Dec 15, 2020 by Coalition

Our work in 2020: highlights, achievements, and next steps


As the year draws to an end, we would like to take a moment to celebrate our collective struggles and to reflect on the next steps ahead.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges, hurting already vulnerable communities the most and exacerbating structural problems. Yet, our members, partners and communities we work with have been extremely creative and powerful in their response to the pandemic, adopting new strategies to address these unexpected challenges. Solidarity was key. More than ever before, we are witnessing the power of building networks, joining forces, sharing knowledge and experiences, and taking care of each other. 

In the sections below, we share some updates about the Coalition’s collective work and highlight some of the achievements of our members.


A growing and strengthening Coalition

In 2020, the Coalition welcomed five additional members: Arab Watch Coalition, Centre for Environmental Justice, Environics Trust, Initiative for Right View, and Kapaeeng Foundation.  We now have 98 member organizations in 46 countries. 

Under the guidance of the Coalition’s Steering Committee, the Coalition Secretariat is also growing to facilitate deeper engagement for our collective work. We are so grateful for the warm welcome and collaboration that our members offered Ivahanna Larrosa as Latin America Coordinator, Lorena Cotza as Communications Lead, Hannah Storey as Business & Development Finance Researcher (working with Front Line Defenders and half-time with the Defenders in Development campaign), and Siddharth Akali as Director. We also give our thanks to Gretchen Gordon for several years of tireless efforts at the Coalition as its founding coordinator. We are currently in the process of hiring an Africa Regional Coordinator and an Operations Coordinator. 


Highlights from our work

♦ Collaboration with Communities: In 2020, we received 52 applications from 28 countries for the Community Engagement Partnerships (CEP). The CEP Working Group selected 11 of them for small grants. In addition, we collaborated with 12 more partners connecting them to Coalition members and other partners. The support provided includes facilitating access to small grant sources, security support through the Defenders in Development Security Working group, connections to decision-makers, and linkages with a broader network who can help advance community-led struggles.

The Coalition has also been selected to host the pilot for the Community Resource Exchange (CRE) next year. We hope to bring on regional focal points (hosted in existing organisations) and an international coordinator for the CRE, and systematize collaborations with communities. If we think of the CEPs as the heart and soul of our collective work, the CRE will give this work a body to act. Thanks to additional grants, staff time, and a contacts and case management database, the CRE will support deeper and more systematic collaboration with communities.

♦ Covid-19 and development finance: in May 2020, the members of the Coalition and allies around the world sent a collective statement and other communications to at least 15 development finance institutions, urging them to ensure that the funding they provide for the Covid-19 response and beyond upholds human rights and leads to economic justice. This statement was built from the ground up by messaging from our community partners around the world, who shared their lived experiences and expectations around Covid-19 asking us to amplify their voices.

♦ Finance in Common: On November 9-12, for the first time ever, all public development banks in the world gathered at the Finance in Common Summit. Ahead of the summit, the Coalition – together with its members and hundreds of other NGOs and civil society organizations – launched a global campaign to push the organizers to prioritize human rights and community-led development.

These collective efforts brought some important results. The joint declaration signed by the banks at the end of the Summit includes references to a “rights-based approach”, “indigenous people” and “community-led development”, which were all excluded when the summit and statement were originally being planned. While the declaration lacks practical commitments, it offers a foothold for future advocacy. 

♦ Press freedom and development finance: Around the world, journalists, bloggers, medical workers, human rights defenders and all those who are raising concerns for the inadequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic are under attack. They are being accused of spreading false information, smeared, threatened, arrested, and physically attacked. 

Together with press freedom organizations around the world and some Coalition members, we have been approaching several development banks (including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank) and urging them to use their leverage to protect press freedom in the countries where they invest.


Some success stories from our Coalition members and communities around the world

In Georgia, the Nenskra dam project was found non-compliant with the policies of the two development banks that are funding it, the EBRD and the EIB. The accountability mechanisms concluded that the project had violated best practice standards, as it did not recognize the Indigenous Peoples status of the impacted Svan community; they also identified other non-compliance issues related to gender impact, livelihood restoration, cultural heritage, and stakeholder engagement among others. Although the local community is still concerned about how the banks will implement their remedy plans and the project is still ongoing, the conclusions of the two independent mechanisms were considered a victory, as they recognised the right of the Svan peoples to self-determination as indigenous peoples. You can read more in the Green Alternative and in the Bank Watch websites.

In September, the World Bank withdrew its funding for the Bisri Dam project in Lebanon, a controversial mega dam funded through a $474 million loan. The cancellation of the loan was the result of a powerful campaign led by the local community and the Save the Bisri Valley activists, supported by our Coalition member Arab Watch Coalition. They had submitted three complaints to the Inspection Panel and for years they had been struggling against the project, which was threatening to submerge one of the most pristine and scenic valleys in the country, with a catastrophic impact on cultural heritage sites and livelihoods for the local people. 

In 2020, throughout the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)’s revision of its environmental and social safeguards, civil society organizations that are part of the IDB working group collectively advocated for new policies that promote more inclusive, sustainable development. Although there is still room for improvements, in its revised policies the IDB accepted many of the recommendations submitted. You can read more on the Bank Information Centre website.

Several of our Coalition members and partners from the Defenders in Development campaign – including IISCAL, NGO Forum on the ADB, Recourse, Urgewald, Inclusive Development International and Accountability Counsel –  engaged the Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) on the ongoing revision of its environmental and social framework (ESF). The recommendations around retaliation, gender, and non-support for coal projects were some of those accepted, but the ESF review is still ongoing, with the new draft expected to be released in April 2021.


The steps ahead

As we look into the new year and the work ahead, we would like to thank each of our members for the incredible work they have been carrying out despite all the odds. Sometimes, especially in this current year, it feels as if we are going around in circles or that the road ahead is too steep or that we are not doing enough. But each of our members are the perfect travel companion on this journey. It is our privilege to learn from them as we all keep walking together, learning from Indigenous Peoples, local communities and human rights defenders how to challenge the current development model and change it so it is led from the bottom-up. So thank you again to all our members and partners, let’s celebrate what we have achieved so far and let’s keep joining forces.