonhumanrights.org/?p=64420 Recommendations include: 1) require that Bank-financed activities respect human rights, 2) include robust due diligence measures to identify and address human rights risks, and 3) bring the safeguards in line with international human rights law and standards.

For further enquiries or to arrange an interview with a member of the Bank on Human Rights Coalition or our partners, please contact:

Gretchen Gordon
Coordinator
Bank on Human Rights
+1 202 330-3305
ggordon@bankonhumanrights.org
Twitter: @BankonRights

To contact partners and partners for comment, click here.

Media Advisory and Press Availability:
April 14-19, 2015 

Contact: 
Gretchen Gordon, Coordinator,
Bank on Human Rights Coalition,
+1 202 330-3305,
ggordon@bankonhumanrights.org