Jan 30, 2022 by Coalition
31 January, 2022 – International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have designated billions of dollars to respond to the pandemic and related social and economic crises. Yet, there is a concerning lack of transparency on how these funds were spent and serious doubts on whether they have reached those who needed them the most.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, civil society groups worldwide have warned about possible risks of corruption, increased inequality, and mounting debt. Now, there is growing evidence that many of these risks have materialized.
“Missing Receipts” is a new collaborative research project that analyzes IFIs’ role – and their failings – in the pandemic recovery. The report, based on a series of global and national level case studies, was developed by members and partners of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development.
Grassroots communities and civil society groups have found themselves left in the dark regarding how much their governments have borrowed from IFIs, under what conditions, how these funds were used, and whether they had the desired impact.
In Iraq, for example, the World Bank reallocated almost 60 million of dollars for the COVID-19 response, but did not provide information about the project alteration: “There was only a press release announcing the alteration, but no details on what this would entail. The only available information was scattered in different procurement plans, which was hard for the stakeholders to access. Given the internal conflict situation in Iraq, the Bank should ensure more transparency and exert more efforts with due diligence to achieve results“, said Ouafa Haddioui, Program Coordinator at Arab Watch Coalition.
In a context where many governments were actively suppressing information about the spread of the virus and trying to silence those criticizing the inadequate pandemic response, IFIs failed to ensure a basic degree of transparency, participation and accountability.
In many countries, the lack of transparency and oversight created the perfect conditions for malfeasance and corruption. In Bolivia, for example, Inter-American Development Bank funds designated for the purchase of critical COVID-19 medical equipment were misspent. The Bank announced an investigation into corruption, but meanwhile the case paralyzed operations of the health agency for months.
The research also found that many IFIs fast-tracked their project, failing to respect their own due diligence requirements. While shortening the timeline is justified in the context of an emergency, it is very concerning that environmental and human rights assessments, as well as meaningful consultations, were often completely bypassed. Key groups – including women, indigenuos peoples, low income population, people with disabilities, and health workers – were not consulted to shape the COVID-19 response programmes. Instead, they faced further marginalization and their needs were not met.
In India, for example, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) supported some cash transfers programs. However, only people with a bank account could access support. In a country where less than 50% of the women below the poverty line have a personal bank account, the project ended up further marginalizing them.
Who really benefited from IFIs support was the private sector, either directly or indirectly, as most of the funds assigned to public institutions were largely passed on to large corporations. Under the pretext of economic recovery, even some companies responsible for harmful projects (such as in the extractives sector) benefitted from IFIs pandemic funds.
IFI loans have contributed to skyrocketing public debt, and to meet debt obligations many governments are increasingly adopting cuts to social spending. In Mozambique and Uganda, researchers point out that loans secured from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund came in exchange for the adoption of policy reforms that further pushed privatization and austerity: “The World Bank used the COVID-19 pandemic to advance its social protection agenda, by replacing the idea of universal entitlements with highly targeted, short-term grants that do not address the root causes of poverty”, said Zo Randriamaro, Ecofeminist Development Alternatives coordinator at WoMin.
In a vicious cycle, structural problems such as debt and neoliberalism – which have contributed to the current economic, social and climate crises we are facing – are being further amplified with the pretext of solving these crises. This is why civil society groups around the world are raising serious concerns about whether, and under what conditions, IFI financing is an appropriate solution to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and any future global emergencies.
“Development banks should reconsider their financial operations because least developed countries are already on a knife-edge, struggling to deal with climate change, COVID-19, and weak integrity all at the same time. If these countries do not receive grant-based public financing, they face the grave risk of falling into an irreversible debt trap”, said Hassan Mehedi, Chief Executive at CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network).
“To the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the health crisis is a simple question of looking for funds to heal it. Thus to the twins, lending under the Covid 19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) program is reduced to a mere question of providing “budget support” for the health and economic requirements of a borrowing country. This simplistic “theory of change” misses the critical root causes of a broken health system in many developing countries such as the privatization and commodification of health services, withdrawal of support to government hospitals and facilities, and neglect of the health of the health personnel themselves. The outcome? A never-ending health crisis, for the neo-liberal root causes of the health crisis unresolved.” Dr. Rene Ofroneo, Freedom from Debt Coalition
“Although the rush with the preparation of these projects is justified, given they are responses to the pandemic situation, more efforts should have been made to reach out to the stakeholders. We are afraid this might become the new norm with the preparation of new projects since the pandemic has not been over yet.” Amy Ekdawi, co-director Arab Watch Coalition (AWC).
“In Latin America, international finance institutions are increasingly playing a bigger role in shaping and supporting public policies. This is why they must promote spaces for dialogue and participation and implement measures that ensure compliance with indigenous rights and a gender approach, important issues that often are not taken into account at the time of designing and executing projects.” Aida Gamboa, Coordinator of Amazon Program in Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR).
“Before the pandemic, the practices of development banks already fell short of fulfilling communities’ rights to information, participation, and development. The pandemic only exacerbated these challenges and barriers. But it is precisely within this context that a greater focus on ensuring community-led development is needed — to ensure that the recovery from the pandemic is centered on, and built alongside, the visions of those communities directly affected by these investments.” Jocelyn Soto Medallo, Deputy Director International Accountability Project (IAP).
Notes for editors
The Early Warning System COVID-19 Tracker, which tracks 15 development banks’ disclosed financing and is managed by the International Accountability Project, identified 1,511 known projects as of January 2022, totaling at least 166.70 billion USD, with the European Investment Bank and World Bank topping the list in terms of money allocated.
The case studies mentioned in the report are compiled and hosted on an interactive web portal. Some reports offer a global analysis, while others focus on the situation in some specific countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Argentina. Most of the reports were developed by members and partners of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, including a series of country-level analyses commissioned and/or prepared by the following civil society organizations: Arab Watch Coalition, Derechos Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, NGO Forum on ADB, International Accountability Project and WoMin.
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The World Bank doesn’t require that its projects respect human rights, and has thus far refused to adopt such a requirement. Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and Elmer Campos travelled far from their families in rural Peru to attend the Annual Meeting of the World Bank, taking place in the capital city of Lima.
Oct 12, 2015 by members
Bank Information Center releases new informational video on the World Bank safeguards review. It is under 5 minutes long and meant to foster a general understanding of the review and its significance, and motivate people to send a note to their World Bank Director asking for the strongest possible
In a report to the UN General Assembly, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, characterizes the World Bank as a “human rights-free zone” and criticizes the institution’s current approach to human rights as “incohere
In 1999 residents of Hade, Kosovo were forced from their homes by Serbian commandos.They were able to return some time later and have been working tirelessly since then to rebuild their village and return to normal life. Now, they are being threatened to leave again, but this time the threat is comin
UN Special Rapporteur finds that human rights are being entirely left out of the debate around extreme poverty and extreme inequality, even though the human rights framework is imperative in resolving these issues. The report criticizes the World Bank, IMF and UN for failing to follow up on any rec
A report by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association discusses the importance of freedom of speech within natural resource extraction projects. Concludes the following: rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association are essential to fair work on extraction of na
Jun 05, 2015 by CHRD
Civil society groups around the globe call on the World Bank to hold robust in-country consultations on its proposed new safeguard policies. Read the letter here.
May 04, 2015 by members
24 April 2015 MR. JIN LIQUN Secretary – General Multilateral Interim Secretariat Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Re: Letter of Introduction from NGO Forum on ADB on AIIB Safeguard Standards Dear Mr. Jin Liqun: We are writing to you on behalf of a network of 250 civil society organizati
May 04, 2015 by members
For Immediate Release May 1, 2015 With 57 nations already on board the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as prospective founders, a 250-member strong civil society network made an appeal to the newly-formed bank to adopt robust safeguards in its principles, policies and operations.
Apr 14, 2015 by CHRD
International Coalition Warns: World Bank Driving Hazardous Development WHAT: Demonstration – Civil society groups encircle the World Bank in “Caution” tape, demanding strong human rights safeguards WHEN: Friday April 17, 10:00 – 11:30am
Mar 30, 2015 by CHRD
March 30, 2015- The Bank on Human Rights Coalition issued the following submission to the staff and Directors of the World Bank as part of the Bank’s ongoing safeguards review: Key Human Rights Concerns and Recommendations regarding the World Bank’s Proposed Social and Environmen
In a letter addressed to World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues notes that “important aspects of the Environmental and Social Policy in general and the associated Environmental and Social Standard on indigenous peoples in particula
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank January 30, 2015 Dear Mr. President, We are the Requesters, Anuak refugees and asylum seekers based in Kenya (Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi) and South Sudan (Gorom), who submitted a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel in September 2012. We have written
28 UN Experts sent a letter to World Bank President Jim Kim, to express their concerns regarding the Bank’s proposed new social and environmental safeguards. The letter criticizes the Bank for avoiding meaningful incorporation of human rights protections. Read the letter here.
From Scientific America, published on Monday, 1 December 2014. For all the flack the U.N. climate talks have taken over the past 20 years, one major achievement will be on display as the next round of negotiations open in Peru today. Climate change has been inextricably linked to social justice. The
Nov 25, 2014 by CHRD
This letter, signed by 50 organizations, was sent today to World Bank President Jim Kim and Executive Directors detailing lack of notice and restrictive access to participation in ongoing safeguards consultations. Thanks to all who contributed to the letter and signed on. Please help distribut
In a recent speech at the World Bank, entitled “Rethinking the World Bank’s Approach to Human Rights,” Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, described how the World Bank “stands almost alone…in insisting that human rights are mere m
Oct 16, 2014 by CHRD
From October 10–12, 2014 the World Bank and International Monetary Fund held their joint Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C. Scores of activists, community leaders and civil society organisations from across the world participated in meetings, panels and actions to affirm the importance of st
Oct 11, 2014 by CHRD
For Immediate Release World Bank Group: Proposed Policy a Setback for Rights Development Cannot Succeed if it Harms Communities (October 10, 2014 Washington, DC) – Draft World Bank policies under consideration at the bank’s meeting on October 10-12, 2014 would dangerously roll back protection
From the Guardian, published on Monday 29 September 2014 09.36 EDT. World Bank accuses itself of failing to protect Kenya forest dwellers Leaked document says World Bank violated its own safeguards in dealings with Sengwer people evicted from their lands A leaked copy of a World Bank investigatio
By Narayan Lakshman The World Bank hit back at a wide coalition of NGOs on Wednesday saying that it was in fact broadening environmental and community safeguards. Fending off allegations that it was “watering down” environmental and community safeguards for its lending activities and possibl
The following is an excerpt from an article published in the Hindu on July 30th, 2014. World Bank rolling back safeguards: Leaked report By Narayan Lakshman The World Bank may be on the verge of rolling back a wide range of in-built environmental and community protections surrounding its developm
Jul 28, 2014 by CHRD
World Bank Safeguard Draft Rolls-Back Protections for People and the Environment Key Human Rights Concerns The World Bank has repeatedly committed to producing a new safeguard framework that results in no-dilution of the existing safeguards and which reflects prevailing international sta
May 21, 2014 by CHRD
As the World Bank prepares to release a first draft of its new safeguard policies, Bank on Human Rights members sent a letter to Bank President Jim Kim, calling for a policy framework that ensures that development projects respect communities’ human rights. Letter to World Bank Carta al Banc
Oct 24, 2012 by CHRD
The purpose of the Early Warning System (EWS) is to alert communities to projects funded by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) that may affect their rights. Armed with information about the project and the standards that apply to them, communities can demand that the MDBs respect their rights