Oct 16, 2014 by Coalition

The Annual Meetings: A Week in Review


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 strong human rights protections for communities who are affected by Bank-financed development projects. Presented below is a snapshot of the week as it unfolded, starting with the Civil Society Policy Forum sessions and culminating in a walk out and demonstration in front of the Bank.

On Monday, October 6th, Inclusive Development International Oxfam, Heinrich Boll Foundation, and Forest Peoples Programme hosted a roundtable discussion with the World Bank on “Safeguarding Land, Housing and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.” The session focused on the draft Social and Environmental framework in the context of World Bank operations and protecting land, housing, and indigenous peoples’ rights. Four case studies on the adverse impacts of Bank projects in Kenya, Cambodia, Laos and Guatemala were presented prior to the discussions.

On Tuesday, October 7th, the Bank on Human Rights Coalition (BHRC) hosted a Human Rights Due Diligence Workshop. The Coalition is developing a toolkit for incorporating human rights within the standard social and environmental assessment framework of development finance institutions. The workshop aimed to bring together coalition members and impact assessment experts to discuss key policy and methodology issues.

Later in the day, a roundtable discussion between civil society and the Executive Directors of the World Bank highlighted growing concerns that the new draft for social and environmental safeguards would be a “dilution” of existing protections for at risk communities. Safeguard policies are intended to protect against any “undue harm” to people and their environments as a result of Bank-financed development projects. Civil society members from Egypt, the Philippines and India reiterated the centrality of human rights in designing and implementing new policies. Soumya Dutta (Indian Peoples Science Group) delivered copies of a statement signed by many BHRC members and over 300+ civil society organisations from around the world highlighting crucial concerns in the current draft of the safeguards policies and consultation process.

The conversation continued at the panel “What Role for Human Rights in the World Bank’s Safeguards Review?” on Wednesday, October 8th, organised by Urgewald and featuring representatives from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Human Rights Watch, the World Bank Group and the Nordic Trust Fund. Panelists debated how lending practices within multilateral lending institutions could be strengthened through a rights-based approach.

At the joint Civil Society Town Hall, President Jim Kim responded to appeals to engage more effectively and transparently with civil society and announced an extension of the present consultation period with civil society partners.

On Thursday, October 8th, Bank on Human Rights and member organizations, Bank Information Center and Center for International Environmental Law co-hosted a strategy session for civil society organizations to build and coordinate efforts to strengthen the World Bank safeguards. Organisations pooled their resources and identified key areas of advocacy, alliance building and analyses that would be effective in introducing changes to current policies.

At a panel titled “The World Bank and the Infrastructure Agenda in the Latin-American Region. Challenges and Opportunities for Civil Society”, Mariana Gonzalez Armijo from FUNDAR Centro de Analysis e Investigacion, presented an analysis of infrastructure financing in Latin America and the Caribbean, while BHRC coordinator, Gretchen Gordon discussed the human rights issues these investments pose.

Later that evening, Bank on Human Rights Coalition and the International Accountability Project hosted a reception for their partners in D.C. and allies from across the globe.

On Friday, October 9th, BHRC members and allies issued a press release urging the Bank to “make an explicit commitment to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights in all of [its] activities”. Read the full statement here.

Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan) in a video appeal invited people to join a planned demonstration outside the World Bank on Saturday.

On Saturday, October 10th, the World Bank held a consultation session on the new draft environmental and social framework with civil society groups. Civil society representatives demanded that the Bank demonstrate a deeper commitment to the ideals of inclusion, participation and human rights in the review of social and environmental safeguards. After expressing frustration with the consultation process and dismay at Bank officials’ apparent lack of commitment to truly progressive safeguards policies, dozens of activists and civil society representatives walked out in protest and joined the demonstration outside the Bank. A statement was delivered to Bank officials, noting that:

“We, the hundreds of people’s movements and organizations present here from around the world, and the many thousands we represent back in our countries, are rejecting this current draft of safeguards. The protections you now seek to dismantle, the safeguards that we fought for over decades — do not belong to you, they are not yours to throw away, they belong to the world and its vulnerable people.”