In Mongolia, in the Ger district of Ulaanbaatar, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding the construction of a road. But the local population call it “the ADB road to poverty”.
ADB has been involved in urban development in Mongolia since 1992 and to this date has invested a total of $376 Million dollars, in various of forms of financing. ADB also contributed with technical assistance, to develop policies and legal frameworks for urban development in compliance with the Bank standards. Yet, despite these efforts, the local population impacted by the road is being heavily impacted.
Oyuntugs, director of “6 Buudal” NGO, says:
« We filed a complaint regarding the ADB project. The Selbe sub-center project is affecting peoples’ lives. Residents are fleeing home because of risks caused by cracks in the wall and fences. They promised to reduce poverty but this is leading to more poverty, residents forced to flee are sliding into more poverty. We are also working on many cases of breakage of residents’ cars and injuries sustained by falling, where the road or pedestrian passages were wrecked because of the construction works and where no temporary passages were created. Some resettled people have not found a new home yet, and their livelihoods are diminishing. The size of land allotted is too small. The promised 500 sq. meters outside town are now down to 250 and people have not been able to move in. Their livelihoods are at risk ».
In Mongolia, citizens have the right to obtain a piece of land free of charge and live on it for free. However, resettled families were offered cash compensation for their land and received land possession titles for a 5-year period, instead of restoring their ownership title. Why is this a problem? Possession titles require payment of land fees, which is an additional burden on resettled families already suffering from economic and social displacement.
In addition, the Mongolian tradition of living as a “khot ail” of two or more families on the same plot was disregarded in the ADB’s Land Acquisition and Resettlement Plan. Land titling principles borrowed from a sedentary culture were applied to issue a land certificate to only one family. Remaining families were to go without compensation of any kind. Compensation for non-title holders negotiated under the Office of the Special Project Facilitator’s problem solving process in 2018 is not being honored by the Project Management Unit in the valuation process for other sub-centers.
When we asked if we could apply for the 1,800.000 MNT (appx $100 per month) compensation for the six months transition support and 250,000 MNT (appx. $88) moving cost they said: “your children are not eligible because they have not lived at this address in the last 6 months”. The reason I am reacting to this is because my children have not lived here in the past 6 months due to COVID. They have not been able to come home because are stuck there, otherwise they would have come back and make a living like always, but they are still out there now.
ADB continues to use every possible pretext to reduce compensation. Family members stuck outside Mongolia due to COVID were cut from compensation because they hadn’t lived at the registered address for the last 6 months. It appears that the ADB has not communicated the policies for protecting people and migrant workers affected by COVID restrictions from further harm. A cash amount of $35,000 is considered a decent compensation but it will not buy an apartment that can comfortably house 6 adults and 2 children of the titleholder.
This is the path to 7 Buudal and there is no pedestrian crossing. They did not think about human comfort. You walk here – no passing, walk there – nothing. People fall and get injured walking on these rocks and bridges. I fell and cracked scull and spent many days with swollen face, runny eyes, not able to work. It hurt.
It is impossible to live in this khashaa. I am a father of 6 children and there is no way I can build a house here. My kids used to play up the river across there but now the road is blocking the way. Cars on this road drive at 50 miles and faster. There’s no thinking of children’s safety at all. Look at the fences fallen and stolen during the winter. No remedy, it is not clear who is supposed to restore. Meeting with bosses and implementers they point me “go here, go there” and have not taken a single decision. Look at the driveway they built. What car can drive up on it to the road? Driving up to the road with cars speeding on it. Don’t know where to go. We got a road in our plot. This is deep poverty. Is there any upward development? We definitely do not see it.
As if taking away land and livelihoods for little compensation was not enough, the actual construction phase is shamelessly trespassing into peoples’ property. Families who have been denied compensation because they will not be affected by the road are now struggling to live with a road blocking their door, fences or ominously hanging over their heads. The project is using a strategy of forcing families to flee without compensation. This strategy has worked in previous projects but not now. Now families are demanding to be resettled to safety with compensation adequate for the destruction of their homes and livelihoods. Some demanding to create safe environment without displacing them in any form.
My name is Myagmarsuren Munkhzul, I’ve been living for the past 15 years at Sukhbaatar district 14th Horoo at this address. The ADB–funded Selbe sub-center project is causing major problems to our livelihood. Because the road is built right behind our plot fences fell and there is no guarantee that a car will not fall in here. In addition, there’s so little land left with no space to put the latrine. Дээрээс нь газар маань аюгүй бага болчихсонBecause of road works, the wall of the house cracked sustaining major damages. The backside fences fell under pressure of the road slope during the winter and while fixed now there is a possibility that they will fall again. Living with no fences has caused a lot of thefts and robberies. Because of this project’s work, the street camera disappeared almost a year ago. Therefore, the situation is very difficult with not knowing where the stolen things are and who is responsible for all this. All I can ask for is for you to create conditions for us to live peacefully with no risks here, where we are.
It is a shame that the Green Climate Fund will soon approve a co-financing for the housing that will be used coal-based electricity and heating but also will displaced marginalized communities to make space for the their climate resilient and affordable town houses. GCF, EIB, and the WBG are part of these urban development projects affecting negatively on the livelihoods of Ger residents not ensuring that protections required by their safeguards policies are complied with in the ground. We call upon all development investors involved here to fulfill their promise to reduce poverty to stop financing infrastructure for the rich minority by physically, economically and socially displacing Ger district residents.
En amont du sommet Finance en Commun, nous nous entretenons avec Paubert Mahatante Tsimanaoraty (expert des questions environnementales et de la pêche, coordinateur de la Plateforme régionale des organisations de la société civile du sud-ouest de Madagascar) et Elisa Razafiniarivo (Plateforme nationale des organisations de la société civile à Madagascar, membre de FORUS) sur la situation à Madagascar, le financement du développement et les droits humains.
Quel est l’impact des projets de développement à Madagascar?
Paubert: Si vous regardez tous les rapports des banques de développement à Madagascar et tous leurs registres, vous verrez qu’il y a parfois des écarts entre ce qui se passe dans la réalité et ce qui est documenté. J’ai 39 ans, j’ai donc vu de nombreux projets, et je viens du sud de Madagascar, où la famine sévit actuellement; nous vivons dans des conditions critiques, très dures.
D’une part, les banques de développement – telles que la Banque mondiale, la Banque africaine de développement et le Fonds monétaire international – aident à financer des projets gouvernementaux. Parfois, ce processus implique des représentants de la société civile et parfois non, ce qui est bien, car cette relation entre le gouvernement et la société civile est un travail en cours. Le gouvernement voit parfois la société civile comme étant manipulée par l’opposition, alors nous devons être prudents, mais nous voulons qu’ils comprennent que nous représentons le peuple, et nous méritons donc d’être consultés.
L’un des problèmes est que lorsque nous regardons le montant réparti et utilisé pour aider la communauté à se développer, à lutter contre le changement climatique et à réduire la pauvreté … après la fin d’un projet, après 3 ou 5 ans, nous voyons qu’il n’y a pas durabilité. Et la durabilité est le principal problème; même pendant le projet, on ne sait pas toujours clairement comment la communauté est censée en bénéficier.
Un autre problème concerne le remboursement de l’argent, et c’est un problème que la plupart des citoyens ne comprennent pas, car la traduction malgache du financement de la Banque mondiale est «don». Mais ce n’est pas un don, et il est censé être remboursé la plupart du temps.
Prenons l’exemple du projet «Filet sociaux de sécurité», un projet initié par le ministère de la Population, en 2015-6. Nous avons eu une crise profonde liée à la sécurité alimentaire et à la famine dans le sud de Madagascar. Grâce à ce projet, la Banque mondiale a déployé des centaines de millions de dollars, tout comme l’USAID et quelques autres. Il y avait un fonds commun et le PNUD, l’USAID, la Banque mondiale et de nombreux fonds internationaux y ont contribué. Le fonds a été utilisé pour aider la communauté à surmonter la crise. L’argent a été distribué directement aux communautés – environ 15 dollars par mois par ménage. C’était une source de corruption locale – certaines personnes ne répondaient pas aux critères, mais l’ont reçue car elles étaient liées au maire ou au chef de l’administration locale. Au lieu que les objectifs réels du projet en bénéficient, il y a eu de la corruption. Ce qui s’est passé, c’est aussi que lors de la distribution de ces fonds, le flux d’argent entrant dans le village a provoqué de l’inflation – beaucoup de demande et peu d’offre. La deuxième chose est que l’argent était parfois utilisé pour l’alcool et aussi pour l’exploitation sexuelle.
Prenons un autre exemple – un autre projet financé par la Banque mondiale, SWIOFISH, un projet de pêche et d’aquaculture dans le sud-ouest de l’océan Indien, d’une valeur de 85 millions de dollars, pendant 15 ans, dont 5 se sont écoulés. Un peu d’argent a déjà été pris à la banque et utilisé, mais le gouvernement a acheté 35 4×4 avec cet argent. Jusqu’à présent, nous ne voyons pas l’impact du projet. C’est peut-être en partie parce qu’il reste encore deux tiers à parcourir et nous devons attendre et voir.
Le dernier exemple que je vais citer est le PCAP, un projet d’appui aux communautés de pêcheurs, un projet de la Banque africaine de développement. Des 4×4, comme d’habitude, ont été achetés et des sortes d’unités pour aider les pêcheurs à traiter leurs produits, à les laver et à les préparer ont également été construites. Aucun pêcheur n’a utilisé ces unités – au moins 12 ont été construites et une unité coûtait 1 milliard de francs malgaches en 2013. Des dispositifs de concentration de poissons ont également été déployés, mais quelques mois après leur déploiement, ils ont été détruits par des pêcheurs en colère car ils n’en bénéficiaient pas directement.
Pour résumer, ce que j’aimerais dire, c’est que nous devons entreprendre des recherches pour voir les effets réels de ces interventions. Après tout, l’argent doit être remboursé, donc la société civile doit se battre et obtenir le soutien des partenaires pour pouvoir mesurer et partager certaines recommandations avec les gouvernements et les banquiers afin qu’ils puissent améliorer leur approche.
La société civile est-elle jamais consultée sur les projets de développement?
Elisa: C’est vrai qu’il y a beaucoup de projets de développement à Madagascar – mais ma question est la suivante: est-ce que nous écoutons vraiment les plus vulnérables? Sommes-nous capables de répondre aux besoins fondamentaux de ces personnes vulnérables? À mon avis, il n’y a pas d’espace pour la participation publique, et ils n’écoutent pas la population locale. Les espaces qui existent actuellement ne sont pas vraiment fonctionnels – la société civile est souvent consultée pour remplir une formalité, ce qui n’est pas efficace si nous voulons répondre aux besoins de la population.
Paubert: En réponse à cette question, je dirais que moi, en tant que représentant de la société civile, je n’ai jamais été impliqué dans la consultation pour la mise en œuvre du projet. Il en va de même pour la communauté – les niveaux d’éducation jouent également un rôle et peuvent être utilisés comme bouclier par le gouvernement et par les banques. Ils se fient uniquement à leurs informations envoyées par des techniciens. Selon eux, des techniciens se sont entretenus avec les villageois, et cela fait office de consultation, mais ce n’est pas obligatoire. La plupart du temps, le gouvernement utilise le terme «urgence» et dit qu’il ne peut pas faire attendre les banquiers. On est toujours pressé de faire quelque chose pour recevoir et utiliser des fonds – le gouvernement a donc toujours des excuses pour éviter cette consultation. En tant que société civile, à Madagascar, nous nous sommes prononcés sur cette situation, car le résultat est que nous empruntons de l’argent aux banques, et maintenant nous avons beaucoup de dettes, et les résultats liés à l’argent que nous avons emprunté ne sont pas du tout proportionnel au montant emprunté. Nous avons besoin de la participation de la société civile.
Les militants dénoncent-ils les problèmes liés aux projets de développement à risque à Madagascar?
Paubert: Honnêtement, je n’ai jamais entendu parler d’une personne attaquée après avoir critiqué un projet gouvernemental de la Banque mondiale. Cependant, moi, par exemple, en tant que professeur d’université et fonctionnaire, je suis confronté à certaines limites. Je peux être contacté par mon patron ou mon ministre. Il pourrait y avoir une punition indirecte – ne pas être promu parce que vous vous exprimez trop, ou manquer d’autres opportunités. Cela peut également se produire sur le terrain. Les militants à Madagascar sont encore timides, car ce concept d’activisme à Madagascar est perçu négativement. Lorsque vous critiquez des projets plus importants, même les personnes très instruites peuvent prendre cela comme une position anti-développement. C’est une situation à laquelle nous sommes confrontés au quotidien à Madagascar.
Aussi, en 2018, le gouvernement a voulu promouvoir l’économie bleue à Madagascar. Les banquiers chinois étaient prêts à financer le projet, 5 milliards de dollars pour 15 ans. Le projet visait à utiliser 330 navires de pêche sur le territoire des eaux malgaches pour pêcher et faire concurrence aux pêcheurs traditionnels. En tant qu’expert halieutique, j’étais opposé à ce projet parce que je savais que ce projet entraînerait un épuisement des stocks, et parce qu’en tant que biologiste, je sais que Madagascar ne pouvait pas avoir autant de navires qui pêchaient à ce moment-là. Ce qui s’est passé, c’est que j’ai été menacé par le conseiller de l’ancien président alors qu’il voulait me rencontrer. Il m’a menacé indirectement, disant que ce que je faisais était contre la volonté du gouvernement et que j’étais contre le développement. Il a dit que je ne devrais pas me comporter de cette façon pour éviter d’éventuelles conséquences – bien qu’il n’ait pas dit explicitement l’emprisonnement. Mais j’ai résisté. J’ai contacté des pairs, des amis et des collègues, et grâce à eux, rien ne s’est passé. Peut-être que j’ai eu de la chance. Mais ce genre de situation peut arriver. Il y a peut-être d’autres victimes qui ne s’expriment pas par crainte de représailles, à moins qu’il n’y ait d’autres témoins.
Que signifie le développement durable pour vous?
Paubert: Pour Madagascar, ce concept de développement est encore discutable. Mon développement n’est pas celui des autres. Vous êtes en Europe, vous avez toutes ces infrastructures etc, mais à Madagascar, nous combattons la famine, l’insécurité communautaire, l’insécurité alimentaire, etc. Il y a un énorme décalage en ce qui concerne les besoins.
Le développement durable, pour moi, c’est donc la vie avec de l’eau à boire, de la nourriture à manger, des écoles pour enseigner, des hôpitaux pour tous, des lieux de divertissement pour les jeunes. C’est ce que je pense être le développement durable dont nous avons besoin, et il faut qu’il soit en harmonie avec l’environnement, y compris l’eau, les ressources naturelles, etc. L’exploitation minière n’est pas nécessaire – elle ne profite ni à la communauté ni aux gens. Au contraire, l’environnement souffre de sédimentation et de déforestation, et de maladies résultant de l’exploitation minière.
Elisa: Je veux insister sur quelque chose – comment se fait-il que nous ayons injecté autant d’argent à Madagascar depuis des années et des années, mais quand on regarde les résultats, le pays recule? Madagascar est un pays en situation d’extrême pauvreté. Il y a un problème dans ce que nous entendons par modèles de développement, qui ne correspond pas aux besoins de la population. Ce n’est pas normal que le revenu quotidien soit inférieur à 3 dollars. Il s’agit vraiment de survivre ici. Les fonds qui sont injectés, même les fonds COVID-19 … presque personne ne bénéficie de cette aide sociale.
Le jour de l’ouverture du sommet Finance in Common, il y aura une session spéciale sur «Mobilisation of Development Finance for Sustainable Sport (Mobilisation du financement du développement pour un sport durable)», qui examinera le rôle du financement public du développement dans les méga événements sportifs tels que les Jeux Olympiques. Mais ces événements peuvent-ils un jour être durables? Et les banques publiques de développement devraient-elles investir dans ce secteur très controversé?
Comme le montrent de nombreux rapports, les méga-événements sportifs mènent souvent à des «méga-violations»: expulsions forcées, corruption, discrimination, violences policières, représailles contre les militants, menaces et attaques contre les journalistes, mauvaises normes de travail, exploitation des travailleurs migrants sont tous des problèmes courants dans le contexte d’événements tels que les Jeux Olympiques ou la Coupe du Monde.
Dans cet éditorial, Mark Fodor (coordinateur de la campagne Defenders in Development à la Coalition pour les droits humains dans le développement) se penche sur l’impact dévastateur sur les droits humains, l’environnement et la société des méga événements sportifs.
“Et le gagnant est… ?”
Vous venez de remporter votre candidature pour accueillir les Jeux olympiques – félicitations! Vous avez gagné le droit d’être le centre d’attention de cette planète, de montrer – voire d’exhiber – au reste de la planète comment vous pouvez faire aussi bien que le dernier événement. Non, pas aussi bien. Vous pouvez faire encore mieux.
La date est fixée et vous avez maintenant plus de six ans pour vous préparer. Vous rassemblez votre équipe – examinez les expériences passées, faites appel aux meilleurs experts, établissez des plans. Les plans sont établis: lancez les consultations, engagez des entrepreneurs, commencez la construction: tout sera prêt, avec du temps à revendre.
Et puis les consultations commencent. Certains habitants des bidonvilles commencent à manifester, car ils vont être déplacés de force pour faire place à des sites sportifs, ou à des routes et des voies ferrées construites pour se rendre sur ces sites. Les écologistes s’expriment parce que les parcs avec des arbres plus âgés doivent être défrichés. Les urbanistes indignés se plaignent que c’est un énorme gaspillage d’argent: nous allons développer des infrastructures de transports locaux autour d’énormes foules qui ne resteront en ville que pendant deux semaines et se déplaceront entre les stades et vers des zones de la ville qui sont par ailleurs essentiellement vides. Les journalistes et blogueurs locaux ont vent de ce qui se passe. Ils commencent à couvrir le problème. Leur message: ce n’est pas ce dont votre ville a besoin pour se développer.
Les délais sont un peu serrés et cela peut signifier que vous devez redessiner un peu les plans. Peut-être un peu plus de compensation, peut-être montrer que les lieux auront une vie après les événements. Vous devez rester vigilants: évitez tout obstacle. Cela ne vous donne pas une bonne image. Heureusement que vous avez plus d’un tour dans votre sac. Vous doublez la mise sur les relations publiques. Vous commencez également à rechercher d’autres outils à votre disposition.
Les gens ne comprennent tout simplement pas, il y a de réelles opportunités de développement ici. Beaucoup de bidonvilles sont sur des biens immobiliers de premier ordre. Avec les Jeux olympiques, vous serez en mesure de nettoyer ces espaces et de développer des zones plus récentes, meilleures et plus propres dans la ville pour vos futurs résidents de la classe moyenne. Ok, maintenant c’est clair: tout le monde ne sera pas satisfait de ce que vous avez en tête; et vous n’avez même pas le temps de rendre tout le monde heureux, de toute façon. Concentrons-nous sur le nettoyage de la ville et sur l’élimination des vilains endroits. Montrons au monde à quel point cet endroit est formidable.
L’effort colossal pour tout construire pour cet événement de deux semaines consiste à mobiliser toutes les entreprises de construction de votre pays. Les lois de l’offre et de la demande commencent à se faire sentir: elles poussent leurs prix de plus en plus haut, surtout à l’approche de la date d’ouverture. De nouvelles entreprises de construction commencent à apparaître pour contribuer à cet effort. Idéalement, vous ne travailleriez qu’avec des entreprises qui respectent les normes de travail les plus élevées, mais l’effort ici est trop important, vous avez besoin de toutes les entreprises que vous pouvez trouver. Il n’y a pas assez de main-d’œuvre dans le pays pour cet effort, plusieurs des entreprises ont commencé à mettre la main sur des travailleurs migrants vulnérables.
Vous parvenez à tout terminer: les Jeux olympiques ont lieu et vous êtes félicité sur la scène mondiale pour l’événement que vous venez d’organiser. Vous avez montré à tout le monde que vous pouvez le faire. Et quel est le décompte? Une quantité énorme de fonds drainées des besoins réels de développement, plusieurs fois les montants astronomiques initialement prévus; de grands stades abandonnés; un système de transport totalement inadapté aux besoins quotidiens de transport de la ville; des centaines voire des milliers de personnes parmi les plus vulnérables de votre ville sont davantage marginalisées – voire arrêtées dans certains cas.
Ce n’est pas un bon signe que le sommet Finance en Commun des banques publiques de développement se prépare à débuter avec une session séparée sur les événements sportifs et le développement. La réponse à ce que nous devrions penser du financement public du développement destiné aux méga-événements sportifs est déjà très claire: le cauchemar d’un urbaniste, un foyer de corruption, un désastre pour les droits humains – une très mauvaise idée.
Un bilan très controversé
Les travailleurs migrants pour la Coupe du monde 2024 au Qatar – qui représentent 95% de la main-d’œuvre – ont été confrontés à des salaires retardés, retenus et non payés et ne peuvent pas quitter le pays pour trouver un autre emploi. Ils sont confrontés à des conditions de vie épouvantables, souvent (illégalement) ne reçoivent pas de permis de séjour, se voient confisquer leurs passeports, sont menacés et sont confrontés au travail forcé.
Pendant les travaux des Jeux olympiques d’hiver de Sotchi 2016, il y a eu d’énormes arriérés de paiements aux travailleurs migrants, ainsi que des expulsions forcées sans compensation équitable, des menaces et des arrestations de journalistes et d’activistes de la société civile, notamment ceux qui documentaient les dommages environnementaux causés par les Jeux olympiques, et l’exploitation des travailleurs migrants sur les sites olympiques et autres chantiers de construction.
Les Jeux olympiques de Rio en 2016 ont vu 6600 familles expulsées ou menacées d’expulsion dans des zones pauvres, sans possibilité de retour car 60% de la superficie du parc olympique était soumise à des projets de développement d’immeubles en copropriété vendus sur le marché libre après les Jeux. De nombreuses expulsions étaient des «expulsions éclair» sans avertissement préalable, forçant la réinstallation dans des zones à faible revenu, ce qui a créé une précarité économique supplémentaire et supprimé les liens communautaires. Les compensations insuffisantes conduisant à l’endettement étaient monnaie courante, tout comme la violence physique et les menaces de mort de la part des représentants du gouvernement contre les personnes déplacées. Le déplacement a également causé des problèmes de santé mentale et une exposition accrue à la violence des gangs.
À l’approche des Jeux européens de Bakou 2015, le président azéri Aliyev a fait pression sur les journalistes et les défenseurs des droits humains , avec des tactiques d’intimidation, des avoirs gelés, des menaces et des arrestations arbitraires, des interdictions de voyager, ainsi que l’interdiction des journalistes internationaux.
La période qui a précédé les Jeux olympiques de Pékin de 2008 a vu une recrudescence des violations de la liberté d’expression et d’association et de la liberté des médias, ainsi que des mauvais traitements infligés aux travailleurs migrants du bâtiment et des expulsions forcées de résidents.
Human Rights Watch – China: Olympics Harm Key Human Rights
Human Rights Watch – Russia: Olympic Construction Devastates Sochi Village
Human Rights Watch – Russia: IOC Acts on Sochi Abuses
Human Rights Watch – Qatar: Little Progress on Protecting Migrant Workers
Amnesty International – Qatar World Cup of Shame
Avant le sommet Finance en Commun, nous discutons du financement du développement, des droits humains et de l’impact des projets de développement sur les communautés locales avec Jacques Ngarassal Saham, un militant anti-corruption au Tchad.
Comment les projets de développement affectent-ils la vie des communautés locales au Tchad?
Les principaux projets financés par les banques de développement au Tchad sont des projets d’infrastructure, tels que le développement de routes ou de lignes électriques, des projets éducatifs, mais aussi des projets dans le secteur agricole et sanitaire. Et il y a des projets dans le secteur de l’industrie extractive qui sont financés par la Banque mondiale qui ont eu un impact négatif sur la population locale, en raison de la dégradation de l’environnement, de l’impact sur les terres arables, etc.
Le principal problème est que ceux qui mettent en œuvre ces projets sont des autorités publiques, et la mise en œuvre de ces projets est problématique car elle est souvent basée sur le clientélisme et conduit à la corruption; c’est ce que nous appelons «l’affaiblissement du financement» de ces projets.
Quel est le rôle de la société civile et quels sont les défis pour les défenseurs des droits humains au Tchad?
En ce qui concerne les défenseurs des droits humains et leur situation au Tchad, ils sont dans un état d’insécurité sans précédent. Lorsque nous posons la question de l’accès à l’information, lorsque les citoyens se regroupent en organisation pour exiger certaines choses concernant les activités de développement, nous, leaders de la société civile, sommes stigmatisés: nous sommes accusés d’être proches de l’opposition ou d’être des ennemis de la nation, simplement parce que nous exprimons notre opinion sur les questions liées à la gouvernance.
Nous devons soulever des préoccupations lorsqu’il y a des problèmes liés à des projets qui concernent notre population, notre avenir et notre jeunesse – nous intervenons pour rendre les autorités plus transparentes à ce sujet, mais aujourd’hui, les questions liées à la gouvernance font que la société civile est perçue très négativement au Tchad . Nous vivons dans un état d’insécurité constante et sans précédent. Nous vivons dans un endroit où la violence est prédominante et notre travail comporte des risques supplémentaires. Mais nous faisons ce travail parce que nous sommes convaincus que cette corruption, ce détournement de fonds, cette injustice doivent être dénoncés, pour que les plus pauvres n’aient pas à continuer à vivre dans la pauvreté, et pour que certaines personnes ne puissent continuer à s’enrichir. au détriment du peuple. C’est pourquoi nous faisons ce travail.
Aujourd’hui, nous avons un cadre en place pour la défense des droits humains, mais je ne sais pas … on ne peut pas y faire confiance. Lorsque les défenseurs ont été en danger, ils ont été en contact avec des institutions en Europe ou en Afrique. Mais cette question de la protection des défenseurs des droits humains est une question qui doit être traitée avec beaucoup de soin et la plus grande attention pour être résolue.
Quels sont les principaux défis pour un activiste anti-corruption au Tchad?
J’ai été contacté à plusieurs reprises au sujet de la corruption au Tchad parce que je travaille en tant que coordinateur sur cette question pour une organisation anti-corruption au Tchad. J’ai été contacté par la Commission de l’Union européenne, car elle implique davantage les organisations de lutte contre la corruption pour aider à résoudre ce problème et garantir qu’un véritable développement puisse avoir lieu aujourd’hui. Ils savent qu’il existe de nombreuses lacunes et que le manque d’efficacité et d’impact de ces projets est problématique. Récemment, j’ai eu une réunion avec la Banque mondiale – ils se rendent compte que les organisations anti-corruption doivent être impliquées dans leurs activités. Mais pour cette implication, la société civile doit avoir les moyens de pouvoir aller sur le terrain, faire des enquêtes, faire des sondages sur la corruption pour tel ou tel projet financé par des banques de développement, afin d’aider notre pays à avancer. Dans les cas où ils s’entretiennent avec les États, ils doivent avoir le courage de parler de corruption et de violation des droits humains, car la corruption est une violation des droits humains qui affecte les plus vulnérables. Imaginez – des fonds sont donnés à l’éducation, et quand ils sont détournés, cela affecte les plus vulnérables, qui ont droit à l’éducation! Les banques pourraient faire des recherches pour savoir où les fonds sont détournés, ce qui aurait un impact clair sur les résultats. C’est une question qui concerne beaucoup de gens, mais la société civile doit s’organiser pour la dénoncer. Il y en a partout. Mais comment organiser la société civile pour pouvoir demander aux banques les moyens de le faire?
In the village of Horodok, in Ukraine, a subsidiary company owned by the Austrian company Kronospan is building a wood processing factory. Local residents fear this factory could further pollute the area, where there is already a big chemical plant, as well as other factories.
Kronospan is one of the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-based cladding elements, it operates a total of 40 plants in Europe and it’s a long-standing client of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
As reported by Bankwatch, « Although the planned Horodok facility is not financed by the EBRD, over the past 17 years, the bank has awarded Kronospan more than a billion euros for at least 11 other projects. (…) The EBRD has agreed with Kronospan Ukraine to invest EUR 75 million in the company’s facility in the Volyn region, and EUR 41 million for the company’s balance sheet restructuring ».
Kronospan is a company with a very controversial track record: its projects have caused severe environmental pollution, there are cases of alleged corruption and illegal logging, and attempts to silence local civil society protesting against its factories through lawsuits.
As explained in a briefing published by the Ukrainian environmental NGO Ecoclub, « Kronospan has been criticized for its business practices and the pollution provoked by the emissions from many of its factories. In June 2018, the British NGO, Earthsight published a comprehensive report on illegal logging and widespread corruption in the Ukrainian forestry sector. It also highlighted the fact that several major European wood-processing companies imported illegally harvested timber from Ukraine, thus clearly making them complicit in this corruption ».
Activists from Ecoclub from Rivne were sued for defamation, after publishing a report raising concerns about the negative environmental impacts the facility might have. The charges were filed by Kronospan’s subsidiary, Technoprivod Invest Group.
We speak with two environmental activists from Ecoclub, Andriy Martynyuk and Valerie Trykisha, about their struggle and the challenges they are facing.
What’s the potential environmental impact of Kronospan activities?
Sixteen years ago, Kronospan decided to open a factory in the Volyn region in the city of Novovolynsk, which is an industrial city with a lot of mines, where many Soviet mines were also located before, and near to a major port city. They got loans from EBRD and they decided to construct this plant. It is a huge plant, has been operating for 16 years, and expanded last year. Their main products are: plywoods, particle boards, fiber boards, floors, furniture etc. The problem for the city of Novovolynsk is that it is already an industrial city with high levels of air pollution and when they opened the plant, they just added to the already existing harm to the environment.
The locals (we met them this summer) are facing mainly housing problems. For instance a local woman has told us that she had cancer and she connects it to the operation of the plant. They experience health problems and severe diseases connected to respiratory tract and other severe conditions like infertility, cancer etc. Many young people are leaving the city.
There are pictures where you can see that the nearest houses are less than a hundred meters away from the plant. When they expanded the plant, they built a huge wall, and the nearest houses and gardens are next to this wall. From the one side the plant is connected to the city and from the other to the village, so the neighbouring villages are suffering as well. There are also huge areas of storage of wood, mainly fine wood because they are claiming they collect left-overs from the wood processing.
Kronospan has a very controversial track record. Can you tell us more about it?
As analyzed by the report by Earthsight, Kronospan was also one of the companies that illegally imported wood to Europe and it is one of the suppliers of IKEA. They process more wood than stated in their reports and are logging some illegally fine wood.
Can you tell us more about the planned new plant?
Now we are campaigning against a new plant in Horodok, that is going to be much bigger and will host around 80% of all wood lodged in Ukraine. The construction works have already started, and they plan to operate and start the production by the next year. It will be the biggest plant in Ukraine.
In 2019, they published a notice about the coming of a new investor to the Rivne region and some of the people were excited because they were offered millions of euros in investments, so this investment was long expected given the large economic crisis. Before any decision was taken, there was a bad sign when reports on negative environmental impacts were published and there were meetings against this plant because the nearest building is also very close to the side of the future plant and they are expecting even bigger levels of pollution. In the same region there is the biggest chemical plant in Ukraine and people are quite scared about the construction of this plant.
There is basically a big conflict of interest, since local authorities are welcoming them because of the huge investments in the region and the job offerings are seen as a nice chance to earn more than they would without it. Some of the people are against it (not all of them), but some care more about the economic state of affairs because we are in an ongoing crisis. The choice of the future location is great in terms of logistics – they chose it because there are some other industries nearby, so they will have access to infrastructure. So, the choice of the place was based on logistics rather than on a safety evaluation of the location near the city.
One of the most noticeable protests was organized by an initiative group – the locals organized this group to protest against the plant. The leader was a veteran who participated in the war in the East of Ukraine. He got a lawsuit from the representatives of the company and they wanted compensation of approximately 5.000 euros from him.
How is the company trying to silence the protests?
Last year the locals were concerned by the report of the environmental impacts assessment of the plant and they wanted Ecoclub to analyze it and evaluate whether it was right or wrong and what the potential risks could be. A researcher from a local university analyzed their report and found out that the concentration of pollutants exceeded the safe levels and especially formaldehyde, which can cause cancer, could exceed the safe levels and the same could happen with other pollutants as well. So, the biggest problem would be the air pollution by these harmful substances.
Ecoclub published these notices based on this report, and then when it was published in the webpage, Facebook etc., the representatives of the plant saw it and wanted Ecoclub to withdraw all these remarks and they filed a lawsuit this winter. They also demanded a compensation of approximately 5.000 euros because of the injury caused to their business reputation (claiming that these were false statements).
The process was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak and the quarantine, on their initiative mostly. However, we tried to undertake different actions of protest like gaining public support through the media and highlighting the situation. The last court hearing took place this Monday and Ecoclub has unfortunately lost this case. We are going to appeal this decision once the full decision will be published. The media was also publishing that we were wrong, but the truth is known to the huge public. This trial had all features of a SLAPP, strategy litigation against public participation.
There was actually no argumentation for the decision; they just announced the results, but we are waiting for the full text of the Court’s decision. It was more about their speculations on the case. There are also two other trials against activists, initiated again by Kronospan against other activists, because of the harm to their reputation and the spread of misinformation. They are actually still demanding money as a refund/compensation from this local initiative group.
Additional resources and useful links
Bankwatch overview of Kronospan’s activities
Ukrainian activists taken to court by longstanding EBRD client after sounding the alarm on impacts of planned wood processing factory
About Kronospan’s lawsuit against the environmental NGO Ecoclub:
Ecoclub’s Letter of appeal with remarks to the EIA Report
ECOCLUB’S publication: The concentration of formaldehyde in Horodok will be exceeded 9 times – Ecoclub
In this article, Hemantha Withanage (Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice in Sri Lanka and International Convenor at the NGO Forum on ADB) calls on the development banks to uphold human rights and engage with human rights defenders when making post-Covid-19 recovery plans.
Public development banks are a major driver of development. They are active in the infrastructure, mining, tourism and many others sectors. But in the past decade, they have been icnreasingly criticized for human rights violations linked to their projects.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations. They were endorsed by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011.
For over 50 years, development banks have struggled with the role that human rights should play in their work. Although the development banks have transformed their core missions over the years, many issues remains the same. Development banks are under increasing pressure by the local communities and civil activists to respond to calls for greater engagement in human rights. But unfortunately, we have seen that development banks continue to support countries responsible for human rights abuses.
The COVID 19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of upholding human rights across the nations and in the development sectors, because it has shown how the poor and working class are more vulnerable and how they were unequally treated in the COVID-19 responses, despite the financial support given by development banks to respond to the pandemic.
Human rights are inextricably linked to equal opportunities for people to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. Even the economists and policy makers think that the advancement of human rights contributes to economic development. Multi-lateral development banks have the potential to influence governments to do better on this front.
Yet, development banks remain hesitant to include human rights among the key objectives of development, and continue to rely on traditional economic measures like trade, sector efficiencies, employment, income and capacity building.
This matter further surfaces in the upcoming “Finance in Common” summit, where all public development banks in the world will gather to discuss their post-COVID recovery plans and their future goals. We have noticed that in the Summit agenda there’s no mention of human rights and they are not engaging with communities, human rights defenders, and civil society.
The NGO Forum on ADB states that true development is hindered most where domestic institutions are weak, and human dignity is not respected. Many banks’ member countries remain poor as a result of a national failure to provide people with basic services and equal opportunities for all. The NGO Forum on ADB members have witnessed how many national governments failed to address human rights in their COVID responses.
Therefore we demand that development banks should put human rights at the core of their development agenda and promote human dignity and equal opportunities, encouraging member countries to do the same. We also call on the development banks to engage with local communities, civil society and human rights defenders when designing post COVID recovery plans.
In western Guatemala, a group of indigenous communities joined forces and formed the « Peaceful Resistance of the micro-region of Ixquisis », to struggle against the construction of three hydroelectric dams in their territory (Pojom I, Pojom II and San Andrés).
The government gave the green light to these projects without consulting the local communities, violating their right to prior, free and informed consent. Their concerns about the serious health, social and environmental impact was completely disregarded.
The projects are being carried out by the company Energía y Renovación SA (previously called Promoción y Desarollos Hídricos S.A) and financed by development banks, including IDB Invest, the Bank Central American Economic Integration (BCIE) and Cordiant Cap, a Canadian financial intermediary that has funding from, among others, KfW, a German bank.
In August 2018, the affected indigenous communities filed a formal complaint with the IDB’s Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism, requesting an investigation and withdrawal of their investment due to non-compliance with the bank’s own operating policies.
According to a community consultation held in 2009, 99% of the population of San Mateo Ixtatán voted against the granting of licenses for the exploitation of natural resources in their territory.
As reported by Front Line Defenders, since 2009 the human rights defenders of the Peaceful Resistance of the micro-region of Ixquisis have faced stigmatization campaigns, defamation, human rights violations, threats, criminalization and brutal attacks. Three local activists have been killed in the past few years. In December 2018, the bodies of the brothers Neri Esteban Pedro and Domingo Esteban Pedro were found near the San Andrés hydroelectric plant, with bullet holes in their heads. In January 2017, Sebastián Alonso Juan was shot during a peaceful demonstration.
We speak with a local community leader about the impact of the dam and their struggle to protect their territory.
What’s the impact of the dams in your territory?
The land, nature, the rivers everything is at risk…we do not know what can happen, if a strong earthquake comes the dam can collapse… and the other problem is the diversion of the river, the company wants to divert the river, there are communities living here and many greenhouses that would run out of water if the company diverts the river, and that is another big problem…we want to protect the nature, we don’t want them to destroy the land where we live.
They killed many fish, shrimps, snails and aquatic animals and they say this is development, but development for whom? Development for them, that’s not for us.
How did the banks violate the rights of your community?
With regard to the bank, it has violated our rights because it did not investigate first to whom it was going to lend money. The money given by the bank has served only to destroy nature and to get people killed in our territory. For example, our comrade Sebastian was assassinated. We saw that the money they spent is only for killing people, and we are being persecuted by the company.
Arrest warrants, denunciations, people maquetted, bleached, intoxicated with teargas bombs, dead: this is the type of attacks the company and the bank committed here.
What’s your idea of development and how does this compare with the idea of development being pushed by the bank?
The company has been talking about development since they began to travel across our territory, here in our communities. They spoke of development, of energy, some of them were confused and probably they believed in what they were saying. But we saw that what they were talking about was a lie from the beginning, when they began to manipulate people. They speak of development, but what development do they leave behind? They destroyed the land, our forests, and now we see that the development that has been left behind is only destruction, and that we will never return to our nature. I’ve been living here all my life, I grew up here, many people used to come here near the river that is called Rio Negro, now they no longer come because everything has been ruined.
Development, says the bank, but it is development for them, what we want is development that is for the people. We wanted a turbine managed by the community, that is managed by the people, that is not transnational as they say. The hydroelectric power will be installed here and they will install a large cable and if God wants, within 10 years they will be able to complete the project, but we do not agree. We want development for the peasants, not for the big rich ones here in Guatemala.
Ahead of the Finance in Common summit, we speak with Vidya Dinker – Indian social activist and coordinator of Growthwatch – about development finance, human rights, the impact of development projects on local communities, and the way forward.
How are development projects affecting the life of local communities in South-east Asia?
In our region, South Asia, there are examples everywhere of multilateral development banks putting in money and saying all the right things, and yet when we see up close from the ground up, the situation is completely different from what we are being told – with what the project reports say, with what is promised, even with what the monitoring reports say.
For example, early last year, we heard about an ADB project in Kolkata, a very old city known worldwide. So when somebody comes up with money to augment the city water supply and underground drainage, nobody can fault that – every city wants a good water and sanitation system, and therefore the local municipality was happy. On record, the ADB will say that nobody was displaced, and yet on the ground, there were loads of immobile street vendors – clothes menders, laundrettes, garment vendors, electricity repair shops, footwear repair, most of whom have small tea stalls. It’s often women who run these stalls and make little snacks and tea and sell cigarettes. Of course the water and drainage pipes are down the roadside too, but they say that nobody will be displaced, that nobody’s business will be affected. They’re just going to dig on the road, and it’ll be done in 15 days and everything will be back to normal. They still maintain this. But for a year and a half, people have been displaced. They were vending their wares and services, and they were asked to take down their makeshift shops and were told that in a month or two everything would be back to normal – and they acquiesced, partially through fear as they don’t have licenses. They spent a lot of money to store their things, and most things rotted away. Those people have been without income for so long! Yet the ADB will just say that access to the shop was affected, and nothing else. They will say that they had compensation to people for two weeks – but no-one was paid. No-one was even told that they were eligible for compensation. All this talk of a Grievance Redress Mechanism system seems to have no evidence, nor does the talk about consultations about free, informed, prior consent. It’s just a concept. It looks great on paper, but it doesn’t correspond to the reality on the ground. And this is a simple project – not a power plant, or irrigation canal, or a metro. It’s just a drainage pipeline. And the devastation it’s wreaked in the community – 123 on one street according to the ADB, slightly more according to us. This community for a year and a half has not been able to rebuild their shops, rebuild their lives, rebuild their livelihoods – where are they supposed to go – how are they supposed to survive? And then comes COVID-19. And I’ve been asking my friends to donate money to this community at this time, but how much can come from this generosity, for people who had livelihoods built up over years plundered by a bank?
Do you think development can ever be sustainable?
These development banks aren’t really development banks – they just spread destruction in our communities in the name of development. And I think it’s funny that they come together at a summit with no pretence – and it’s good that there’s no pretence! They do this in our name, especially the Global South, and it’s not that we’re important to them. Pushing out their loans and loan recovery is what’s important. I wonder if the whole COVID-19 and post-COVID recovery dialogue is more about them and their recovery than the communities on the ground. I don’t think we shouldn’t be surprised that matters important to us, like environmental, social and human rights, aren’t important to them. The signal is loud and clear – a big summit, 450 of them, all the big players, and we don’t need to kid ourselves anymore – they don’t care, they don’t need us there, they don’t need to discuss issues that are important to us but to them – they’ll just continue spread inequality and debt across the world. That’s the reality that we need to understand and deal with.
There are people who take the role of being knowledge manufacturers upon them – our whole idea of sustainable development is very warped right now. What I think is sustainable and what I think is development hardly even matters. Governments, who are their clients, lap us this knowledge of what sustainable development is and shove it down our throats. What communities and people on the ground know and experience as sustainable development is shoved aside; the juggernaut of development rolls over our communities. There is nothing that is in the pipeline in terms or projects or policies or a world view which is truly sustainable, and so our understanding of development itself is now so stunted because of what they’re doing. So to even articulate a new form, which could be new ways of looking at development itself, is so challenging right now that even our own people don’t understand us anymore, because development is about being big and bold and big projects with lots of money and big infrastructure projects. That’s the understanding of development, and things that really matter get no space, even in peoples’ minds. How can we have these conversations again?
Which changes has COVID-19 brought in the development sector? And where do you see some spaces for hope?
When COVID-19 came, a lot of our brethren were excited; they thought it was a great opportunity to build anew. Unfortunately, these people with all the money are not thinking outside of the box. They are thinking in the same way, and therefore much of what we’re experiencing on the ground is business as usual, but there needs to be a breaking down of patterns in order to build afresh, which I don’t see happening. So any talk of sustainability is wishful thinking. How can we think of implementing something sustainable? Only if we step firmly away from these bodies that are interfering in our daily lives can we do this. So I don’t have a clear answer, as there’s no space to think outside of the box nowadays.
If you could send a message to the banks attending the Finance in Common summit, what would you say to them?
Even if we manage to fight and get a space in the Finance in Common summit, it would be a sanitised space that they accord you with its boundaries where you can vent and air a little. Either way, this is what they want. A little space with a safety valve. These sanitised spaces are given by big summits – spaces where the pressure is reduced a little, and our angst and anger is contained so that we can be further manipulated.
Really, you need us. It’s not that we need you. You’ve given us a view that we need you for development to happen in our countries. COVID-19 is something we’re all dealing with, and it’s a difficult time for most people. Our communities need to go back to something simpler, to what is doable, and fashion something in cooperation. The way business was conducted didn’t afford people space to make decisions on their own. If we can go back to slowing down more and thinking more, that would help. We should take all spaces not as spaces to talk to those who’ve tried to impose their worldview of how the economy should be shaped, but to consolidate among ourselves and have those conversations among ourselves, and then push back and tell them that their place is only where we want you them to be, not where they want to be. If we manage to do this, we’ll have done a lot.
I’m an eternal optimist, though sometimes things around us can be somewhat of a challenge and you don’t know how we’ll surmount it. For those of us who think differently, at the same time, from the run of the mill thought process of the government, it’s a time for us to hold our space. Solidarity during COVID-19 has been exceptional, and we’ve built solidarities with communities across the world using social media etc. There’s a feeling of shared loss and challenges, and that brings us together. If we can hold our space, that bodes well for the future. We can use this time to reflect on what we’ve done well and not so well, and we can charter our course with a strategic action plan. Some parts may be slow to start because of the pandemic, but that’s fine. Many of us have been moving so fast in our own directions. This is a good time to pause and move forwards with collective purpose. Even though we’ve lost a few fighters to COVID and this hurts us, and we’re at home, perhaps rightly so, it’s still positive that we ourselves declutter and slow down and reflect and work and maybe build better after this.
In Armenia, the international mining company Lydian is developing the controversial Amulsar gold mine. Local residents and activists have been tirelessly protesting against the mine, that would pose a threat to their environment and economic livelihoods as it’s being built near the touristic spa town of Jermuk. Already during the construction phase, the project has caused significant pollution and problems for the local communities.
The International Financial Corporation (IFC) was one of the main shareholders, but eventually withdrew financing in 2017. In August 2020 also the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development terminated its funding, but the project is still going ahead.
As reported by Bankwatch, in August 2020 local activists who had been blocking access to the mine continuously for the past two years were forcibly removed by the mine’s newly-hired security detail. The mining company Lydian international has also repeatedly used Strategic lawsuits against public participation as a tactic against journalists and human rights defenders opposing the mine.
Below, an interview with Armenian activist Tehmine Yenoqyan.
Local people should be the ones deciding what’s happening in their territory, but this is not always the case. Can you tell us what happened with the Amulsar mine?
The Amulsar project kicked off in 2006. At that time, the largest resort town, Jermuk, was left out of the list of affected communities because of an agreement between Lydian and the government. This meant the mine could be developed here without taking into account the opinion of this community. All of this led the community to stand up when we actually saw the environmental and social problems that arose during the construction phase.
In the spring of 2018, during the construction phase, when the company damaged Gndevaz drinking water pipelines, the Arpa River was polluted and the dust became uncontrollable, the residents reached a drastic decision: they tried to stop the company operations. They blocked the road and collected 3,000 signatures to turn the metal-mining area into an environmental-economic area in the enlarged community of Jermuk. It should be noted that residents from the village of Gndevaz, which is affected by the Amulsar project, were ambivalent about the project.
All the hearings that were supposedly held in Jermuk and Gndevaz were of a fictitious nature and eventually turned into a fight. In the hearing in Jermuk in 2011, which did not have the status of a public hearing in accordance with the law, representatives of the administration bodies of Lydian Armenia CJSC (former Geoteam CJSC) were trying to put pressure on Jermuk residents.
Residents from Gorhayk took part in the public hearings held in Gndevaz in 2014, but there was not even a place for them to sit during the hearings. This is how the hearings in our communities took place, which caused controversy. The public hearings show the interest of Gndevaz Community Head in the project implementation, who later turned out to have vested interests – he corruptly alienated 10 hectares of land areas to his son for $810, and one year later resold these land areas to the company for $ 310,000. The development of such events led to the communities coming out against each other. On May 23, 2018, Gorayk residents blocked the road leading to Jermuk and demanded that the people of Jermuk clear the roads leading to Amulsar.
In another video you will see that Lydian’s workers resort to provocations, try to enter the Amulsar area by force, after which clashes start between them and the locals on 27.08.2018. This project, financed by the banks, and their implementers did not take into account the residents of the enlarged community of Jermuk, which led to many social conflicts. International development banks have their own standards, one of which is the standard of democracy. The EBRD’s IPAM is currently investigating what standards have been violated in the Amulsar project.
It is obvious that almost all the standards declared by the bank have been violated, but neither the bank nor the company acknowledges these facts. Their interests are only financial; only the 2.5-year-long local roadblock still in effect that forced Lydian to go bankrupt and reorganize, after which the EBRD dropped out of the program. It is a very difficult struggle against international capital, which may become a role model in other countries, people will be able to fight and win.
Can you tell us something about the mobilization of local people and civil society? How did you organize yourself to try to stop the project? And how did security guards and local authorities react – what are the risks local people faced for having opposed the project?
The community has been blocking the roads leading to Amulsar for 2.5 years. We got united because we have a specific goal to live in a healthy environment, to save Jermuk resort town, and to stop the desertification of Amulsar, which could have happened if the gold mine had been developed. Over the years, all the people who have spoken out against the program have been pressurized by the company, both in court and physically.
In recent months, provocations against civilians, penetrations into the community with guns, and the use of electric shocks and violence against Amulsar guards have been carried out following the involvement of new security teams hired to protect the company’s property. The latest provocation was the relocation of the Amulsar guards’ caravans by the company’s guards and the installation of Lydian caravans right on the roadside. It took about a week for the local population, and residents from other regions of Armenia, to be able to force the authorities to move the company’s property off the roadside.
It is noteworthy that in addition to various provocations by the guards, RA police officers were also abused. As a result, the Licensing Commission of Police Guard suspended the license of this security company.
During these years we have mobilized a very serious expert potential in Armenia and all over the world, translated the received documents into Armenian and submitted them to various relevant bodies. The Armenian judiciary is trying two cases against the Armenian government, whereas the permits issued to the company are being appealed. One of these cases has been going on for almost 6 years, the other – 2 years, in RA Administrative Court and Appeal Court, but they have not been resolved yet.
Every day we are pressurized by the company, which demands to clear the roads so that the company can work and poison our lives. The most vulgar materials about us are posted on social sites: having financial capital, they disseminate fake materials about us that defame our good reputation through fake pages as advertisements, which is oppressive and unpleasant.
Personally, I had a case when my neighbor secretly took photos of the visitors at my house, publicized who visited our house, the photo was disseminated on Facebook with indecent posts by a fake user. I filed a report on crime: a criminal case was instigated under the articles of collecting and disclosing personal information, but the criminal case was terminated. The criminal case reveals who carried out this whole operation. My neighbor passed the photo to Lydian’s security guard, who posted it via a fake page. My request to make him liable in a civil lawsuit was partially awarded by the court.
Those who oppose such development projects are often accused of being « anti-development », even though they are simply struggling to defend their rights and to decide their own priorities for the future. What are the needs for you/your community? What is your own idea/model of « development »?
There is a distortion of universal values all over the world – people in different corners are struggling to have a peaceful corner to live their lives.
This is our way of living: a 70-year-old business, a spa business for Jermuk residents, and agriculture for Gndevaz, with which they have their own model of development, fully providing the resort town with agricultural products, where each family earns its own living. Yes, it sounds absurd, but the development banks have come to us and told us to leave our 70-year-old spa business and become a miner. They say we have not developed well, and to let them develop us, that is, poison us, so that later we can go and raise money, take out a loan to be cured of various diseases that may appear in the implementation of this project.
Our future is our resort, hotel business, agriculture, pure mineral water production, tourism. Water is considered more expensive than oil all over the world. There is no life without water. This is our wealth, our gold, our way of living; 25% of Armenia’s freshwater is accumulated in our territory.
Amulsar is also in Lake Sevan’s catchment basin, which provides water supply and is a powerful strategic resource for all of Armenia. The development of the mine will not contribute to our development, but destroy it. The project envisages having a heap leach facility – when there are uranium reserves in the area, when there will be acid drainage, biodiversity will be severely damaged.
The IFC withdrew and the EBRD has now finished funding the project, but the « damage » is already done. Have the banks ever publicly recognised they shouldn’t have invested there? What is your message to IFC and EBRD regarding their legacy and their responsibilities?
Yes, the banks withdrew from this program, not willfully, but due to the consistent and demanding work of the residents of the affected communities, NGOs and environmental activists. IFC, taking into account all the risks, came to its own conclusion, although it stated that the company no longer needed their financing, as if the company had stabilized. Nevertheless, Lydian attempted to raise money to complete the construction after IFC left in 2017, but could not.
The EBRD also dropped out of the Amulsar project, but not on its own initiative or at will. Were it not for the locals’ long blockade of the roads leading to Amulsar, this bank would continue to finance Lydian to this day.
Even provoking such a serious social conflict in our region, which has led to bloodshed, the bank bears no responsibility. The bank thinks that it did everything right and constantly monitored, controlled the risks, kept the standards, but for some reason the locals have been keeping the roads leading to Amulsar blocked for 2.5 months.
The biggest gap is that we, as residents of the affected community, are not able to sue the banks in court because they are immune: we are not able to claim damages, to restore the landscapes that have been destroyed.
I asked this question to the IFC CAO team, who told me that the only format I could complain about was Ombudsman Offices. The reports of these structures may be public, but they do not have a binding toolkit. The development banks pursue the following strategy, they study the public complaint, improve their program, apply for new permits again, but they do not have a mechanism to leave the program.
Even now the EBRD does not want to admit its guilt, it continues to claim that it has always provided advice and monitored the situation in Amulsar. However, it is an obvious fact that standards of democracy, ecological and social responsibility, historical and cultural heritage and much more have been violated by the Amulsar project.
The EBRD continued to fund a project for more than 10 years, when the largest city, with a population of 4,000, was not an affected-community and was deprived of the right to participate in decision-making, and still suffered the greatest loss. The Gndevaz apricot was not suitable for sale because of the current dust, whilst yellow rain was falling in Jermuk meaning that the flow of tourists decreased until 2018. But when people stopped working in Amulsar, the air slowly cleared.
The greatest damage would have been done to the mineral waters in Jermuk if explosion works had started in Amulsar. For the EBRD, even the fact that a criminal case was initiated at the Investigative Committee of Armenia, where the company it financed is involved, did not matter. The company also used the money of this bank to buy all the land areas that were alienated from the community at terribly low prices and then resold to Lydian at high prices. The EBRD is also involved in these corruption schemes, and must be held accountable for them.
Additional resources and useful links
BankWatch page on the Amulsar project and the local community struggle to oppose the project
A video by BankWatch
A video by the Transnational Institute
The complaint to the CAO Ombudsman:
An example of pressurising the community:
Investigators of Investigative Committee Came to Enter Area in Lydian’s Cars
dated on 13.07.2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BGnpgIHXZI&t=160s
Another example of physical pressure – applying electric Shock to Amulsar Guards:
An article about the project by Human Rights House Yerevan NGO:
On the disinformation spread on social media:
In Kenya, the Sengwer indigenous communities living in the Embobut forest have been facing forced evictions, loss of livelihood and violent attacks linked to two conservations projects.
Between 2007 and 2013, the World Bank gave US$57 million to carry out a Natural Resources Management Project. Funds were also disbursed to the Kenyan Forest Service (KSF), that has been responsible for scores of human rights violations. The project led to mass displacement of members of the Segwer community and violent evictions: houses were burned down, properties were demolished, and community members were attacked.
In 2014, an investigation by the Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, found that the bank should have anticipated the risk of violent evictions. Yet, in 2016, the European Union’s European Development Fund (EDF) approved further funding, for the Water Tower Protection and Climate Change Programme.
Violent evictions continued. In 2017, human rights defender Elias Kimaiyo was attacked, while he was taking photos of KSF officers who were burning homes in the forests. Less than a year later, forest guards started shooting at a group of Sengwer people who were tending their cattle. Robert Kirotich was killed and two other community members were severely injured. Only then, EU officials finally announced the suspension of funding.
Below, an interview with two indigenous Sengwer community leaders about the situation they are facing now and the long-lasting impact of the conservations projects funded by the World Bank and the European Development Fund:
Can you tell us more about the World Bank project and how it affected the life of your community?
The first World Bank funded-project ran between 2007 and 2013, it was a natural resource management project focused mainly on two water tower areas. The bank sent a consultant to prepare an indigenous peoples plan and framework. The document was published and it required a commitment from the government that they would no longer displace members of the Sengwer community from their ancestral lands in forest areas.
It was a requirement of the World Bank that the government must prepare the indigenous peoples’ plan and framework before they get the funding. Through this document, the government committed to no longer displacing members of the Sengwer community from their ancestral lands in forest areas. However, forceful evictions of members of the Segwer community living in Embobut Forest continued. There were houses burned down, property destroyed, uniforms for school children were burnt, textbooks – they were all destroyed.
In 2013, we made a formal complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel. Later on, they sent some experts to carry out an assessment to determine whether what we complained about was true. Because of the evictions and lack of consultation, the project was restructured. However, this was done without the knowledge of the local indigenous peoples. One of the main objectives [of this restructuring] was to address the question of land rights of the Sengwer peoples. But when the project was restructured, it was done without the knowledge of the community.
The World Bank project came to an end in June 2013. When the project came to an end, the government made plans to conduct a mass-eviction of the Sengwer community. They decided, without consulting the community, to pay members of the Sengwer community some money so that they can move out of the forest. This was done without the knowledge of the community. They just went and opened bank accounts for some members of the community. People were given 400,000 Kenyan shillings, equivalent to about 4,000 USD. In 2014, the government went into the Embobut Forest and started massive forceful evictions. The Kenya Forest Service [(KFS)] guards were moving throughout the forest on a daily basis. Houses were burned down. Some members of the community were taken into police custody. Properties were destroyed.
In 2013 we went to court to prevent the government from carrying out the evictions. A court order was issued preventing the Kenya Forest Service from carrying out any evictions. But the government did not adhere to the court order and went ahead with the evictions. A dialogue process between the Sengwer community and the government was set up, but this dialogue didn’t bear any fruits.
- Can you tell us more about the project funded by the European Development Fund?
Then in 2015, the European Union started funding a project which was also focused on the water towers in the same catchment area. This project was done without consulting the community, so we raised the alarm. We wrote letters begging the EU to send human rights officers. Two officers, one from Brussels and one from Nairobi, went to meet with Sengwer members in the Embobut Forest. They confirmed that it is true that members of the Sengwer community are living inside the forest. The government was saying all along that nobody lives inside the forest [in order to secure funding for the water tower projects].
But immediately after the officers left the forest, the forest service guards went into the forest and started carrying out evictions in the area where that meeting between the community members and EU human rights officers had taken place. They carried out their evictions and Elias was attacked on 2nd april 2017 by Kenya Forest Service guards. He was attacked, he had his elbow broken, the kneecap was also broken. He was hit with the butt of a gun by a forest guard officer. As we speak now, Elias is still undergoing constructive surgery at one of the hospitals here in Kenya.
Then on 9th December, following our continued complaints, the EU sent another human rights officer to investigate the truth of the allegations that we had submitted to the EU. She went to the community and gathered her information, then went back. Of all these reports, we have never had a chance to access the reports that were made; neither from the visit in July, nor December. That was in 2017.
On 16th January 2018, one member of Sengwer community, Robert Kirotich, was shot dead by a live bullet from a member of Kenya Forest Service guards. And then again another was injured, shot in the leg; he currently lives with a disability. We have had all of these human rights violations.
When Robert was killed, the EU was compelled to suspend their finance. After suspending their financing, I think they told the government to investigate the alleged killing and attacks againstt community members. What the police did is they came and investigated, but they got witness statements from people who were not in that area when [Robert] was killed. The only person who gave correct information was [David], who was the person injured. I think that investigation has been going on, but with a lack of seriousness from the government, so it is not going anywhere. Even in a court of law, it cannot be shown that the officer shot this guy, because the people that are being touted as witnesses were not at the scene of the crime. I think that the investigation is ongoing, but it is not a strong case that we can rely on. They will be having the first hearing on the 20th of this month about the killing of [Robert] …
Both banks now have stopped funding projects in the area. But what’s the long-term impact of their investments? And have you been compensated for the violations you suffered?
The World Bank project was between 2007 and 2013, so it came to an end in June 2013. It was supposed to continue but because of the persistent land rights claims by the Sengwer community, the project came to an end … But for the EU, when the member of the Sengwer community was shot dead, then the project funds were suspended immediately on the 17th January 2018. Since then, the government has been pushing for the suspension to be lifted so that the project can go on. But we don’t know what is going to happen. But we think they probably may decide to restructure the project and come up with what we are calling a Green New Deal initiative.
On the issue of compensation, the community has never been compensated. As a community, what we are pushing for now is for the community’s land rights to be secure so that now members of the community living in Embobut Forest can live within the open natural grassland. Our priority is not compensation, our priority is for the government and development partners to recognise that it is our right to live within our ancestral lands in the protected forest areas.
In the position of Kenya, and when you look at the constitution articles – it is [3.2(b):2] – it talks about the areas where the Sengwer people are living. Areas where we have been practicing our aboriginal hunting and gathering way of life is community land, whether it is in protected forest or not.
What I am saying is that the constitution of Kenya recognises our community land and this area from where the community is being forced to move out of is our community land. That is according to the constitution! And the national land policy also recognises that there should be restitution for communities that have suffered historical injustices since colonial times. Where we have a problem is that the Forest Conservation and Management Act does not recognise the rights of indigenous peoples and the forest communities to live within these protected forests or these protected areas.
Our situation has never changed, especially at the moment. Evictions have been going on, even during the [government-Sengwer community] dialogue time … In July our houses got burned, and again later in the year, our houses were burned by KFS guards.
We don’t know what the government is planning at the moment. As of today, we know that KFS from Nairobi went nearby [to Sengwer lands] and stayed for many hours … We are thinking they are planning further evictions. These threats exist because of a system in which our land rights are still the subject of [unresolved] dialogue with the government which has been going on for many years.
I think community members, the Sengwer people, we are living in fear. Even as we speak now, we cannot even build a house. People are still being pushed to live under makeshift houses, people are pushed to live in caves, in the thick forest. We cannot build houses in the open grassland, in the forest, because the KFS will come and burn them down, so we are still living in fear. And we don’t know what the government is planning. Anything can happen, any time.
How is solidarity, at the national and international level, helping the Sengwer community?
We are in communication with other members of forest communities in some parts of Kenya. Recently, they were also subjected to forceful evictions. Other forest peoples are also under threat of these evictions. Recently, when we had evictions in July and August, we were able to come together as indigenous peoples in Kenya, bringing together pastoralists and traditional hunters and gatherers in order to make a joint statement with support from other friendly organisations. So luckily we are trying to come together to create an action plan now in order to raise our voices as indigenous peoples and local communities to argue for our land rights.
What has worked is also publicity through media houses and CSOs, both in Kenya and internationally; for example, Amnesty Kenya and Amnesty International, we’ve also been working with Human Rights Defenders in Kenya for a while. This publicity has brought us quite far; support is there where it was not before.
For example, in a recent incident, because of media houses, KFS could not continue what they have been doing. What they did to us is they closed off the area and did not allow anyone to go in there. This was the instance when I was caught up in that scenario where I took a camera and documented this and shared it with media houses. But that is only one single incident and if it is better documented, it would be a big problem for KFS. It will at least help to see that people within the government are working to keep people out of the forest.
I think that the most important thing is to add that we have created a local and international approach. With international [allies], they can focus on the international development banks, EU, UNDP and others; these are people that invest outside their country. When we have some of these international NGOs and media attention, if they can focus and target and get [the international development banks], then we are free to focus on the situation on the ground.
For example, in 2015, we had a project that was funded by the Finnish government: IUCN, and again there was no consultation. We were able to engage IUCN until they had to restructure their project to bring in a human rights approach to conservation and also Free Prior and Informed Consent. But the [Kenyan] government won’t accept the restructured project with the human rights approach and FPIC. As a result, that project was cancelled as the IUCN could not continue because the community was saying that our rights have to be recognised and we are living inside the forest. So that was successful because we had support from friends from outside the country; CSOs, and also the media houses.
Also another thing is the ability to engage with this meeting in November of the development banks, to get to their offices in New York or in Brussels and make them understand that indigenous peoples are aware of their rights and their rights need to be protected. When we do that, those people will now tell the government: “You have to respect the rights of these people before we fund you”.
That’s the thing that has really happened with the EU. If [the project] is not cancelled, then we hope it will be restructured, and one of the things we are expecting is that they will force the government to agree with what we want and that is to remain on our ancestral lands as they carry out conservation.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND USEFUL LINKS
Amnesty report on the Sengwer evictions:
Case study in the Uncalculated Risks report:
A report on the illegal and forceful evictions, by Forest Peoples Programme
Community voices: interview with a Nepalese indigenous community affected by a transmission line project
In the Lamjung district, in Nepal, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are funding a 220 kV transmission line. The Marsyangdi Corridor will transport electricity towards Kathmandu and India as part of the EIB’s Nepal Power System Expansion Project. But this project is violating the rights of the local indigenous communities, that have not received fair compensation and were denied their right to free, prior and informed consent because there were no opportunities for meaningful consultation and participation.
Concerns voiced by affected indigenous populations have been met by intimidation and threats of imprisonment by the Chief District Officer (CDO), and by refusal to mediate by the implementing authority, the Nepalese Electricity Agency (NEA).
According to a new report by CounterBalance and Banwatch, no free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) was obtained, and documents were not provided in local indigenous languages or in Nepalese. Furthermore, these land rights concerns echo a history of violence against communities protesting development in Nepal, which hinders public participation.
Below, an interview with a representative of a local indigenous community affected by the transmission line:
How will the project affect the life of the local people and their environment?
This 220 kV transmission line project, funded by the European Investment Bank and executed by the Nepal Electricity Authority, a state owned corporation, is being implemented in our territories in the Lamjung district, Gandaki Province, Nepal. The project has violated our rights to free, prior and informed consent, meaningful consultation, and participation. We are not provided just and fair compensation. The project failed to comply with national and international laws, including operational policies of EIB.
Our rights to FPIC must be respected since the project is being operated in our territories affecting our lands and environment. We are concerned about our safety, health, issues due to outside labor and gender impact. Our lands have been devaluated, it’s difficult to get mortgages, we got inadequate compensation, and no individual or collective benefit sharing. We are concerned about our environment, such as the impact on birds and animals, lower crop yield, deforestation, and sound impact.
Local people should be the ones deciding what’s happening in their territory, but in this case there was not adequate consultation and participation. Can you tell us more about this and how EIB and the company violated your right to be properly consulted?
The NEA and EIB have violated our right to FPIC since the project’s began operating in our territories. There was no disclosure. We were not consulted and no-one ensured our participation in the decision making process. The project is going to impact our sacred sites and lands, as well as our natural resources and livelihoods.
Can you tell us more about your struggle against the project? How did you mobilize? Have you received threats or were you harassed when you started opposing the projects?
When we found out that the project people had started measuring and marking our lands for the installation of the tower of the transmission line, we started seeking out information. We asked the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP) – an organization of Indigenous Lawyers- more about legal matters to be compiled by the project developer. Then, we formed a loose forum that we called the “FPIC and Rights Forum” to make our voice heard collectively, so that our human rights and legal rights can be respected. We formed a total of 14 village level struggle committees to make our voice stronger.
We have made a series of complaints to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Office of the Chief District Officer (CDO) in Lampung district, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). We have a series of dialogue with NEA and project authorities, but our demands are not getting heard yet.
We submitted the complaint on 8 October 2018 with the EIB’s Complaints Mechanism, requesting mediation to help resolve their issues with project financiers, promoters and government authorities. The Bank CM conducted an assessment in March 2019 and issued a report in July 2019. The report made the recommendation for mediation to resolve communities’ issues, and offered to facilitate a dialogue between the community and the Nepal Electricity Authority, but the NEA rejected sitting at the mediation table with us. We have been informed that the CM is going through investigation to find out if Bank’s Environmental and Social rules have been complied with.
The land compensation has been determined for some sections of the project without our participation and consultation, with a very low price set by the Chief District Office who is mandated to acquire the land legally. We are constantly raising our demands. We are being insisted to accept the compensation again and again by the project and Chief District Office, however we are denying the compensation until and unless our demands are met.
NEA authorities are intimidating land owners, saying that the government can take the lands of the people at any time for the public purpose. In some places, the NEA has started installing transmission tower pads and mobilizing security forces, without settling the compensation issue.
Those who oppose these projects are often accused of being « anti-development », even though they are simply struggling to defend their rights and to decide their own priorities for the future. What are the needs for you/your community? What is your own idea/model of « development »?
We have constantly been protesting against the project for the past 4 years. We have been directly and indirectly threatened by the CDO office and project authorities to be jailed via the charge of “public offence”. We, the leaders of affected communities, are threatened by the CDO to be jailed in the charge of misleading the communities against the development….
We want rights-based and self-determined development. We want the development project to respect our rights, since Nepal is party to ILO 169 and a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We want our participation in the decision making process and we want collective and individual benefits. We want a grievance handling mechanism. We want justifiable compensation. We want our right to FPIC to be respected.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND USEFUL LINKS
The LAHURNIP (Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples) overview of the project:
Accountability Counsel’s overview and analysis of the case:
The EIB project summary:
A Nepalese human rights defender’s article on a similar project for the Coalition for Human Rights in Development’s site:
On the NEA refusing to join a resolution process:
It has been only a few weeks since I joined the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, but I have already had the privilege of listening to and learning from dozens of inspiring people from around the world. Community members impacted by development projects, women’s rights and environmental activists, representatives of civil society organizations and grassroots movements: people from all walks of life, but who are sharing the same commitment and values. We all believe in social justice, we all care about our planet, we all fight for human rights. These people – and what they stand up for – are the reason I joined the Coalition.
Through my role as the Coalition’s Communications Lead, I am hoping to help amplify our members’ and partners’ voices, to further strengthen the connections and collaboration between them, and for us to explore together new communications strategies to advocate for a human rights approach to development.
Before I took up this position, I worked for over four years with Front Line Defenders, a non-governmental organization that provides support to human rights defenders at risk, and which is a member of the Coalition and partner in the Defenders in Development campaign. In 2017, I helped set up “In Difesa Di”, a network in Italy, my home country, that brings together over 40 organizations and advocates for the protection of human rights defenders. Throughout these years, I also worked as a freelance journalist and last year I published the book “Non Chiamatemi Eroe” (Altreconomia), a collection of 15 stories of defenders and communities who struggle for human rights around the world.
The activists and community leaders I met during these years have shared with me their fears, their worries, their harrowing accounts about the risks they face as retaliation for their work. But most of all, they have shared with me their hopes, their dreams, their incredible stories of courage and victories despite the odds. They have been – and they continue to be – an endless source of inspiration, and they have changed my way of thinking, living and looking at the world.
What has always struck me the most in meeting defenders from different parts of the world is that even though the contexts where they live might be completely different, their stories also have many commonalities. When an indigenous woman defender from the Ecuadorian Amazon met a community in southern Italy that is protesting against a gas pipeline, during a visit I helped organise, there was no need – from either side – to explain why they were defending their land, what they were standing for, or why they were being criminalized and accused of being “anti-development”. Different contexts, but same issues. And the same determination to fight and to make their voices heard.
This is why the work that the Coalition does – bringing people together, offering a platform to share strategies and resources, help build relationships among our members, partners and beyond – is absolutely crucial. A lone voice may get lost in this noisy world or silenced by those who don’t accept any criticism or dissent. But the collective voices of all the communities, movements, defenders and organizations that make up the Coalition are loud and strong, and impossible to silence.
This is why I joined the Coalition. We would love to learn from our members and partners why you joined and work with the Coalition! Please email us at email@example.com.
To contact Lorena Cotza – Communications Lead for the Coalition for Human Rights in Development – you can write her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I joined the Coalition for Human Rights in Development as its Director because I want to ensure that this incredible international collective continues to support community-led coordination of local, regional, and international campaigns, which centre human rights in development.
Before I joined the Coalition, I worked with grassroots communities in Asia and North America, including as a lawyer for communities affected by development activities. Through my work, I had the privilege of learning from Indigenous Governments resisting oil and gas projects in Canada, and rural communities in Nepal demanding that hydropower sector projects respect their rights.
Communities have taught me that they know best how development decisions and policies will impact them and their ecosystems, and how things can be done better. Contrary to some perspectives, communities have the skill and the desire to determine their own development paths and priorities. And development focused civil society organizations at the national, regional and international level, need communities’ expertise to meaningfully fulfill their missions. I believe this symbiotic relationship of a shared common good is what keeps the Coalition together.
Communities around the world have repeatedly shown us the different ways in which they have been sidelined by development financiers, governments, and other actors. For example, Indigenous communities in Nepal raising concerns about hydro-power sector development on their traditional lands, and Indigenous governments in Canada resisting bitumen and natural gas pipelines have highlighted the different ways in which projects are being built to efficiently siphon off local resources to international energy markets, rather than to support local development.
“When communities raise their voices, they are often subject to smear campaigns labeling them as anti-development,” adds Advocate Shankar Limbu, Secretary of the Kathmandu-based Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples, which entered into a Community Engagement Partnership with the Coalition. “Efforts are made to isolate the affected communities from the larger population, often laying the foundation for more insidious forms of reprisals, including the use of force.”
Financiers, national governments and companies often collaborate and communicate with each other in ways that exclude communities. For example, Access to Information practices and policies at several development finance institutions prioritize the confidentiality of closed-door consultations and agreements with governments and businesses, rather than providing communities access to information and supporting their participation.
“We are increasingly seeing communities raise concerns about how different forms of coordination among financiers, national governments, and companies – such as co-financing among different financiers, the use of financial intermediaries, and public-private partnerships – are having the effect of eroding accountability and transparency,” adds Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of the NGO Forum on ADB, and a Coalition Steering Committee Member based in Manila, Philippines.
The Coalition provides an important counterweight to the collaboration of financiers, governments and companies, by offering a platform for communities and civil society organizations to develop a coordinated response.
“The strength of the Coalition is in bringing together grassroots groups, social movements, national organisations, and international organisations to learn from each other, empower each other and work in solidarity to push forward advocacy in a coordinated manner,” says Delphine Djiraibe, Principal Advocate of Public Interest Law Center, and a Coalition Steering Committee Member based in N’Djamena, Chad.
Our members and partners use a variety of strategies, individually and collectively, at a variety of levels, and in a range of geographies, to hold diverse key actors accountable, both on a case-by-case basis and in systemic ways. The Coalition offers us all a platform to work together to ensure we are greater than the sum of our parts.
This is why I joined the Coalition. We would love to learn from our members and partners why you joined and work with the Coalition! Please email us at email@example.com.
This blog is the first of our Coalition Conversations blog series. In the coming months, we hope to feature additional blogs from the Coalition’s secretariat, members and close partners. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being a contributor.
An open letter to states and development financiers on the need to ensure that development interventions support the realization of human rights, safeguard human rights defenders and guarantee meaningful public participation
2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. These instruments have been key to recognising fundamental rights globally and affirming the role that human rights defenders (HRDs) play in protecting these rights and ensuring sustainable and equitable development for all. While much progress has been made, HRDs face greater risk of retaliation and violence than ever before, especially those working in defence of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights. While development interventions can be a powerful tool for the realization of human rights, too often activities undertaken in the name of development fail to adequately consider human rights conditions and impacts, and end up exacerbating the risks for defenders. In light of this, the Defenders in Development Campaign is calling on development finance institutions (DFIs) and their shareholder governments to ensure that development interventions support the realization of human rights and avoid causing or contributing to rights abuses, promote an enabling environment for public participation within development processes, and safeguard HRDs.
Human rights defenders are a critical force for the protection of human rights and integral to the success of other global initiatives like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The important work of HRDs has been repeatedly recognised at the international and national levels and their contributions have been vital to protecting the land and the environment, securing just and safe conditions of work, combating corruption, and respecting indigenous cultures and rights. Indeed, through the Declaration on the Right to Development, states agreed that development must be carried out in a manner “in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised” – with the “self-determination of peoples” and the “active, free and meaningful participation” of individuals and populations. HRDs play a key role in enabling the realisation of the right to development.
Despite the growing awareness of the role of HRDs in sustainable development, the human cost of defending rights remains unacceptably high. Those working in defense of land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights—rights most often violated in the context of development and related investment activities—are most at risk. They are routinely subjected to stigmatization, labelled as “anti-development,” often quickly leading to criminalisation, threats and physical attacks. They are also more likely to be killed than defenders in other sectors. Since the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, an estimated 3,500 human rights defenders have been killed because of their peaceful work defending the rights of others. In 2017 alone, at least 312 human rights defenders were murdered, 67 percent of whom were working in defense of land and territory in the context of large investments, extractive industries and big business. For women defenders and other marginalized groups, the risks are even more acute.
The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders recognizes that everyone has the right “to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Of particular importance for development processes, the Declaration affirms the right to effective access to participation in public affairs, including submission of criticism or opposing views or alternative proposals. It additionally “stresses that all members of the international community shall fulfil, jointly and separately, their solemn obligation to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction…and reaffirming the particular importance of achieving international cooperation to fulfil this obligation…”
Unfortunately, too often development interventions are designed and implemented without adequate consideration of the human rights context in which they are executed and the human rights impacts that may result. We see this in austerity measures that result in loss of access to essential services, commercial reforms that exacerbate land grabbing, or infrastructure projects that result in social conflict. While development finance institutions and many states have undertaken commitments on transparency and participation, in practice, development decisions are often made without the meaningful participation of civil society, and imposed on communities without their consent or consultation. Where insufficient attention is afforded to community participation and human rights, even the best intentioned interventions can stoke conflict, fuel corruption, or entrench discrimination.
States have an obligation to ensure that human rights are respected and protected and that there is an enabling environment for defenders to do their critical work. This obligation includes states’ actions to implement or finance development activities, and extends to their membership within multilateral development finance institutions. Development banks themselves have human rights obligations and a critical role to play in ensuring that their investments are not causing or contributing to threats or attacks against defenders. DFIs exert significant influence both through their project lending as well as through policy promotion and standard-setting. As such they help shape local and national conditions which determine whether individuals and communities impacted by development activities are able to safely engage or influence development processes.
The Defenders in Development Campaign repeats its call to DFIs, states, and other development actors to take all necessary measures to ensure that their interventions support the realization of human rights and do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses, and to promote safe space for communities and civil society to engage and shape development processes and to exercise their fundamental freedoms. This includes developing policies on human rights defenders and protocols to prevent and respond to risks of reprisals, ensuring meaningful access to information, and robust free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and consultation of other affected communities. DFIs must also conduct ongoing human rights due diligence to identify and address human rights risks in all of their activities and throughout the lifespan of a project, including those residual impacts that may continue to be felt long after a project is closed. DFIs must ensure effective mechanisms whereby defenders can safely alert them to deteriorating environments or risks of conflict and reprisal. We also emphasize DFIs’ responsibility to, through their research, public communications, and dialogue with states and the private sector, promote an enabling environment for public participation and accountability, in which people are empowered to engage in crafting their own development agendas and in holding their governments, donors, businesses, DFIs and other actors to account.
As owners and shareholders of development banks, governments must do more to ensure that DFIs are fulfilling their human rights obligations and promoting sustainable development. While we welcome steps taken by some states to support HRD protection, it is concerning that governments may actually be undermining these efforts through the actions of their national development banks, bilateral development cooperation, and other DFIs in which they participate. Given the alarming increase in attacks on defenders within development activities, we urge governments to bring more attention to this issue and to the critical role of DFIs. In this regard, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, we call on states and DFIs to:
Take urgent action toward enacting the reforms identified above and promoting an enabling environment for human rights and meaningful public participation in development processes;
Use the anniversary of these important human rights milestones to bring attention to the critical role that human rights defenders play in ensuring effective, equitable, and sustainable development; and
Make a public commitment to take all measures necessary to ensure that development policies, investments, cooperation, and other activities respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, prevent reprisals, and safeguard defenders.
 The Defenders in Development Campaign is a broad-based coalition of community activists, defender organizations and accountability groups around the world who have come together to address the increasing danger facing those who defend their rights in the context of development activities and investments. www.rightsindevelopment.org/hrd
 UN General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/72/150 (July 2017).
 https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/annual-report-human-rights-defenders-risk-2017; https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-annual-report/
En novembre, plus de 40 représentants d’organisations de défense des droits humains et de l’environnement de l’ensemble du continent se sont rassemblés à Pretoria, en Afrique du Sud pour examiner les formes actuelles de financement du développement en Afrique et pour développer des stratégies sur la façon de promouvoir un différent type de développement – celui dirigé par les communautés et peuples africains.
Lors de l’évènement de trois jour, organisé par la Coalition pour les droits humains dans le développement et la Coalition africaine pour la redevabilité des entreprises (ACCA), les participants ont remis en question un modèle de développement caractérisé par des mégaprojets de plus en plus grands et un recours accru au secteur privé.“Le modèle de développement actuel qui est promu en Afrique est le développement et les réformes politiques induits par le secteur privé pour ouvrir la voie à des investissements dans les infrastructures en partenariat public-privé (PPP)” a déclaré Aly Sagne, de Lumiere Synergie pour le Développement. “Cela conduit à une déréglementation, une privatisation des services publics, une dette sur le long terme, des menaces pour le secteur privé local, et une mauvaise mise en oeuvre des garanties,” a-t- il ajouté.
Les participants ont discuté du programme Compact With Africa, une nouvelle initiative du G20 et des États africains, en coopération avec la banque mondiale et la banque africaine de développement, par laquelle les gouvernements africains promettent des engagements sur un large éventail de réformes politiques pour attirer les investisseurs privés – allant de changements dans les lois fiscales à la création de nouveaux tribunaux spéciaux réservés aux investisseurs.
La principale préoccupation des participants à l’atelier était peut-être que ces décisions cruciales sur le développement se déroulent sans l’implication de la société civile et sans la contribution de ceux qui ont le plus d’intérêts en jeu, notamment les communautés pauvres, les peuples autochtones et les femmes. Les participants ont partagé divers cas d’investissements tels que ceux en Guinée, au Kenya et au Sénégal qui ont échoué dans l’implication des communautés locales et ont trop souvent alimenté les violations des droits humains et détruit les moyens de subsistance et les ressources naturelles des communautés locales. Les participants ont également examiné des cas positifs d’investissements conçus en partenariat avec les communautés locales et se sont questionnés sur la raison pour laquelle il n’existe pas plus de soutien pour ce type d’initiatives.
“Le modèle de développement promu dans notre région ne reconnaît pas le rôle primordial des peuples autochtones et des communautés locales, ce qui conduit à une absence de développement durable”, a déclaré Yator Kiptum David, directeur exécutif du Programme des peuples autochtones Sengwer. “Les financeurs doivent consulter et incorporer les peuples autochtones et les communautés locales dans la conception, la mise en œuvre, le suivi et l’évaluation des projets de développement qui sont menés sur leurs terres ancestrales.”
Un élément clé de l’atelier a été une demi-journée de dialogue avec des responsables du développement, impliquant des représentants de six institutions et agences de financement du développement différentes. Les participants à l’atelier et les représentants des banques ont échangé différents points de vue sur le type d’investissement qui devrait être effectués en priorité dans la région et sur l’impact des initiatives de développement précédentes.
Plusieurs financeurs ont exprimé les engagements de leurs institutions vis-à- vis de l’engagement de la société civile et ont signalé des opportunités de participation au niveau du projet ou dans les prochains examens des politiques. Dans le même temps, les représentants de la société civile ont exprimé leurs préoccupations concernant la diffusion insuffisante par les banques d’informations concernant les projets, l’inaccessibilité des bureaux de pays et l’absence de dialogue avec les communautés locales. Plusieurs financiers se sont engagés à prendre des mesures spécifiques pour faciliter une plus grande transparence et participation et ont tous exprimé leur intérêt à poursuivre le dialogue.
“La banque mondiale et les autres banques dites de développement doivent cesser de financer les projets d’industries extractives susceptibles d’entraîner des violations des droits humains et en particulier des violations des droits des populations locales” a dit Delphine Djiraïbé, Procureur général du Public Interest Law Center au Tchad. “L’argent consacré au développement devrait être utilisé pour des projets qui respectent les droits humains et l’environnement et qui sont conformes aux Principes directeurs des Nations Unies relatifs aux entreprises et aux droits humains.”
Dans un communiqué final, les participants à l’atelier ont appelé les gouvernements africains et les financiers du développement à «respecter les droits des communautés, et en particulier des groupes marginalisés, de déterminer leurs propres voies et objectifs de développement” et de “promouvoir le développement et les infrastructures qui soutiennent le bien-être social, les industries nationales, les petites entreprises et les petits exploitants agricoles.”
L’atelier s’est achevé sur une feuille de route pour la collaboration future entre les intervenants de la société civile, comprenant des formations, la création de coalitions au niveau national et régional, le plaidoyer auprès de la Banque africaine de développement et le renforcement de la sensibilisation et de la coordination autour du projet Compact With Africa.
“J’espère que nous continuerons à travailler en réseau, à partager des informations et à poursuivre le renforcement des capacités des membres de la coalition”, a déclaré Yator David Kiptum.
“Les organisations de la société civile africaine s’engagent à collaborer avec la Banque africaine de développement et d’autres institutions et nous espérons travailler ensemble pour renforcer mutuellement notre capacité à surveiller les institutions de financement du développement à travers le continent”, a ajouté Aly Sagne.
*L’équipe d’organisation de l’atelier était constituée de la Coalition africaine pour la redevabilité des entreprises et la Coalition pour les droits humains dans le développement, avec Accountability Counsel, Both ENDS, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Economic and Social Rights Centre – Hakijamii, Friends of the Earth – US, International Accountability Project, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, International Rivers, Jamaa Resources Initiative, Lumière Synergie pour le Développement, Public Interest Law Center, et Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, avec le soutien financier d’Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 11 th Hour, SOMO, Global Green Grants, et BothENDs.
By Gonzalo Roza and Gretchen Gordon
In April, the Boards of Governors and Directors of the New Development Bank (NDB), the multilateral financial institution established in 2015 by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held their 2nd Annual Meeting, in New Delhi, India.
During the meeting, BRICS finance ministers approved a five-year General Strategy as well as the process for admission of new members (the Bank plans to take in 15 new member countries in a first phase); while the Board of Directors discussed the Bank´s project pipeline. In addition, the Bank signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) to promote cooperation with five different Multilateral Development Banks, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
K.V. Kamath, the NDB´s president, also announced the plans of the Bank to fund 15 infrastructure projects in member countries worth up to 3 billion dollars, and to raise funds by issuing rupee-denominated bonds in India, after it issued yuan-denominated bonds in China last year.
While the Bank showed its commitment to advance further on its institutionalization and to broaden its membership, civil society from around the world raised concerns over the Bank´s approach to development.
A strategy for sustainable and inclusive development?
In side events and meetings with representatives of the bank, human rights and environmental advocacy organizations from around the world called on the Bank to set forth concrete commitments and criteria for sustainable development. In a document titled The BRICS New Development Bank Strategy. A civil society perspective for truly sustainable infrastructure and transformative development cooperation, groups identified five priority areas and key recommendations.
According to the proposal, ‟in order to promote a new kind of development and to really assist marginalized populations or unserved areas and respond to unmet needs in the developing world, the NDB will have to shift from a ˈdo-no-harmˈ approach, towards an emphasis on developing projects that explicitly aim to generate positive social and environmental impacts, including social infrastructure (housing, education, sanitation, health, food and nutrition security, culture among others), off-grid energy solutions, and other projects targeted to meet the needs of vulnerable communities.” It also states that ‟the activities of the Bank should be geared toward supporting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and inclusive, transformative strategies of growth”.
While civil society groups in March sent a letter urging the Bank to open a meaningful consultation process with civil society and other stakeholders before approving the final version of the Strategy, on April 1st the Board of Governors approved, in principle, the Bank’s General Strategy. The final Strategy document is expected to be made public in early June.
An effective environmental and social framework?
As the NDB prepares for the one-year review of its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), civil society organizations raised concerns regarding the ESF’s failure to actually operationalize its sustainability aspirations.
An analysis by the Coalition and allies recommends that the ESF:
- Include clear sustainability criteria and due diligence requirements for project selection, supervision, and implementation.
- Clarify and strengthen the role of NDB staff in assessing projects and supervising and monitoring implementation and compliance.
- Put in place clear benchmarks and systems for assessing and supporting country and client capacity, especially where country or client systems are utilized.
- Set out time-bound requirements for disclosure and consultation to ensure that affected communities and civil society groups have access to information and are able to meaningfully participate in NDB-financed activities.
Signatory organizations also urged the Bank to establish a formal, inclusive, transparent, and robust consultation process on the ESF and other existing and future policies and strategies.
Is the NDB any different from other traditional IFIs?
On the sidelines of the Annual Meeting, the Peoples’ Forum on BRICS, a network of peoples’ movements, trade unions, national networks and civil society organizations, held a day-long event on 30th March, bringing together environmentalists, journalists, indigenous communities and other civil society representatives from the BRICS countries. In the New Delhi Declaration, participants raised deep concerns that the NDB is merely replicating existing International Financial Institutions, which suffer from a lack of transparency, accountability, and spaces of engagement with civil society and peoples’ movements.
The document concludes that ‟the New Development Bank has to step back and reconsider why indeed it was established. In so doing, NDB must pro-actively reach out to peoples movements, trade unions, civil society organizations and peoples networks genuinely working with poor and impacted communities”.
What kind of engagement with civil society does the Bank intend?
Civil society representatives from the Coalition’s BRICS working group had the opportunity to meet with different NDB Vice-Presidents and officials in different events held in the sidelines of the Second Annual Meeting in Delhi, such as a Multistakeholder Dialogue organized by Oxfam and Vasudha Foundation and meetings between NDB officials and CSO representatives. In those meetings, the Bank´s officials expressed the intention of the institution to “expand and deepen its interaction with all stakeholders of the Bank, including with representatives of civil society and scholars”. At the same time, it is worth noting that the Bank´s alleged openness and intention to foster its interaction and engagement with civil society is at least contradictory with its absence of transparency or consultation to date.
Civil Society in both BRICS and non BRICS countries are still demanding the Bank promote a truly robust and effective engagement with civil society, which allows meaningful participation and listening to different stakeholders, especially to communities and grassroots groups affected by the Bank´s projects.
A strategy for failure
The outcomes of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the NDB show the Bank´s clear intention to continue growing and expanding in terms of projects, disbursements and even members. This is a natural process for a new institution that is just two years old and that was born with the aim of financing infrastructure and sustainable development in emerging market and developing countries.
It is worrying, however, that in this process the NDB seems to be replicating the same mistakes that were made in the past by other development financiers creating doubts over what is truly ‟new” in the BRICS New Development Bank.
On the way to its third year of operations, the NDB must carefully consider which should be the proper and most suitable strategy to fulfill its mission of supporting infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other emerging economies. Ramping up investments without clear sustainability criteria or meaningful engagement with civil society, would be a strategy for failure.
Gonzalo Roza coordinates the Global Governance Area of Fundeps (Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies – Argentina) and the NDB Working Group of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development
Gretchen Gordon coordinates the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, a global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect human rights.
Originally posted by Accountability Counsel on May 24, 2017.
At the heart of all of Accountability Counsel’s cases are community members who were denied their basic right to participate in decisions that critically impact their lives.
We have cases all over the world, representing diverse communities with vastly different life experiences, yet all of Accountability Counsel’s cases present this same basic pattern: powerful actors – governments, companies, banks – exclude community voices from “development” projects, predictably leading to serious harm. Thus, in Colombia, children like 10-year-old Gabriela Acosta are suffering from hearing loss and related learning disabilities because operators and financers of Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport have refused to listen to community demands to implement basic noise mitigation. In India, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation invested in Assam’s tea plantations despite freedom of association violations that have helped perpetuate seriously exploitative conditions for workers that have not changed since communities were forcibly brought from central India over 150 years ago. The list goes on and on.
The risks of speaking out against the interests of powerful project proponents are serious and well documented. At Accountability Counsel, we’re always worried about the safety of our clients and partner organizations.
Yet, the frequency of these security threats doesn’t lessen the blow when we hear that another case is veering toward violence: in Kenya, our long-time partners Save Lamu are reporting a pattern of intimidation and harassment by government officials and police, aimed at undermining their credibility and preventing them from holding community meetings and peaceful protests.
Save Lamu, a coalition of over 40 local civil society organizations, envisions “a culturally, socio-economically and politically empowered community, striving to secure our natural resources and sustain a green environment.” They are focused on empowering local community members to be informed participants in Lamu’s development.
Lamu is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site marked as the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa. It hosts a remarkably pristine, rich ecosystem, including 70 percent of the country’s mangroves. Communities in Lamu are facing what National Geographic has described as an “existential crisis” – construction of a $2 billion coal-fired power plant, the first in East Africa. The coal project poses risks to public health and to Lamu’s marine environment, threatening the livelihoods of those involved in Lamu’s two most important industries: fishing and tourism. The Kenyan government is also planning to build a massive port and an oil and gas pipeline in Lamu, which pose their own social and environmental risks. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is in the background of each of these projects: considering a partial risk guarantee for the coal plant; providing a grant to accelerate development of the port; and potentially considering support for the pipeline.
Save Lamu and other members of the DeCOALonize campaign are positioned to prevent the classic scenario of excluded communities resulting in human rights and environmental abuses. In a hard-fought victory, Kenya’s National Environmental Tribunal has temporarily stopped construction of the coal plant while it considers claims regarding the insufficiency of the project’s social and environmental impact assessment and public participation process.
This pause in construction is critical because public awareness about the project – perhaps by design – is low. Kenyan authorities held their public hearings on the project in an inaccessible location. In community consultations, the company has emphasized project benefits (the credibility of which are questionable), avoiding detailed responses to questions about negative impacts. While construction is halted, Lamu communities have a chance to learn about the coal plant’s livelihood, health and environmental risks.
Save Lamu wants to help correct the information and access barriers to participation by engaging with the broader Lamu community, sharing the potential risks of the coal plant and other projects in the region and discussing a way forward. However, success depends on Save Lamu’s ability to hold community meetings. In the last few months, intimidation by government officials who are in favor of the coal plant has forced Save Lamu to postpone several community information sessions. The seriousness of the threats is increasing, with police being sent to directly interfere with meetings, intimidating participants and hosts. All of this in a country context in which environmental and human rights defenders face death threats and violence against themselves and their family members.
The risk of the situation in Lamu escalating is real. The AfDB and other supporters of the coal plant must immediately raise these concerns with relevant state authorities and safeguard the communities’ basic rights to access to information and public participation. Lamu’s social and environmental future is at stake, and local communities need a voice in what kind of future that turns out to be.
The Coalition has 72 members all around the world doing amazing work to protect human rights and to hold development financiers accountable for their impacts on communities. We recently surveyed our members and produced this snapshot of who our members are and what they do.
(Click image to enlarge)
Originally posted on Amphibious Accounts: Human Rights Stories from the Global South, on March 1, 2017.
Every month a mandatory percentage for the retirement fund is deducted from my bimonthly payment, which is part of the Mexican social security system. The same applies to the 21 million economically active people and with social benefits, as in Mexico about 58% of the employed population (28.7 million) work in places that elude registration with social security, meaning that they do not offer any benefits to guarantee health care, medical care and to ensure a livelihood, among others.
Although not all the economically active population of the country participates in savings for pensions, we are talking about a large amount of public money that until a couple of decades ago was managed by the state. Today, after a series of reforms to the Law of Savings Systems for Retirement, this money went from being administered by public to private entities and is being used to finance infrastructure projects such as roads, hydroelectric plants, and energy projects to just mention a few. These projects put at risk the savings invested without the taxpayers being aware on the one hand, and on the other, in many occasions – to not say all of them – violate human rights and increase the inequality gap in the country. For example, the conversion project of the Cerro de Oro dam to a hydroelectric plant in the state of Oaxaca would use retirement savings without taxpayers having mechanisms to know in what kind of projects our money is being invested and what their impacts are. In addition, the project entails severe impacts on the territory and violations of the rights of the Chinantec and mestizo communities of the region.
At the end of the 1980s, the Mexican pension system was in charge of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and had a more guarantor scheme of distribution and defined benefits. However, in the early 1990s, the ratio of active to retired workers decreased significantly, among other things, as a result of an increase in life expectancy and declining birth rates. This was the perfect excuse for the country to begin adjusting itself to the recommendations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and transforming pension funds into a tool for financial markets and a permanent source of long capital term.
Over the last few years, various reforms have been made to change the scheme of the pension system, to relax the restrictions on the investment of these funds, allowing more investment in instruments that benefit the private sector and are administered by the latter through Retirement Fund Managers (Afores), the private financial institutions in Mexico that manage retirement funds and through which everyone has to manage their funds for retirement. That is, private entities in charge of public resources. Currently the pension funds represent 13.6% of the gross domestic product of Mexico, which are invested in projects with high risks such as capital investments (34.6%); infrastructure (30%); real estate (23%); energy (5.2%); forestry (4.1%); and financial services (3.1%). In order to invest public funds in these projects, the government has created mechanisms that are very technical and difficult to monitor (such as certificates for capital development – CKD) and which benefit the private sector. These mechanisms reduce the risk for the sector as we as taxpayers assume the risk without knowing it.
This is not something that happens in isolation in Mexico, but represents a global trend. In recent years, representatives of governments and the private sector have come to a consensus that infrastructure is one of the main pillars for development and global economic growth. The argument is that investment in infrastructure is an opportunity to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. Currently, some estimate that total spending on infrastructure is $2-3 trillion dollars a year and that an additional $4 trillion annually until 2030 will be required to cover infrastructure needs. Much of this amount is planned to be covered through large pension funds from countries such as Australia, Canada, Brazil, the United States, the Netherlands, and Chile, to name a few.
In this way, the construction of the Cerro de Oro hydroelectric project was planned on indigenous territory and work began without having consulted and obtained the consent of indigenous peoples. This would have had irreversible environmental impacts and involve the resettlement of hundreds of people. Furthermore, the energy production had been previously granted to various private companies, as well as the returns. The project did not guarantee the right to energy, a healthy environment, water, and participation to decide over the community’s own development, among others. Part of the financing came from the savings of Mexican taxpayers, without them being aware of it. Also, part of the financing of a wind farm in Juchitan, Oaxaca has been highly controversial for reasons similar to those mentioned above; it comes from the Dutch pension funds without people knowing it. And it is not only a question of using these public resources without the knowledge and consent of the owners in projects that violate human rights, but we as the taxpayers assume the financial risk of projects, which completely benefit, once again, entrepreneurs.
Mexico’s National infrastructure Program states that infrastructure investment is a strategic issue and priority for Mexico because it represents the means of generating economic growth and development and is the key to increasing competitiveness. One of the challenges of the program is funding, providing a total investment of 575 billion through 743 projects. The government has planned that at least 37% of this funding will come from the private sector. One of the incentives for the latter to invest in the project portfolio is the retirement savings system reforms.
Currently, there is a need to make the use of these resources transparent, so that the projects in which money is invested can be monitored, as well as to inform taxpayers about the use of the resources that we compulsorily pay twice a month, every single month, and with which markets speculate. Do you have savings in pension funds? Do you know what they are being invested in?
On February 16, the World Bank Board is scheduled to review a proposed Action Plan to remedy harm caused to four Maasai villages which were resettled in 2014 to make way for the Olkaria IV geothermal development in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a project financed by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the German development bank, KFW. The Action Plan follows an investigation by the Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, which found a lack of compliance with World Bank policies, especially the failure to trigger the Bank’s Indigenous Peoples Policy. This disregard for bank policies led to significant harm to indigenous Maasai villages.
The communities were resettled onto land less than half the size of their previous land, and marked with steep ravines such that the Maasai’s main livelihood, pastoralism, is no longer viable. Another staple industry for the villages – tourism – has been devastated as their main Cultural Centre is now surrounded by wells and uninhabitable. The resettlement area lacks essential infrastructure including adequate water and roads. Contrary to Bank policy, the communities were not provided with a share in the benefits derived from the commercialization of their natural resources and today still lack legal title to their new lands. As a result, many find that their economic and social welfare has significantly deteriorated and their ability to practice their culture has been significantly compromised. As one community member stated, “I can’t practice my tradition because I am no longer a Maasai.”
In May of 2016, a mediation process with the implementing agency, the Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen), concluded in a Mediation Agreement, yet the vast majority of KenGen’s commitments remain unfulfilled. Community members are pressing for the World Bank to ensure that KenGen satisfy its commitments, and that additional measures be taken to remedy the harms caused to the resettled communities and to bring the project into compliance with the Involuntary Resettlement and Indigenous Peoples policies.
This week 32 organizations around the world sent a letter to World Bank Directors urging that any approved Action Plan include concrete time-bound commitments and strong corrective measures, including on the following:
- Provision of additional grazing land
- Conveyance of freehold title as community land
- Repayment of project funds until roads and water mains are repaired
- Completion of a livelihood assessment and full restoration of livelihoods
- Negotiation of a benefit-sharing agreement
- A participatory process to monitor resolution of housing/compensation complaints
- Use of independent experts and community-based monitoring
The history of this project shows a continuing lack of will on the part of KenGen to comply with World Bank policies and a lack of adequate supervision and monitoring by the World Bank. If the Bank had properly applied its Indigenous Peoples Policy, communities would have been safeguarded from many of the subsequent project failures. Instead the Bank even granted additional financing to the project in June of 2016 without addressing any of the compliance issues. This lack of adherence to protections for indigenous peoples is a growing problem at the World Bank – one that threatens the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and their ability to benefit from development.
As one community member said, “the banks financing this project should give the project affected people their rights, and also they should be keen when they give out their money not to destroy life of people”.
See a video of community members here.
Le financement du “développement” et l’affaiblissement des mesures de protection sociale et environnementale
Cette infographie produite par la Coalition pour les droits humains dans le développement conjointement avec Otros Mundos et Movimiento M4 explique l’histoire complexe du Financement du “développement” et de l’affaiblissement des mesures de protection sociale et environnementale ayant actuellement un impact sur les communautés dans le monde entier.
De nos jours, les gouvernements et les grandes banques de développement investissent des milliards de dollars dans des projets liés aux infrastructures, à l’énergie et à l’agriculture, au nom du développement. Mais au lieu de concevoir des projets pour répondre aux besoins et aux priorités des communautés pauvres, ces projets de développement sont trop souvent conçus pour maximiser les bénéfices des entreprises. Sans mesures de protection solides pour s’assurer que les communautés locales et les groupes marginalisés soient consultés et que leurs droits humains soient respectés, les projets de développement peuvent aboutir à l’expulsion des communautés ou le pillage de leurs ressources naturelles.
Nombre des grandes banques de développement ont des politiques de sauvegarde sociale et environnementale pour assurer que leurs investissements ne causent pas de dommages. Mais trop souvent, ces politiques ne sont pas appliquées. Certaines banques affaiblissent leurs mesures de sauvegarde et s’appuient uniquement sur les lois nationales des pays dans lesquels elles investissent. Parallèlement, dans le monde entier, les gouvernements réduisent ces mesures de protection sociale et environnementale, c’est le cas par exemple des lois du travail et des règles d’octroi des licences dans le domaine de l’environnement, afin d’attirer les investisseurs et d’accélérer le “développement”. Les gouvernements utilisent des partenariats public-privé afin de privatiser des biens et des services publics de manière efficace. Les banques de développement encouragent et facilitent même l’affaiblissement des lois nationales. Plus encore, les entreprises utilisent les accords de libre-échange et des tribunaux tenus par la Banque Mondiale pour défier les lois et les réglementations nationales menaçant leurs profits.
Les communautés et les groupes de la société civile se sont battus fermement pour pousser les gouvernements nationaux et les banques de développement à élaborer des lois et des mesures de sauvegarde pour protéger les droits humains et l’environnement. Mais maintenant lorsque des communautés se battent pour défendre leurs droits humains face à des activités de développement néfastes et l’affaiblissement des mesures de protection sociale et environnementale, elles peuvent être victimes d’intimidation et de violentes répressions. Les gouvernements limitent de plus en plus les possibilités pour la socitété civile de participer aux processus de développement et d’intervenir dans leur élaboration.
Le financement du “Développement” nous explique comment 12 pays ont, au cours des dernières années, affaibli des mesures nationales de protection sociale et environnementale afin d’attirer les investisseurs. Il présente les nombreuses banques de développement nationales et multilatérales et autres institutions financières qui non seulement encouragent les investissements dans le développement, mais dans de nombreux cas facilitent aussi l’affaiblissement des cadres réglementaires du monde entier. L’objectif est de montrer en quoi ces différents acteurs et processus sont tous liés -comment la construction de méga-barrages au Brésil et la privatisation des services publics en Tunisie sont liés à l’affaiblissement des droits fonciers en Inde, à la réduction des mesures de protection environnementale en Afrique du Sud, et aux répressions contre la société civile au Mexique.
Si nous comprenons le contexte mondial du Financement du “développement”et l’affaiblissement des mesures de protection sociale et environnementale, nous pouvons mieux voir en quoi nos différentes luttes sont en fait étroitement liées. C’est ainsi que nous pouvons nous battre non pas pour changer un seul projet de développement, mais pour provoquer un nouveau modèle de développement– qui puisse répondre aux besoins et aux priorités des communautés pauvres et des groupes marginalisés, et qui respecte les droits humains et préserve notre environnement.
This week, as we celebrate Women Human Rights Defenders Day, November 29th, we honor the courageous work of women defenders around the world fighting for their human rights and their communities. Women defenders are on the front lines of the struggle for sustainable, equitable development. They run agricultural cooperatives and deliver health and education services. They raise their voices, organize, and mobilize to shape development proposals and to fight against ill-conceived investments that threaten the well-being of their communities.
For this work, they face discrimination, threats, intimidation, sexual violence, detention, and even death.
Moon Nay Li is the General Secretary of the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), which runs empowerment and sustainable development initiatives with Kachin women in Thailand and Burma/Myanmar. KWAT operates critical programs ranging from health clinics and vocational training to anti-trafficking and political empowerment programs. Moon describes the challenging environment she faces while doing this work. “My networks and I receive threats and pressure from authorities including the police, military and local government officials who try to crack down on our movement.”
According to Moon, this repressive environment poses serious challenges for civic engagement and public participation. “There are many restrictions. If we want to do a big event, we have to file a report with the police officials in the city. They tell us ‘You can walk on the street but be silent, don’t shout.’”
Earlier this year, Moon and her colleagues organized a march to celebrate International Women’s Day. “Although we were told to be silent, we shouted because it is our right to do so. Then police officers came to talk to our leaders. They asked many questions and gave a warning to our leaders,” explained Moon. “It is very difficult to mobilize people when the authorities threaten the very people who do the mobilizing.”
The World Bank and other development banks are ramping up investments, especially private sector investments, in Burma/Myanmar and other “fragile and conflict affected states”. While the banks acknowledge that sustainable development requires human rights principles like transparency, access to information, public consultation, and accountability, they haven’t seriously grappled with how to ensure these principles are followed in environments where public participation and fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly are severely restricted.
According to research by Global Witness, some of the fiercest attacks on women and other human rights defenders occur in the context of development investments. Governments often clampdown on human rights in an effort to curtail potential opposition to development projects. As a Human Rights Watch investigation revealed, when communities speak up, they are labeled “anti-development” and subjected to threats, harassment, and violence at the hands of authorities or public and private security forces.
Moon explains that in Burma, there is no public participation around development projects. “They say when development happens, it is always for the good of the people and nobody should complain about development projects. We cannot ask further questions and there is no consultation with local people,” says Moon. “We can even directly and openly talk about human rights abuses but not about development. Development is more difficult to resist.”
Moon’s story demonstrates why it is critical for development finance institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to ensure that there is an enabling environment for human rights and public participation around their investments. In their social and environmental impact assessments, development banks should be assessing differentiated impacts on women and girls and identifying risks to women defenders, which may be different than the risks faced by men. They should ensure that their investments aren’t causing, contributing to, or exacerbating human rights abuses. And where threats arise, they should have protocols in place to protect defenders and to minimize and remedy any harm.
Around the world, women are doing the heavy labor of sustainable development every day. It’s time for development financiers to ensure that women can participate in development processes and raise concerns about development proposals without putting themselves in danger. It’s time for development financiers to safeguard women defenders.
You can learn about the campaign to get development financiers to safeguard human rights defenders and read the rest of Moon’s story at www.rightsindevelopment.org/hrd.
Sur le continent africain, le « développement » est un secteur important. Les banques qui financent les routes, les projets énergétiques et agricoles ont une incidence majeure sur les gouvernements et les entreprises. En tant que tel, ces experts financiers du développement peuvent jouer un rôle déterminant au moment de décider si les activités de développement soutiennent la mise en oeuvre des droits humains ou facilitent les abus des entreprises. Les banques de développement peuvent jouer un rôle positif dans le soutien des entreprises et des droits humains – demandant à leur client de s’occuper des risques qui existent en matière de droits humains, ou d’aider à renforcer les différents moyen de protection des droits humains à un niveau national, telles que les lois autour du déplacement ou l’accès à l’information. Elles peuvent aussi jouer un rôle négatif – en finançant des industries polluantes ou en faisant la promotion de la privatisation de services publics.
Afin d’étudier l’impact du financement du développement sur les entreprises et les droits humains en Afrique, la Coalition pour les droits humains dans le développement s’est associée à la Coalition Africaine pour la Redevabilité des Entreprises et le Centre for Human Rights à l’Université de Pretoria, en Afrique du Sud, pour plusieurs journées très énergiques sur le renforcement des capacités et l’élaboration de stratégies.
Au cours de l’Assemblée Générale de l’ACCA, qui a rassemblé environ 100 organisations membres de l’ACCA et des partenaires venant de tout le continent, la Coalition a organisé une table ronde intitulée “La redevabilité dans le contexte du financement du développement”. Lors de la session, Nomonde Nyembe du Centre for Applied Legal Studies en Afrique du Sud a étudié avec les membres de l’ACCA les liens entre les financements du développement et les activités des entreprises, et a décrit les différents rôles que le financement peut jouer dans une transaction d’entreprise, particulièrement lorsque les acteurs du développement se fient davantage au secteur privé.
Reinford Mwangonde de Citizens for Justice au Malawi et Delphine Djiraïbé du Public Interest Law Center au Tchad ont partagé deux études de cas dans lesquels les banques de développement avaient l’habitude de tenir les entreprises et les gouvernements responsables des impacts qu’ils avaient sur les droits humains. Djirabe a partagé la façon dont PILC a utilisé la Banque mondiale pour faire pression sur Exxon Mobile et sur le gouvernement du Tchad afin de défier les violations en matière de droits humains et les abus environnementaux découlant de la construction de l’oléoduc entre le Tchad et le Cameroun. Reinford Mwangonde a partagé l’expérience de Citizens for Justice qui a eu recours à ses relations dans le domaine du financement du développement afin d’éviter le projet de la compagnie des eaux du Malawi d’installer des compteurs d’eau et de menacer ainsi l’accès public à l’eau.
Paul Guy Hyomeni du Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’homme (RECODH) au Cameroun et la coordinatrice de la Coalition Gretchen Gordon ont souligné les possibilités d’un possible engagement de l’ACCA à l’avenir, mais ont aussi insisté sur les réunions bi-annuelles des gouverneurs africains de la Banque mondiale et du FMI, une politique de développement à la nouvelle banque de développement des BRICS qui ouvrira bientôt un bureau régional à Johannesburg, une consultation régionale de la Banque de développement africaine, ainsi que le contrôle et le plaidoyer autour des centaines de projets de développement ayant des impacts sur les communautés d’Afrique.
La même semaine, la Coalition a facilité une demi-journée de “formation sur le financement du développement et la redevabilité des entreprises” dans le cadre d’un Cours succinct sur les entreprises et les droits humains organisé par le Centre for Human Rights de l’Université de Pretoria pour environ 50 élèves de master en droit, de membres de l’ACCA, et d’employés de plusieurs institutions nationales africaines des droits humains.
Hyomeni a présenté une étude de cas du projet de barrage de Lom Pangar au Cameroun afin de décrire l’ensemble des incidences sur les droits humains qu’impliquent les activités de développement. Ce projet, financé par la Banque de développement africaine, la Banque mondiale, et la Banque européenne d’investissement, affecte 17 communautés différentes et implique la relocalisation de plus de 500 foyers. Ces familles, qui se consacrent principalement à l’agriculture et à l’exploitation minière artisanale, ont été expulsées de leurs terres et éloignées de leur moyen de subsistance sans consultation véritable ou sans indemnisation juste. RECODH espère pouvoir faire pression sur les banques de développement pour assurer la protection des communautés avant que la construction ne débute pour l’étape suivante du projet.
Mwangonde et Gordon ont utilisé l’exemple du projet d’adduction d’eau de Lilongwe au Malawi, financé par la Banque africaine de développement, la Banque mondiale et la Banque européenne d’investissement, afin de décrire les différentes mesures qui peuvent être prises pour avoir un impact sur les activités de développement. Dans ce projet d’adduction d’eau, Citizens for Justice a engagé le dialogue avec les communautés locales affectées par le projet, a collecté des données sur les préoccupations des communautés et sur les impacts environnementaux, a entrepris des activités de plaidoyer avec des représentants de la Banque mondiale et des représentants du gouvernement alliés, et a exploré les possibilités de recours judiciaire et non-judiciaire.
Wilmien Wicomb du Legal Resources Centre en Afrique du Sud et Nyembe ont utilisé l’étude de cas du projet Trident – la plus grande mine de cuivre de Zambie – afin de décrire les enjeux et les opportunités pour garantir la transparence dans les activités de développement. Alors que les normes environnementales et sociales de rendement de la société financière internationale -qui était un investisseur de la mine- auraient dû être appliquées, Wicomb a expliqué que les règles de l’IFC, de la catégorisation des risques à l’évaluation de l’impact et à la compensation de réinstallation, ont été ignorées. La compagnie minière a fait pression sur les autorités traditionnelles afin qu’elles cèdent une immense étendue de terre appartenant à la communauté sans consulter la communauté elle-même. L’IFC a ensuite désinvesti sa participation dans l’entreprise, compliquant alors toutes possibilités de recours.
Au cours de la semaine pendant laquelle les évènements ont eu lieu, l’enjeu du financement du développement a été un thème récurrent. Les membres de la Coalition et de l’ACCA ont saisi l’opportunité pour publier une déclaration à la Banque mondiale signée par trente-quatre groupes de la société civile africaine appelant l’institution à renforcer sa sauvegarde afin d’assurer la protection des droits humains. L’ACCA étudie également les possibilités d’incorporer un engagement dans le domaine du financement du développement dans le cadre de son travail autour de l’accès aux recours.
Alors que les experts financiers du développement et les entreprises se tournent vers l’Afrique pour des possibilités d’investissement, la société civile africaine oeuvre à l’identification d’opportunités et de stratégies pour garantir que le développement soutienne la mise en oeuvre des droits humains pour tous, et qu’il ne soit pas seulement profitable à quelques-uns.
Pour plus d’informations, veuillez consulter le guide d’information de la Coalition sur le Financement du développement en afrique.
Last July 20-21, the city of Shanghai (China) hosted the First Annual Meeting of the New Development Bank (NDB), the multilateral financial institution established in 2015 by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The event, which marked completion of the Bank’s first year, included meetings of the NDB’s Board of Governors and Board of Directors, as well as a “High Level Seminar” open to the public.
Although the first year of operations of the Bank has shown some positive aspects that reflect its potential to become something « new » in development financing, there are still significant concerns regarding transparency, engagement with civil society and the social and environmental safeguards applied to projects; and many questions remain on how the Bank will operate.
What type of investments will NDB support?
During the annual meeting, the Bank approved a $100 million loan to the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) and the International Investment Bank (IIB) for a small-scale energy project involving the construction of two hydropower plants with a combined capacity of about 50 megawatts in the region of Karelia, Russia. Together with loans approved in April, the Bank has now confirmed its first tranche of projects, one in each of its five member countries, totaling an amount of $911 million.
The projects include the following: a $250 million loan to India’s Canara Bank for 500 megawatts of renewable-energy projects in India; an $81 million loan for 100 megawatts of rooftop solar power in China; a $300 million loan to Brazil´s national development bank, BNDES, to develop 600 megawatts of renewable energy capacity in Brazil; and a $180 million loan to South Africa’s public electricity company, Eskom, for investment in transmission lines and the connection of renewable electricity capacity to the national grid.
What rules will apply?
According to the Bank, its projects involve “green and sustainable infrastructure”, but is not clear yet how the Bank defines those concepts and what environmental or social criteria the bank took into consideration during project selection or appraisal. Bank staff have provided contradictory information on whether a social and environmental policy framework has been finalized. No such policy has been made public. Bank officials have stated a preference for reliance on the domestic legal and regulatory systems of NDB member countries and a confidence that these standards are well developed. This is worrying, given that in many areas BRICS country systems – either in law or in practice – don’t provide adequate protection for people and the environment.
The NDB did announce the approval of an Interim Information Disclosure Policy. Such an instrument will be essential not only to have access to the operational policies of the Bank, but also to ensure that communities and the public at large have access to information on NDB-financed projects. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to know whether the Bank´s Disclosure Policy will be adequate for this purpose, as it has not yet been disclosed.
Where will the Bank lend?
Till now, the NDB has only financed projects within the five BRICS countries. In the meeting in Shanghai, however, officials identified that the Bank will move forward with bringing in new members. According to the NDB’s Brazilian vice president, Paulo Nogueira Batista, now that the Bank is established, it should broaden its membership in order to attract the highest possible credit rating and strengthen its legitimacy. Thus, new members are expected to join by 2018, with the Bank targeting big emerging economies such as Mexico or Indonesia.
According to Leslie Maasdorp, NDB´s South African vice president, the Bank may lend for projects outside its member countries, as long as the projects in some way benefit the member countries. This lending criterion is quite unclear. It also calls into question the Bank’s argument that it does not need a strong environmental and social safeguards policy since it can rely on what it asserts are strong legal and regulatory systems within BRICS nations.
To whom will the Bank lend?
Thus far NDB has focused on sovereign-backed loans within the BRICS countries, so in other words, loans to national development banks or other public banks. In Shanghai, however, NDB Directors Luis Antonio Balduino Carneiro, Brazil’s Secretary for International Affairs, and Sergei Storchak, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Finance, highlighted the importance of leveraging private sector financing through direct lending to the private sector as well as public-private partnerships. This again raises the question of what rules will apply to this new private sector lending.
What about civil society?
Despite the Bank´s stated intention of becoming a green institution with a new development model, a criticism raised by many groups is the lack of proper and institutional engagement with civil society. For instance, many groups pointed to the lack of accessibility of the Annual Meeting, citing a registration window of under a week, lack of notice, and denials of registration for some participants. Civil society participation was limited to two panel discussions during the High Level Seminar, only one of which was on the NDB. There were no civil society speakers in the event.
More importantly, as groups have continually raised, the Bank suffers from critical lack of transparency and has no provisions for meaningful engagement with civil society. While it appears that social and environmental policies have been established, there has been no consultation with civil society on these policies.
The reason given by bank officials in Shanghai for the lack of engagement with civil society is that the Bank is new and it has a small structure, with staffing constraints. However, this alleged lack of institutional capacity is not a valid justification for the lack of engagement with civil society, especially if the Bank is already financing projects and looking forward to expanding its membership and engagement with other stakeholders, such as the private sector.
If the Bank is truly looking for a new development model, it should promote an effective and proper engagement with civil society. Meaningful participation and listening to stakeholders, especially to communities affected by NDB projects, is a prerequisite for effective development.
Civil society groups from BRICS countries are presently preparing to bring these and other concerns to the next Civil BRICS Forum to be held October 3-4 in New Delhi, India. The organizers of the Civil BRICS Forum, which will gather civil society organizations from BRICS countries, are hoping to make an impact on the official 8th BRICS Summit, which will bring together heads of State from the BRICS countries October 15-16 in the city of Goa, India. Civil society groups may also organize a more grassroots Peoples Summit in conjunction with the official summit.
The events surrounding the BRICS Summit represent a good opportunity not only for CSOs and other interested stakeholders to influence NDB and BRICS agendas; but also for the Bank to promote a more transparent and institutionalized engagement with civil society and start addressing the many concerns that the NDB’s first year of operations has raised.
Gonzalo Roza coordinates the Global Governance Area of Fundeps (Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies – Argentina) and the NDB Working Group of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, a global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect human rights.
In 2007, the Municipality of Phnom Penh leased 133 hectares of land in the Boeung Kak Lake areas to Shukaku Inc., a private company owned by ruling Cambodian People’s Party senator Lao Meng Khin, for a period of 99 years. The company planned to develop the land into a high-end residential, commercial, and tourism complex. From that point onwards, the company and the Cambodian government began pressuring residents of the area to relocate, offering deeply inadequate compensation in exchange.
On August 26, 2008, the company started pumping sand into the lake, causing residents’ homes to flood and the destruction of some houses. By this time, the government and company had persuaded or coerced more than 3,000 of the 4,000 affected families from the land, despite many of the affected families having strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law. The municipality then issued a final eviction notice in April 2009. The government along with the company began forcibly evicting the remaining residents.
As discussed below, over the course of the last seven years, Cambodian security forces have threatened and harassed current and former residents of Boeung Kak Lake areas in Phnom Penh for campaigning against their forced evictions. Cambodia’s security forces have aggressively denied the right to peaceful assembly by violently breaking up peaceful protests. The authorities have filed trumped-up charges against protesters or would-be protesters. Those charged have been routinely denied bail, convicted after expedited and truncated trials that did not meet international standards and did not give the accused adequate time to prepare and put forward a defense, and given significant prison sentences.
The World Bank Inspection Panel later investigated and found that there was a direct link between the Bank-financed $23.4 million Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) in Cambodia, which was approved in February 2002, and the forced evictions suffered by residents in the Boeung Kak Lake area.
Criminalization of Protests and Trumped-Up Charges against Community Members
Since 2009, Cambodian security forces have carried out a string of arrests of Boeung Kak Lake activists. Initially, police typically released the activists after one or two nights in detention. But since the May 2012 arrests of 15 Boeung Kak Lake residents and former residents, police have charged many detainees from the community with criminal offenses. In several cases, courts have convicted them in trials that do not meet Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure or international fair trial standards.
May 2012: Boeung Kak Protestors Arrested, Charged, and Convicted
On May 22, 2012, about 80–100 residents of Boeung Kak Lake peacefully gathered, intending to host a press conference as 18 families sought to mark the boundaries of their now demolished homes. Police arrived almost immediately. Police confiscated the residents’ tools and prevented them from demarcating the boundaries of their houses.
As the hours passed, most of the gathered residents moved into the shade. A small core group remained on the sand lot where the lake used to be, singing songs. At about 11:30 a.m., a mixed force of regular police and district public order para-police surrounded the group and, as the demonstrators dispersed, chased down and arrested 13 women. One protestor described how she was arrested when trying to help a friend, whom security personnel had captured. She said:
They were chasing people like they were trying to catch dogs. Some stepped on my friend’s children.… They pushed me in the car and drove away very fast. I couldn’t get up. I wanted to jump even if I died but then I thought of my grandchildren.
Nget Khun, who was 72-years-old at the time, told Human Rights Watch, “Four or five [security personnel] carried me like they were carrying a pig and then threw me in a car.”
The Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydroelectric Project (VPHEP) in Uttarakhand, India, is a hydropower generation scheme on the Alaknanda River, one of two headstream tributaries of the Ganga River. The project is financed by a $648 million loan from the World Bank and is being developed by the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Ltd. (THDC), a joint venture between India’s central government and the state government of Uttar Pradesh. The project is currently under construction.
The hydroelectric project’s backers have promoted it as an important new source of electricity for India’s power-hungry economy and as an effective tool to help India reduce greenhouse emissions. A majority of the people living in the villages affected by the project has accepted the project, and some even welcomed it. However, some community members fear profound negative impacts from the project including during its construction phase. In particular, these community members have expressed concern that, amongst other adverse impacts, the project would:
· Undermine religious and cultural practices that rely on a free-flowing Alaknanda River;
· Create water shortages, diminish water quality, and impede livelihood opportunities linked to the river; and
· Limit women’s freedom of movement and safety.
Human Rights Watch spoke with some of the community members protesting the project who said they had faced several years of threats, including gender-based threats, intimidation, and acts of violence by THDC employees and contractors.
At the forefront of the protests have been a handful of families who reside at Harsari hamlet, adjacent to Haat village, who have been resisting relocation to make way for the project. Their resistance has received support from some community members in nearby villages who also have concerns about the project. More recently, as discussed below, residents in neighboring Durgapur village have been protesting the construction of a tunnel for the project and the blasting associated with it that they believe is endangering their homes.
The flash floods of June 2013 which caused massive loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, including to Vishnuprayag hydroelectric project, just 35 miles upstream of VPHEP, intensified concerns among these community members regarding the potential environmental impacts of the project.
Human Rights Watch wrote to THDC to seek the company’s views on the allegations that its staff and contractors were involved in threats and intimidation of community members. In its response, the company emphasized that it takes its responsibilities towards host communities very seriously, and stressed that there have been no violations of human rights in the project area. It said that the project is being implemented in accordance with all national laws and in conformity with the environmental and social safeguard policies of the World Bank. It did not answer any of the questions that Human Rights Watch had asked regarding specific allegations, but said that it was looking into the matters that Human Rights Watch had raised and would “deal with them as necessary.”
Threats and Intimidation against Community Members
In July 2012, several community members filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel raising social, cultural, and environmental concerns about the project’s impacts. The complaint also highlighted concerns about “women’s freedom” as a key issue. In particular, complainants argued that the presence of so many male company employees and contractors, including migrant laborers, around the communities was a real threat to the safety of local women, especially given the prevailing environment of intimidation.
Read the article in full here.
*Editor’s note: On July 30, 2016, a victim of forced labor in cotton production and three Uzbek human rights defenders filed a complaint on June 30, 2016, against the World Bank’s private sector lending arm. The complaint against the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was filed with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, an independent accountability unit for the IFC. It seeks an investigation into forced labor connected to a $40 million loan to Indorama Kokand Textile, which operates in Uzbekistan. The forced labor victim, who requested confidentiality, and the rights defenders Dmitry Tikhonov, Elena Urlaeva, and a third who requested confidentiality, presented evidence that the loan to expand the company’s manufacturing of cotton goods in Uzbekistan allows it to profit from forced labor and to sell illicit goods. The complainants additionally detailed a disturbing pattern of harassment and attacks on labor monitors and human rights defenders. See the press release from the Cotton Campaign coalition, the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, International Labor Rights Forum, and Human Rights Watch.
The government has responded with particular vehemence to attempts by activists to monitor labor and human rights issues related to cotton work. In 2015 this harassment reached unprecedented levels as the government used arbitrary detention, threats, degrading ill-treatment, and other repressive means to silence monitors and undermine their ability to conduct research and provide information to the ILO and other international institutions.
This interference undermines the government’s stated commitments to take steps to reform its cotton sector and calls into serious question the government’s role as a good faith partner in reform. Interference with the work of independent monitors should raise deep concerns on the part of the World Bank, ILO, and other international partners. Independent monitors who met with the World Bank and the ILO told us that these institutions did not appear to prioritize the safety of independent monitors, rarely making inquiries and not making public statements or offering other support when monitors were arrested, ill-treated, or experienced other trouble.
In 2015 the government imposed spurious criminal sanctions on one Uzbek-German Forum monitor that prevent him from future human rights monitoring work and forced another to flee the country. The government’s persecution of independent monitors is deeply troubling both for the individual harms suffered and also because it threatens the ability to carry out independent monitoring of cotton harvest labor practices at all.
Home Burning and Charges against Dmitry Tikhonov
Dmitry Tikhonov, a journalist, civic activist, and human rights defender, has worked for four years with the Uzbek-German Forum to document labor and other human rights issues connected to cotton production in Uzbekistan. Tikhonov, who was based in Angren, and had a home office in nearby Yangiabad, conducted this work openly and, over the last several years has regularly provided information to the ILO, World Bank, and international organizations working in Uzbekistan. In August 2015, Tikhonov learned that the police had begun questioning his friends and acquaintances to gather information about him and his work.
On September 19, a group of about 10 people, including several mahalla chairpersons, approached Tikhonov when he was observing laborers departing for the cotton fields from a central square in Angren, and began demanding his documents and shouting accusations, including that Tikhonov was gathering information intended to taint Uzbekistan’s reputation. After the incident, three mahalla chairpersons complained to the police that Tikhonov was interfering with the campaign to mobilize workers to pick cotton and that he insulted and swore at them. The next day, while Tikhonov was again observing departing workers, a man approached him and told him that he did not want to pick cotton and was forced to hire someone to pick in his name. The police took Tikhonov and the man to the police station where they were held in separate rooms. Police questioned Tikhonov and told him to write a statement explaining why he is “against cotton.” A senior officer entered and swore at him, threatened physical violence, and began hitting Tikhonov repeatedly on his face and head with a thick stack of paper, yelling, “cotton is the achievement of our fatherland! Cotton is our nation’s wealth!”
Several days later, Tikhonov was briefly detained after a spurious traffic stop. A police officer temporarily confiscated his research materials including mobile phone, smartphone, and flash drives, and Tikhonov credibly believes police copied the materials.
On September 30, Tikhonov arranged for an ILO monitoring team to meet with people from Angren who were forcibly mobilized to pick cotton. On the way to the meeting he noticed he was followed by plainclothes men in three cars. He later learned that police visited the workplaces of all the people who spoke to ILO monitors and interrogated them.
Tikhonov learned that police charged him with hooliganism, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 15 days’ administrative detention, stemming from the complaint made by the three mahalla chairpersons.
Tikhonov remained away from home for several weeks until October 27, when he learned that there had been a major fire at his home in Yangiabad October 20. The police knew about the fire when it occurred, but failed to inform Tikhonov’s lawyer, who maintained regular contact with them. Tikhonov found that only the room he had used as his home office had burned but the entire room and its contents were completely destroyed—even the roof had collapsed. He lost everything he used for his work, including two computers, a laptop, a printer/scanner, video and sound equipment, all his contacts, papers and files as well as his legal library. Tikhonov’s cash savings in the amount of $1500 was also burned and most of his clothing was destroyed. Tikhonov also noted that a box containing about 100 legal guides on child and forced labor that he had created for distribution had disappeared even though it was kept in another room that did not burn. In addition, Tikhonov said that his two hard drives went missing after the fire. One contained his archive and database, and the other had his current work. The hard drives were stored in a metal box that Tikhonov dug out of the burned debris. The box was there but the hard drives were missing and no parts of them were visible.
Around the same time, police brought two more administrative cases of hooliganism against Tikonov, one stemming from video recordings the officials could only have accessed from his equipment or email, since he had the only copy and the video was never made public, alleging that he made the recordings without permission. The other charges allege that on October 27, the day Tikhonov went to assess the damage at his home, he caused a scandal with some people in Angren, 13 kilometers away. Tikhonov does not know the other people allegedly involved. Committing a third administrative offense in the course of a year can result in criminal, rather than misdemeanor charges, and Tikhonov feared that he could go to prison. Eventually he was convicted and fined on the third set of charges. In addition, a series of articles appeared on pre-government websites discrediting Tikhonov, accusing him of corruption and of being an American agent. Some of the articles “analyzed” Tikhonov’s unpublished research findings that could only have been taken from his computer and email. Fearing possible spurious criminal prosecution and other forms of persecution, Tikhonov was forced to flee Uzbekistan and is now residing outside the country, unable to continue his monitoring.
Arrest and Sentencing of Uktam Pardaev
Uktam Pardaev, a human rights defender from the Jizzakh region, for years has advocated on behalf of victims of corruption and monitored the use of child and force
d labor in the cotton sector. On November 16, 2015 police arrested Pardaev on spurious charges of taking a bribe, insult, and fraud on the basis of a complaint allegedly made by someone who had previously sought Pardaev’s assistance with whom Pardaev had never exchanged any money. In the weeks prior to his arrest, Pardaev noticed increased surveillance of his activities. The National Security Service, known widely by its Russian acronym, the SNB, summoned several of Pardaev’s acquaintances and people he had assisted and interrogated them, beating some of them. He told staff at several international embassies that he feared arrest.
Pardaev was held for 57 days in a pretrial detention center in the Dustlik district of Jizzakh and on December 26 was transferred to pretrial detention in Khavast, in the Syrdaryo region. Guards there beat him severely in one occasion, apparently for failing to get undressed quickly. Pardaev went to trial on January 11, 2016. After a single hearing, a judge of the Dustlik district court convicted Pardaev of all charges and sentenced him to 5 and a half years in prison. The judge suspended the sentence, imposing three years’ probation, and Pardaev risks prison if found to violate any conditions of his probation, which include a 10 p.m. curfew, registering twice monthly at the police station, and not traveling outside the Jizzakh region. Police have also told him that he is forbidden from all human rights work, although this prohibition is not included in the sentencing documents.
Arbitrary Detentions and Ill-treatment of Elena Urlaeva
A long-time human rights and civic activist, Elena Urlaeva, head of the Tashkent-based Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, has monitored labor rights and the cotton harvest for many years and met regularly with the ILO during the 2015 season. She was arrested on at least four occasions during the 2015 cotton harvest as well as twice during the spring planting and weeding season. On one occasion, on September 19, police in Kuychirchik, in the Tashkent region, arrested Urlaeva, her husband, their 11-year-old son, a family friend and a farmer who had invited them to stay on his land. Police arrested them ostensibly because Urlaeva “photographed the fields without permission,” when she was walking with the farmer. Urlaeva and her family were released late that evening after lengthy interrogations, but police held the farmer in custody overnight.
Police also arrested Urlaeva twice in May when she distributed information about the prohibition against forced labor when local officials were sending people to weed the cotton fields. Police in Chinaz arrested Urlaeva on May 31, 2015, as she observed the forced mobilization of medical workers to the fields. They held her for 11 hours and subjected her to severe ill-treatment, including forcibly injecting her with sedatives, subjecting her to a forced x-ray, and carrying out a body cavity search to look for a flash drive. Police refused her access to a toilet, making her relieve herself outside in front of police officers, who filmed her and humiliated her. They later posted a video of the incident on the internet. Urlaeva also observed near constant surveillance from August through November, including plainclothes men posted outside her home, following her, and taking video recordings and photographs of her. She described this as psychologically exhausting as well as a serious impediment to her work.
On March 9, 2016, Urlaeva checked into the Tashkent City Psychiatric Clinic after experiencing multiple traumatic events, including ill-treatment by the police during her efforts to monitor the cotton harvest. In late April, Urlaeva’s doctor informed her and her son that she was in good health and would be released on May 2. However, the hospital then refused to release Urlaeva without citing any medical reason, citing “official orders,” in effect using the hospital as a means of punitive, arbitrary detention. The hospital finally released Urlaeva on June 1, after significant international pressure.
After her release, Urlaeva reported that she suffered ill treatment during her detention. “Hospital staff turned aggressive patients on me, who beat me and dragged me by the hair. They did this first to break my will, knowing I am a human rights defender,” she said. “One time, I tried to defend myself from these patients with an iron chair The staff then started filming me on their mobile phones and said the video would be evidence that I was aggressive and ill.””
Arrests of Malohat Eshankulova and Elena Urlaeva
Malohat Eshankulova is a Tashkent-based independent journalist and activist who has monitored and written about labor rights in the cotton industry for several years, including with the Uzbek-German Forum. On September 27, police in the Saikhunbad district of the Khorezm region arrested Eshankulova along with Elena Urlaeva and held them at the police station for several hours.
On September 29, Eshankulova, Urlaeva, and two local activists who together were observing college students being sent to the harvest in the Khazarasp district of Khorezm. Police arbitrarily detained them for 14 hours, during which they were interrogated constantly about their activities and accused by the police of “treason to the motherland.” Police also subjected Eshankulova and Urlaeva to a strip search and body cavity search. Police released them without charge after threatening to kill them if they ever returned to Khorezm.
Security services officers in the Ellikkalа and Beruni districts of Karakalpakstan, sites of World Bank-funded projects, prevented Eshankulova and Urlaeva from meeting with teachers and medical workers forcibly sent to the cotton fields in October.
 The information in this section comes from letters, emails, and telephone interviews with Dmitry Tikhonov from September 2015-February 2016.
 Minor hooliganism is art. 183 of the administrative code.
 Information in this section comes from telephone conversations and email correspondence between Elena Urlaeva and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
 Information in this section comes from telephone conversations and email correspondence between Malohat Eshankulova and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
The Phenix Center is an independent think tank in Amman, Jordan that promotes workers rights and carries out policy analysis in order to build a sustainable development model based on principles of democracy and human rights. Our organization and other civil society organizations play a crucial role in promoting freedoms, rights and democracy in Jordan’s development.
Today, international financial institutions are beginning to fund more renewable energy, agriculture, and other development projects in my country. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in particular is looking to increase their investments here and in the countries in the region viewed as more stable and favourable for investment.
However, after a period of increasing public freedoms on the wave of the Arab spring and some progress toward democracy, Jordan has taken several steps backwards in recent years in terms of freedom of expression and association and the space for civil society organizations. Successive governments have started to limit public freedoms under the banner of security and fighting terrorism. There is a double discourse wherein the government emphasizes in its statements that confronting extremism and terrorism implies the promotion of human rights of all citizens. In practice, however, several policies and drafted several laws, imposing restrictions on freedoms of opinion, expression, and assembly.
As soon as I started advocating for the rights of trade unions, I received several threats from the official authorities, who said that my work was jeopardizing the possibilities of receiving foreign investments. We started receiving calls from government authorities, trying to intervene in our activities. Training workshops we organized were canceled by the official authorities, on the grounds that the support we are giving to new and independent trade unions is “putting the stability of Jordan at risk”. Official authorities asked me more than once to stop working on freedom of association. Moreover, many unionists have received calls from official authorities asking them not to collaborate with our organization. Companies whose employees we have supported in strikes have presented accusations against us to the government.
The government recently introduced several draft laws that criminalize workers’ right to strike and prevent civil society organizations from participating in the social and political life of the country, by limiting their space of action. Many civil society groups have reported being forced to stop working on projects after the official authorities contacted them.
There are several development projects in planning by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other banks, such as the Red Sea – Dead Sea corridor. There the workers are mostly migrants and don’t have the ability to express themselves. They don’t have rights, are foreigners here, and they are very afraid. We tried to get them to organize to defend their rights, but we failed.
We have met with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and other international financial institutions to urge them to take seriously the situation of civil society in Jordan and the region, and to promote an enabling environment for participation and freedoms of assembly and association. We have had consultations and discussions on various issues. But the development banks still struggle when it comes to actually implementing their own safeguards or ensuring basic transparency and access to information.
What we try to do is use the Banks’ information, plus make contact with local groups impacted by development projects to find out how we can support them to improve working conditions and prevent environmental contamination. But in some cases, the government and management of the projects have refused all suggestions regarding implementation of safeguard policies or refused to respond to complaints about contamination. The EBRD’s IPP4 Al-Manakher Power Project, for instance, is considered a “strategic” project for Jordan, so the government doesn’t want anyone to challenge it.
I can say I am pretty able to express myself freely; but of course I know I have to consider the possibility of receiving threats or being put under pressure. I do not see the situation improving in the short-term, but we will continue our organizing campaigns, speeches and activities to advocate for human rights and in particular freedom of expression in Jordan, and we will keep on developing and building a network of cooperation and relationships with other civil society organizations and associations in order to prevent any potential violations that may occur.
On September 7, 2015, the Ethiopian authorities charged Pastor Omot Agwa under its draconian counterterrorism law, having already detained him for nearly six months. Omot, of the evangelical Mekane Yesus church in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, was an interpreter and facilitator for the World Bank Inspection Panel when the Panel visited in February 2014 to investigate a complaint by former Gambella residents alleging widespread forced displacement and other serious human rights violations connected to the World Bank’s Protection of Basic Services (PBS) program. The charge sheet refers to a food security workshop, which was organized by a food security group and two international organizations, as a “terrorist group meeting.”
Omot was arrested on March 15 with six others while en route to the workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. Three were released without charge on April 24, 2015 and a fourth on June 26, 2015. The authorities charged the two others, Ashinie Astin and Jamal Oumar Hojele, also under the counterterrorism law.
The World Bank’s Protection of Basic Services (PBS) program funded block grants to regional governments, including paying salaries of government officials. The former residents alleged that the program was harming them by contributing to the government’s abusive “villagization” program. The program forcibly evicted indigenous and other marginalized peoples from their traditional lands and relocated them to new villages. In its report to the World Bank board of directors, which was leaked to the media in December 2014, the Inspection Panel concluded that the Bank had violated some of its own policies in Ethiopia.
In February 2015, the World Bank board considered the Inspection Panel’s recommendations. Shortly thereafter, Omot reported that he was under increasing pressure from Ethiopian security personnel. While the Inspection Panel had not disclosed Omot’s identity in its report, it included a photograph of him with other community members, which was removed from subsequent versions. The week before his arrest, several people told Omot that a well-known federal security official from Gambella was looking for him.
Several days after Omot’s arrest, a witness saw four armed federal police officers and four plainclothes security officials take Omot, in chains, to his house in Addis Ababa where they removed computers, cameras, and other documents. The seizure of Omot’s computers and other materials raises concerns about the security of other Gambella community members the Inspection Panel interviewed. Given the severe restrictions on human rights investigation and reporting in Ethiopia, it is virtually impossible for rights groups to learn about reprisals in the villages the Inspection Panel visited.
The food security workshop in Nairobi was organized by Bread for All, with the support of the Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) and GRAIN. Bread for All is the Development Service of the Protestant Churches in Switzerland. ASO is a London-based registered charity that seeks to support the rights of indigenous peoples in southwest Ethiopia. GRAIN is a small international nonprofit organization based in Barcelona, Spain that received the 2011 Right Livelihood Award at the Swedish Parliament for its “worldwide work to protect the livelihoods and rights of farming communities.”
The objective of the Nairobi workshop was to exchange “experience and information among different indigenous communities from Ethiopia and experts from international groups around food security challenges.” Participants from Ethiopia were selected by ASO based on their experience in supporting local communities to ensure their food security and access to land.
The charge sheet accuses Omot of being the co-founder and leader of the Gambella People’s Liberation Movement (GPLM) and communicating with its leaders abroad, including ASO Director Nyikaw Ochalla, who is described in the charge sheet as GPLM’s London-based “senior group terrorist leader.” Omot faces between 20 years and life in prison. Ashinie is accused of participating in the GPLM, including communicating with Nyikaw and preparing a research document entitled “Deforestation, dispossession and displacement of Gambela in general and Majang people in particular.” Jamal Oumar is accused of being a participant of a “terrorist group” and of organizing recruits to attend the Nairobi workshop.
The GPLM is not among the five organizations that the Ethiopian parliament has designated terrorist groups. GPLM is an ethnic Anuak organization that fought alongside the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to oust the repressive Derg regime in the 1990s. In 1998, GPLM was folded into the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) power structure. Currently the GPLM has no public profile, no known leadership structure, and has not made any public statement of its goals.
“For the government to make criminal allegations against me because I assisted in coordinating a workshop about land and food issues in Ethiopia is simply incredible,” said Nyikaw Ochalla, ASO executive director. “Trying to give indigenous people a voice about their most precious resources – their land and their food – is not terrorism, it’s a critical part of any sustainable development strategy.”
Within days of Omot’s arrest, Human Rights Watch and other organizations alerted the World Bank Group president, Jim Yong Kim, and the European Union, United States, and Swiss missions in Addis Ababa. But on March 31, the World Bank board approved a new US$350 million agriculture project in Ethiopia. On September 15, the World Bank approved a $600 million Enhancing Shared Prosperity through Equitable Services project, which is replacing one of the subprograms of the PBS program.
World Bank staff assert that they have privately raised the case with Ethiopian government officials, but the nature of any communications is unclear. In a May meeting with nongovernmental organizations in Washington, DC, World Bank staff said that the government had informed them that Omot’s arrest was in accordance with Ethiopian law and unrelated to the Bank’s accountability process.
The chair of the Inspection Panel has emphasized the Panel’s concern privately and, when it was informed of the interpreter’s arrest by Human Rights Watch, immediately informed senior Bank staff and asked for “their assistance to inquire about [the] arrest with the government and ensure his well-being and release.” On September 25, the Panel published a statement calling “on the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that Pastor Omot’s rights to due process and other protections under the rule of law are respected.”
All three detainees were moved to Kalinto prison, on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, after spending more than five months in Maekelawi, the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector in the city. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented torture and other ill-treatment at Maekelawi. Omot, and possibly the other two detainees, were held in solitary confinement for three weeks upon their arrest, and all have had limited access to family members. Jamal and Omot have reportedly been in poor health.
The detainees were held 161 days without charge, well beyond the four months allowed under Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, and a period in violation of international human rights standards and among the longest permitted by law in the world. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for August 4, 2016.
Since 2011, Ethiopia’s counterterrorism law has been used to prosecute journalists, bloggers, opposition politicians, and peaceful protesters. Many have been accused without compelling evidence of association with banned opposition groups.
Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented numerous incidents in which individuals critical of Ethiopia’s development programs have been detained and harassed, and often mistreated in detention. Journalists have been harassed for writing articles critical of the country’s development policy.
Ethiopian authorities should immediately drop all charges and release Omot and the two other local activists charged with him under Ethiopia’s repressive counterterrorism law. The World Bank should vigorously respond to this reprisal against Omot Agwa, by – at a minimum – publicly denouncing his arrest and pushing the government to drop the charges and release him.
For more information, see: Human Rights Watch, “Dispatches: Ethiopian Pastor Pays the Penalty for Speaking Out” and “Ethiopia: World Bank Translator, Activists Face Trial.”
The Ugandan government has increasingly intimidated activists working on sensitive subjects and has obstructed civil society reporting and advocacy in recent years. Amongst those targeted by the government have been community members and independent groups who have been critical of proposed development initiatives, including initiatives funded by the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm.
According to NGO and media reports, between 2006 and 2010 security forces forcibly and brutally removed several thousand people from Mubende and Kiboga districts in Uganda to make way for the IFC-financed New Forests Company to operate pine and eucalyptus plantations over several years. In doing so, the government ignored interim High Court orders barring the evictions pending a full hearing, among other violations of the rights of the community. The government labeled the residents “illegal encroachers.” In September 2011, Oxfam published a report on land conflicts in various countries around the world, which included a case study researched and written by Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) together with Oxfam documenting the forced evictions. New Forests Company has strongly denied any involvement in evictions or violence and challenged the NGO findings. In December 2011, several community representatives, ULA, and Oxfam filed a complaint on behalf of the affected communities with the IFC’s independent accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). This led to a mediation process resulting in settlements between the communities and New Forests Company in July 2013 and May 2014.
Senior government officials criticized the report findings and sought retraction, then public “clarification,” apologies, and amendments to Oxfam’s report. In April 2012, the Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs launched what it called an “investigation into the alleged improper conduct” of Oxfam and ULA. The minister alleged that the activities of the NGOs had “incited local communities into violent and hateful acts against the New Forests Company” and that this caused “economic loss to some investors … [and] tainted the Country’s international image on investor management, the respect and promotion of human rights and even brought the person of the President in to disrepute.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs tasked the government’s NGO Board to conduct a wide-ranging investigation which went well beyond the legal mandate and technical capacity of the board. Ultimately, the NGO Board investigation recommended that the NGOs have their permits withdrawn if they did not take “corrective action,” that the Oxfam report be “withdrawn,” and that a retraction be issued. Furthermore, the board said that the NGOs should “make apologies” to the Ugandan government and to the president.
In response, ULA publicly stood by the report and its conclusions, and pressed the government to address the problems documented in the report. They also expressed alarm that the government’s heavy-handed reaction to their investigation would create a chilling environment for others. “The price for Uganda Land Alliance’s investigations into cases of land grabbing has been set so high,” the group said, “that once paid, it will become extremely risky for anyone attempting to question the vices of land grabbing and forceful evictions of innocent citizens.”
In a May 2012 letter to ULA, the minister of internal affairs called the group “contemptuous,” and accused it of seeking to “ridicule” the government’s authority and institutions. The minister reportedly told ULA and Oxfam that they would lose their licenses to operate, and therefore have to close down if they did not retract their report findings and apologize. In his opening remarks at the National Civil Society Fair, the minister further accused ULA of “peddling lies” and said that he would “bring them to order so that they don’t spoil the image of the country, the head of state, and the first family, and any other institutions of government.” On June 14, 2012, ULA publicly expressed regret for inaccurate or speculative statements that the media might have made when writing on the content of the report and apologized for misunderstandings.
According to current and former employees at ULA, the organization and some staff members faced threats and surveillance after ULA published the report on the evictions in Mubende and Kiboga and later filed a complaint with the CAO. Unidentified men began telephoning both the executive director and the communications officer, telling them to “back off” this issue.
Anonymous callers threatened two activists on various occasions. Community members also reported to ULA that they had faced threats and harassment for articulating concerns about the project, and said they had been under surveillance.
A ULA employee at the time described being followed by unknown men whom she could not identify but assumed to be with the security forces. She also observed plainclothes security personnel monitoring community meetings in which ULA was participating. She said:
From the moment we filed a complaint with the CAO, government officials accused us of spoiling the image of the state… We received threats… My colleague claimed he received threats via his mobile telephone. One day, someone I know said to me, “If you don’t do these things, they will kidnap your children.” He had connections with the government and told me he was just telling me “as his friend, to drop the case.”
Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, a human rights defender and journalist who covered the forced evictions said that he also received numerous threatening telephone calls, beginning around January 2010. Prior to this, in around October 2009, Ssebaggala had been arrested for photographing the police arresting community members who were resisting eviction. He was told he would be released provided he deleted the photograph. Ssebaggala recalls receiving a telephone call from a private number when he was working in Kampala one day, at around 9 a.m. The caller said he was from “security” and said, “If you don’t back off your involvement in the land issue, it will be a matter of life and death.” Ssebaggala received several more calls over the following two years, often from the same man, who once said, “You’ve refused, but we’ll get you, anytime.”
According to Ssebaggala, in mid-2010 his home was burgled and his laptop and telephones were stolen, while everything else was left untouched. He reported the threats and burglary to two separate police stations, but was told at each that they needed money to “facilitate” any investigation. He told Human Rights Watch that the World Bank should have done more to respond to these reprisals against him and other critics of the project:
Free speech is the cornerstone of transparency and accountability. Where World Bank projects are being implemented, citizens must have a voice.… The World Bank should have done more to protect the security of people speaking out against this project. It’s us who facilitate the voice of the people. I’m not aware of them [the World Bank] doing anything [about the reprisals against critics of this project].… This makes me believe they think free speech is not an issue for them.
ULA staff noted that the fallout from their research on the IFC-financed project has continued to plague them. One ULA staff member said:
There is still the stigma. We don’t go out as strong any more. We are very cautious about what we say. We don’t say anything controversial in a meeting any more. It affects how we do our things.
When ULA makes a statement critical of government action, some staff members feel that the government’s response continues to be that ULA is motivated by a desire to undermine government programs.
On May 17, 2014, the ULA office in Kampala was burgled and information-rich property, such as computers and cameras, were stolen, while other more valuable property was left untouched. It is unclear if this event was connected to the evictions reporting, but some observers felt it may have been. ULA reported the burglary to the police, but it remains unsolved.
Throughout this period, the CAO’s progress reports were silent about the government’s attacks on Oxfam and ULA. According to the World Bank’s country manager at the time, ULA did inform the World Bank country office about the government’s threats of deregistration. In addition, the government’s hostile verbal attacks on ULA, including threats of deregistration and demands for apologies, were well reported in the Ugandan media. But to the best of the knowledge of former and current ULA employees interviewed, the World Bank and IFC did not emphasize to the government the important and legitimate role ULA, Oxfam, and other independent groups play in scrutinizing development projects or urge the government to cease their public attacks and efforts to close their offices.
The former World Bank country manager conceded to Human Rights Watch that they had not taken concrete steps to help create or protect any kind of a space within which community members, NGOs, and journalists could publicly raise concerns about this or other projects. Rather, the Bank viewed free speech issues and the broader crackdowns on civil society as being best handled by bilateral donors. The World Bank representative also said that while ULA had reported the attacks to the World Bank, they had not expressly asked that the Bank do anything about the attacks they were facing.
Published in Human Rights Watch report, At Your Own Risk, June 2015.
My name is Abhijeet*. I am a community member in Sindhuli, Nepal and I am actively resisting against human and environmental rights violations in the construction of the Khimti-Dhalkebar Transmission Line (KDTL Project). The KDTL Project is a high-voltage transmission line that will cross the area of Sindhuli. It is being funded by the World Bank and implemented by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).
The KDTL Project is violating the fundamental human rights of indigenous and local peoples of Sindhuli. We are directly and indirectly affected by the transmission line and are very concerned about its impacts, especially health impacts. However, the project developers have not provided adequate information to us or consulted with us. Even after people went to the project office, requesting information, they still did not provide the requested information. They didn’t post information or notices in the project construction area either. Nor did they provide information through print media or radio media.
In April 2016, when communities affected by the KDTL Project engaged in a peaceful protest on their own lands, the police responded with violence, injuring several people. On the same day, the police also arrested community leaders. The leaders were only released the next day after they signed a document in which they agreed to no longer obstruct project construction.
Right now, in Nepal, the political situation is very bad. The new constitution is highly discriminatory and excludes the rights of Indigenous peoples, Madhesi people, Dalit people and women as well. In fact, the government has killed more than 40 peoples in clashes related to the new constitution. Currently, there is much conflict between civil society and the government. One of the key issues is that the government is not implementing its existing laws that protect and promote the human rights of Nepalese Indigenous peoples. The general perception is that the government is narrowing the space for civil society organizations, which is having a chilling effect.
I have provided technical support, such as writing letters and demanding information from authorities, to protect and promote the rights of fellow local communities affected by the KDTV Project. Because of my efforts, I have been threatened by security and project officials. They tried to intimidate me into stopping my acts of resistance. I am not able to participate and freely express my thoughts about development projects. Development projects are a key priority for the central government of Nepal, which has been repressive towards the issues of local and Indigenous voices while pushing forward its development agenda.
I have worked hard with other project affected peoples and allies including the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples to challenge these limitations. Now, the KDTL Project issue has become internationalized, and we are getting support and engagement from international human rights organizations. We have filed complaints in the Nepalese Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission (Nepal) and the Inspection Panel of the World Bank. As a result of the sustained resistance of the local struggle committee in Sindhuli, project affected peoples have been offered more compensation, although the amounts are still highly inadequate. Unfortunately, the NEA and the World Bank have still not provided proper information or consultation.
I hope that civil society will have the opportunity to contribute towards sustainable peace and development in Nepal. Unfortunately, the fundamental human rights of many voiceless peoples are being systemically violated as a result of development projects. I have faced limitations while helping mobilize project affected peoples against the KDTL Project. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to mobilize while also being safe from risk.
For my colleagues facing similar situations around the world, I think it is really important for us to build our capacity by accessing training and sharing experiences. This will enable us to have knowledge of the best practices and have the best tools. We can also benefit much from being plugged into and helping build a word wide network of human rights defenders. Others from outside my country can support civil society within Nepal by capacity building, including providing us expert advice, and supporting us in our strategic planning.
And there is much that the World Bank and others financiers need to do in this project. They should effectively monitor and evaluate the KDTL project to ensure it respects the environmental and human rights of project affected peoples. They should ensure that communities have complete information about the project in their local language and put large billboards in all construction areas to disclose basic information about the project. It is also important that they ensure that there is an impartial dispute resolution mechanism for communities, and that resettled people are provided adequate compensation and training or jobs to restore their livelihoods.
Most importantly, these financiers must respect and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples and secure their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) to development projects that impact their lands or resources. From my academic courses, I have read that consultation is the cornerstone of FPIC, and FPIC-compliant development. However, neither I, nor my community, have ever been consulted about our development plans and priorities by the government, a corporation, or a development finance institution.
*The author is an indigenous community member in Sindhuli, Nepal. Their name has been changed due to security concerns.
La semaine dernière, des représentants gouvernementaux des États-Unis et de toute l’Afrique se sont réunis avec des investisseurs publics et privés dans le cadre du 2ème Sommet annuel Powering Africa à Washington. Le Sommet coïncidait avec le lancement d’une nouvelle Feuille de route pour Power Africa, un partenariat pluripartite situé au se in de l’Agence états-unienne de développement international qui promet de mobiliser des ressources du secteur privé pour doubler l’accès à l’électricité en Afrique sub-saharienne.
Ont participé au Sommet de trois jours des ministres de l’Énergie d’Afrique, des représentants de conseils d’administration d’entreprises et de puissantes institutions financières comme la Banque mondiale et la Banque africaine de développement. Cependant, comme il en coûtait 2000 USD par personne pour entrer, les membres de la société civile africaine en ont été exclus.
Il semble que dans les accords énergétiques, l’accès à l’électricité est une chose, l’accès au pouvoir en est une autre.
Dans une déclaration du 28 janvier, 18 organisations de la société civile de 10 pays africains ont demandé aux gouvernements et aux institutions financières qui participaient au Sommet de trouver des solutions socialement et écologiquement durables aux besoins énergétiques de l’Afrique. La déclaration exhorte les organisateurs du Sommet et les dirigeants africains à « promouvoir des solutions énergétiques qui sont accessibles, répondent aux besoins de développement des populations pauvres et vulnérables qui accueillent ces projets et respectent tous les droits humains de ces dernières. »
La dynamique entourant le Sommet de la semaine dernière met en évidence quelques-unes des difficultés de fond qui se posent à Power Africa dans son effort visant à combler un déficit énergétique immense et pressant, plus des deux-tiers de la population – environ 645 millions de personnes – n’ayant pas accès à l’électricité.
L’accès n’est pas la même chose que l’accessibilité financière
Power Africa vise à produire 30,000 mégawatts d’énergie nouvelle et à élargir l’accès à l’électricité, en ajoutant 60 millions de nouvelles connexions résidentielles et commerciales. Mais il ne suffit pas de mesurer le nombre de nouvelles connexions. Il est important de savoir où ces connexions se trouvent, qui en bénéficient et si elles sont financièrement accessibles. Si Power Africa ne parle à peu près pas d’accessibilité financière, il favorise l’élimination des subventions et le recouvrement intégral des coûts – deux mesures qui risquent d’augmenter les coûts pour les consommateurs.
Il est possible que l’investissement nuise au développement.
La logique derrière Power Africa, c’est qu’il n’y a pas assez de ressources financières pour répondre aux besoins énergétiques de l’Afrique et les pays doivent donc mobiliser les investissements des entreprises. Et, comme l’investissement dans l’infrastructure énergétique est complexe et risqué, il leur faut rendre l’affaire plus attrayante. Dans le cadre de l’initiative, les banques de développement apportent un soutien technique aux réformes juridiques et règlementaires visant à accroître les possibilités d’investissement privé, notamment en privatisant les services publics. Selon la Feuille de route, plus de la moitié de l’électricité produite par Power Africa aujourd’hui est issue de privatisations. Mais comment Power Africa fera-t-il face aux impacts négatifs qui découlent souvent de la privatisation, tels que la limitation de l’accès et de l’accessibilité financière, la perte de revenus publics et la diminution de l’emploi de qualité?
Renouvelable ne veut pas nécessairement dire durable
Un aspect louable de Power Africa, c’est l’accent mis sur l’énergie renouvelable (il faut toutefois mentionner que la moitié des activités en cours concernent le gaz naturel. Ceci dit, renouvelable ne veut pas dire durable, surtout en ce qui concerne les impacts humains d’un projet. Dans une déclaration concernant le Sommet, le Narasha Community Development Group de la Vallée du Grand Rift au Kenya a mentionné une série d’impacts négatifs subis par les communautés locales du fait de l’exploitation d’énergie géothermique sur leurs terres ancestrales, dont « les expulsions, la pollution et les risques pour la santé, la mise en péril des moyens de subsistance de la communauté pastorale dans la région et la perte de sites historiques et culturels, entre autres. »
Les sauvegardes doivent être rigoureuses, claires et appliquées
La Feuille de route de Power Africa signale que les projets devront respecter les meilleures pratiques en ce qui concerne les sauvegardes sociales et environnementales. Il n’y est toutefois pas précisé quelles sont ces politiques ou pratiques et comment on entend en assurer la mise en œuvre et le suivi. Comme l’a souligné la Communauté de Narasha, « laisser les activités [de développement] aux mains du gouvernement national ne garantit aucune protection ni atténuation des effets. » En particulier, il est essentiel que Power Africa intègre des mesures visant à détecter et gérer les risques et les impacts sociaux, notamment ceux liés aux droits humains.
Qui contrôle l’énergie et qui en bénéficie ?
Les questions fondamentales de l’accès à l’énergie sont « Qui contrôle les ressources ? » et « Qui en bénéficie ? » Comme l’ont expliqué des groupes de la société civile africaine , « il arrive trop souvent que les communautés locales soient expulsées, déplacées ou harcelées dans les processus d’acquisition de terres pour des projets énergétiques. Pour éviter cela, les communautés locales devraient avoir la possibilité de négocier l’exploitation d’une partie de leurs terres pour partager la production d’énergie et participer directement au partage des bénéfices. »
Ouvrir la porte à la société civile africaine
Pour réellement assurer l’accès à l’énergie et le développement, Power Africa devrait être dirigé par ceux qui sont censés en être les bénéficiaires. Selon sa Feuille de route, Power Africa entend veiller à ce que les promoteurs de projets « tiennent compte de l’ensemble des besoins et des préoccupations de ceux et celles dont la vie et les communautés seront les plus touchées. » Mais il n’est pas dit comment cela devrait se réaliser. Power Africa doit se doter de mécanismes permettant d’assurer une communication systématique et continue entre les porteurs de projets, les financiers et les communautés locales de sorte que les communautés aient réellement accès à l’information et soient en mesure d’influencer les projets qui auront une incidence sur elles. Tout comme Power Africa se targue d’avoir une trousse à outils pour les gouvernements et le secteur privé, il faudrait donner aux membres de la société civile les outils leur permettant d’avoir accès à l’information, de comprendre les contrats et les budgets, de négocier avec les entreprises, d’influencer les projets de développement, de concevoir leurs propres projets énergétiques communautaires, de surveiller les impacts et les revenus et de défendre leurs droits fondamentaux.
by Gretchen Gordon.
*this post originally appeared in English at rightingfinance.
Two weeks ago, at the United Nations’ fourth Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, multi-stakeholder groups discussed ongoing challenges and trends in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). While the discussion around business and human rights has tended to focus primarily on States and the private sector, it is beginning to explore a critical area where these two entities increasingly converge – development finance.
Why development finance matters for business and human rights
A new factsheet from the Coalition for Human Rights in Development and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable explores the myriad reasons why development finance matters for business and human rights. Here, we’ll explore just a few.
First, if you follow the money behind a corporate activity, in many cases you’ll find it leads to some form of development finance – official development assistance, national and multilateral development banks, or other Development Finance Institutions (DFIs).
Development finance to the private sector takes many shapes. Development banks provide direct loans and credit lines to corporations, and can even be equity investors in private businesses. Development banks are also increasingly lending through financial intermediaries like commercial banks and private equity funds, which then “lend-on” funds to their clients. More and more, States are relying on the private sector to meet their development objectives, including through public-private-partnerships for the provision of public services or infrastructure development.
Second, the projects financed by DFIs often raise significant potential for corporate human rights abuses.
Projects often take place in countries or contexts in which the rule of law and institutional capacity regarding human rights are weak. A lack of accountability and inadequate human rights due diligence standards within DFIs creates the potential for human rights abuses by corporate actors. The International Finance Institution’s (IFC) corporate clients, for instance, have recently been linked to various human rights abuses – from forced evictions to killings.
Third, with robust due diligence, development finance can help to raise the bar for corporate conduct and prevent human rights abuses.
Civil society has made significant strides over the years in securing operational policies within DFIs, especially multilateral development banks. These standards place requirements on business activities, ranging from consultation with local communities and disclosure of project information, to protections for workers and indigenous peoples.
Fourth, DFIs can provide accountability avenues for those who have suffered human rights abuses as a result of corporate activities.
Communities challenging business activities financed by development banks may be able to file a case with a bank’s independent accountability mechanism to secure redress or gain leverage in negotiations. Advocates have also successfully targeted DFIs as a strategy to gain increased media attention and political traction for a given human rights campaign.
Finally, the policies and standards adopted by large financial institutions like the World Bank and the IFC often have an enormous ripple effect globally.
The World Bank’s resettlement policy, for example, has been adopted by governments and used by communities as a model to demand better treatment in the absence of adequate national regulations. The IFC’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability are globally recognized good practice and serve as the basis for the Equator Principles, which have been adopted by nearly 80 banks and financial institutions.
The World Bank presently is revising its entire suite of social and environmental policies. By taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen the human rights coherence of DFIs, business and human rights advocates can influence corporate conduct at a global level.
The Guiding Principles and development finance
The UNGPs apply to both the supply and demand side of development finance in a variety of ways. States’ duties to respect and protect human rights, for example, apply to States’ actions as recipients of development finance, as financiers, and as decision-makers within multilateral and domestic DFIs.
Principle 4 for instance, speaks to the duty of States to take additional measures to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that receive substantial support and services from State agencies, including by requiring human rights due diligence. Principle 8 declares that States should ensure that government agencies and State-based institutions that shape business practices are aware of and observe the State’s human rights obligations. Principle 10 declares that when States act as members of multilateral institutions that deal with business related issues, they should ensure that those institutions do not restrain the ability of member States to meet their duty to protect or hinder the ability of business enterprises to respect human rights, and should encourage those institutions to promote business respect for human rights.
National Action Plans
The UN Human Rights Council has called on all Member States to implement the UNGPs through the development of National Action Plans (NAPs), and civil society in many countries is now using the NAPs process to strengthen national regulatory frameworks for corporations. NAPs, however, also present a valuable tool for strengthening the human rights coherence of development finance.
Of the States that have completed NAPs, the majority have addressed development finance or public financial institutions in some way. Finland committed to promoting human rights within international development organizations; Sweden will encourage multilateral institutions like the World Bank to promote corporate respect for human rights; and Spain will coordinate with international financial institutions to strengthen access to remedy.
However, the potential for using NAPs to shape development finance is much greater still. As civil society organizations make recommendations for NAPs, many are including specific proposals toward this end. These include proposals that States mainstream human rights in the policies of the World Bank and other international financial institutions; ensure that international financial institutions have proper procedures and tools in place to guarantee effective remedies when abuses do occur; make certain that development banks providing credit or insurance follow the UNGPs; and require national development agencies’ private sector partners to undertake human rights due diligence. The Coalition for Human Rights in Development has put together a discussion memo to provide examples and generate discussion around how NAPs can promote human rights due diligence within development banks and other public financial institutions.
A foundation for action
As development finance becomes more intertwined with the private sector, the business and human rights community can play a critical role in helping to define and strengthen human rights due diligence standards and practice within development finance. This work will involve campaigning and advocacy targeted at development finance institutions and at national governments. It will also require support for frontline communities engaged in defending their rights in the face of harmful development projects.
Working together we can reinforce our common human rights objectives and achieve greater success at holding corporations, States and DFIs accountable and ensuring that human rights are respected and protected.
by Gretchen Gordon, Coordinator for the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, and Stephanie Mellini, Research and Advocacy Fellow with the Coalition.
*this post originally appeared on the UN Forum Series of Measuring Business and Human Rights.
Every year countries receive and spend over $100 billion in loans and grants from development banks like the World Bank. These investments may go to any number of activities, from infrastructure projects, to social services delivery, to policy reforms.
These investments may go to any number of activities, from infrastructure projects, to social services delivery, to policy reforms. his development finance can have a critical impact on the enjoyment of human rights in a host country – positive or negative. So how are these critical decisions around development finance made? Decisions like what loans are taken, what sectors of the economy are prioritized, how a specific development project will be designed or implemented. In much of the world, these decisions are made behind closed doors, with little to no public input or accountability.
This blog is part of a series highlighting the work that members of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development are doing to change the way development decisions are made within their countries and to ensure that the development process is transparent, participative, accountable, and rights-respecting.
We spoke with Mariana González Armijo, Researcher on Transparency and Accountability at Fundar, an organization located in Mexico which works to transform the relations of power between society and government, to encourage a society that is fair, participatory, and respects people’s human rights.
Q: What change would you like to see in how Mexico engages with development finance?
A: Our main goal is to secure strong standards on transparency, to guarantee that human rights are respected within development finance, and to make it more clear what our government is doing in the name of development with all the resources it expends. This is important since in many cases development projects end up increasing inequality and don’t achieve the outcomes they had promised in the first place.
Q: What is your strategy?
First, we are working on a diagnostic which exposes the lack of transparency around the loans that Mexico accepts. Mexico is one of the main clients of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, with 9.2% and 18.83% of the global portfolios, respectively. Most of the time, once resources from development banks enter Mexico, they’re merged with the federal budget, so there is no way to track them. One step to guarantee that the money doesn’t go to a project that violates human rights is to make the loans transparent.
Additionally, we have worked on a strategy with other CSOs to increase the transparency around financing in the area of climate change. Many IFI loans are going into climate change, but there are no specifics on national budget documents identifying where the money is coming from. If we succeed in getting this transparency around climate projects, we may be able to expand it to other sectors.
At a broader level, we analyze public policies and enhance national-level normative frameworks related to the implementation of development projects. For example, regulations relating to energy reform, public private partnerships, and environmental assessments have a huge impact on development projects implemented in Mexico.
Finally, we conduct research on specific development projects, working with communities to enhance their capacity to defend their territories and rights, providing technical assistance and using strategic litigation at the national level.
Q: Why is this work important?
A: The right to information is necessary to guarantee the realization of other rights. Once a community has information regarding projects that are going to be implemented in their territory, then they can decide if they want to be consulted or participate in projects that are going to affect them. Participation is important because it can guarantee the right to consultation and consent.
Q: Have you had any successes engaging with your parliament or finance ministry or other ministries regarding development finance decisions?
A: This has been one of our major challenges. One strategy we have is talking directly with the Finance Ministry. Another strategy is to advocate for changes within the Federal Income Law. Mexico’s Federal Income law is the instrument which defines the ceiling for external debt, including loans from IFIs. So we have tried to put an article in that law to oblige the government to provide details regarding where money is coming from, what specific projects it will be used on, and who will be responsible for implementing each project.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in this work?
A: One challenge is the fact that development finance is such a technical theme, so it can be difficult to communicate and to bring in other partners. We have to make the link between development finance and other agendas, such as health and women, from a human rights perspective. If we can manage to make these critical linkages, it is easier to have a stronger impact.
Q: What are the next steps in your work?
A: In September we released our diagnostic: Development Loans in Mexico: a Transparency Assessment. The report attempts to clarify the legal framework that governs the flow and execution of Mexico’s development loans; the type information that is available on these loans; and which information, when requested, is supplied by the Mexican government. It was shocking to find from this assessment that we have a really strong constitutional level framework around development finance; the government is just not complying with it. The assessment shows the lack of transparency around development loans and will help us to advocate for a specific mechanism at the national level to allow citizens to track the resources coming from IFIs.
Mariana can be reached at email@example.com
* Responses may not be exact quotes.
Earlier this month at the 7th BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) inaugurated a new multilateral financial institution. BRICS Heads of State pledged that the boldly named New Development Bank (NDB) will be a driving force for South-South cooperation – a development bank that can deliver for emerging and developing economies where the traditional banks like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have failed.
Unfortunately, merely calling something “new” or “better” doesn’t make it so. Creating a global bank that is able to provide real development for the Global South requires much more than a good name. It requires a new model of development.
The BRICS countries have been outspoken critics of the World Bank, IMF, and other traditional international financial institutions, citing anti-democratic governance structures and a long history of strong-arming the developing world for the benefit of northern corporations. As South African President Jacob Zuma said, “There must be an alternative.”
But the first key question for many is not whether the NDB will provide an alternative to the predominant development banks, but whether it can provide an alternative to the predominant development model.
Forging a new development model
As Caio Borges, a lawyer from the Business and Human Rights project at Conectas Direitos Humanos stated, “we hope that the New Development Bank reshapes not only global geopolitics, but the landscape of development finance, towards a model of partnership that puts first and foremost the fundamental human rights of individuals and vulnerable groups who are most affected by development projects.”
Last week, Conectas and over 50 civil society organizations and social movements from around the world sent an open letter to the BRICS delegations, identifying four principles for a new development model for the New Development Bank:
1) Promote development for all: financing inclusive, accessible, participative development that is driven by communities, reduces poverty and inequality, removes barriers to access and opportunity, and respects human rights, local cultures, and the environment.
2) Be transparent and democratic: ensuring that development policies and operations are accessible and that the development process engages communities and civil society in choosing, designing, implementing, and monitoring NDB projects.
3) Set strong standards and make sure they are followed: adopting standards and accountability mechanisms based on human rights and environmental best practice to ensure that development activities do not harm communities or the environment.
4) Promote sustainable development: supporting environmentally sustainable, long-term solutions and climate resilience, and respecting communities’ land and resource rights.
The NDB’s brand of development
While the NDB officially opened for business last week, the BRICS still have not spelled out what they mean by “infrastructure and sustainable development” and the bank does not yet have an operational policy framework. So the second million dollar question, or in this case, the USD 50 billion question, is what type of development will the NDB deliver and how?
As many commentators have pointed out, the BRICS’ firm embrace of resource-intensive megaproject development both at home and abroad does not inspire hope for the social and environmental impact of the NDB’s investments. Large infrastructure projects carry extensive human rights and environmental risks, especially where domestic legal frameworks are weak or enforcement capacity is low. Unfortunately, several BRICS and NDB officials have expressed a distinct disdain for lending safeguards or standards which might provide a minimum safety net, viewing them as conditionalities or overly rigid.
At the same time, many of the BRICS countries have strong domestic social and environmental legislation which could be used to argue for parallel protections in NDB operations. China has in recent years strengthened its regulatory framework for overseas investments, and has strongly encouraged compliance with international norms and best practice. Chinese officials pledged that the new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank will embody “the highest standards”. These developments indicate some openings for the NDB.
With the NDB now officially inaugurated, and its first projects expected to be approved in early 2016, the institution will have to establish a clearer direction and policy framework. At a minimum, this provides civil society the chance to influence the institution from its inception, and hopefully to incorporate some of the lessons learned from decades of fighting the World Bank and other IFIs.
Where we go from here
While the BRICS summit in Ufa has finished, the real work continues. In BRICS countries, civil society groups are pushing their finance ministries and parliaments to try to influence the NDB’s direction and policy framework and to shape the concept of what real development is. Thanks to advocacy from civil society groups like the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, South Africa’s parliament issued instructions to the South African department of finance to promote human rights through BRICS processes. Through the Bank on Human Rights Coalition and other fora, BRICS civil society groups are strengthening their connections with each other, as well as with counterparts in non-BRICS countries, in order to share strategies and enable coordinated advocacy.
Another critical area of work is ensuring that frontline communities who will bear the greatest impacts from NDB projects have the resources and solidarity they need to advocate for their development priorities and to defend their rights. The coalition-building by communities and civil society groups around BNDES, the Brazilian national development bank, and around Chinese overseas investment, is growing stronger, connecting communities impacted by foreign banks with national groups in the banks’ home countries. These connections and collaborations provide a strong foundation for building the solidarity necessary to shape the NDB and its investments and to hold it accountable.
While we cannot hope the New Development Bank will be something new or better just because it has a clever name or because different flags fly outside its offices, we can continue to fight for a new model of inclusive, community-led development that respects human rights, regardless of the bank signing the check.
Originally posted at righting finance.org on JULY 23, 2015
Gretchen Gordon is Coordinator of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, a Coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and community groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. Deepika Padmanabhan is an intern with the same Coalition.
Right now, your government is likely making important decisions related to development finance. Whether it’s the establishment of new institutions like the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or policy developments like the revision of the World Bank’s Safeguards or priorities for your national development bank, governments are making decisions that will impact how development activities are designed and implemented, and whether they actually benefit communities and the environment, or instead, cause harm and increase poverty.
In order to assist civil society groups in investigating how their governments make decisions regarding development finance, and to ensure that these processes are transparent and respect human rights, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development put together the attached: Questions to ask your government regarding development finance.
You may adapt this questionnaire for use in your advocacy. Please share the responses you receive, and to let us know if you have any suggestions for improvements.