MAC: Mines and Communities

World Bank admits botching resettlement policy

Published by MAC on 2015-03-06
Source: Reuters, Huffington Post, Wall St Journal

In October last year, no fewer than 360 organisations around the globe severely chided the World Bank after it published a draft review of its environmental and social safeguards. They claimed the Bank had rolled back much of the progress in strengthening these safeguards during previous years.

Earlier this month, drawing on internal reports from June 2014 and May 2012, the Bank was forced to admit it had fallen far short of implementing its own rules, in regards to people turfed off their land.

Jim Yong Kim, the Bank's president, said that what he found "caused me deep concern" - as well it might.

None of the cases, mentioned by the Bank, specifically related to the impacts of mining.

However, in its May 2012 internal report, some 37% of all residents  affected by Bank-sponsored projects  were to be found in the energy and mining sector (the two categories are not disaggregated); and more than 16 thousand persons had been "totally displaced" as a result of those projects.

For earlier article, See: India: World Bank IFC doesn't even heed its own advisors

World Bank admits botched resettlement policy


4 March 2015

WASHINGTON - The World Bank admitted on Wednesday that it had no idea how many people may have been forced off their land and lost their jobs due to its projects in developing countries, and whether these people were compensated fairly and on time.

The admission comes as the global development lender seeks to ramp up investments in risky infrastructure projects that often lead to forced resettlement, including dams and highways, in an effort to eliminate extreme poverty.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim pledged that "we must and will do better," on a call with reporters, and launched an action plan to address shortcomings.

In a recent case, indigenous Anuak people in Ethiopia's Gambella region said the World Bank contributed to the Ethiopian government's "villagization" program that forced about 70,000 people off their land.

The bank's Inspection Panel found that the forced evictions and the use of intimidation were not linked to the bank's project, but that the World Bank did not fully assess and mitigate the risks.

Similar issues have arisen in many of the bank's projects that involve resettlement, according to internal reviews released on Wednesday, which found the lender did a "poor job" monitoring and reporting on the status of affected people.

"The sizeable gaps in information point to significant potential failures in the bank's system for dealing with resettlement," according to an internal review from last June.

By the bank's limited data, about half a million people have been affected by resettlement out of a sample of 218 active projects. The World Bank said it did not have a clear idea of how many of those did not receive compensation or new land.

The reviews also found that many countries may not be able to resettle people according to the bank's own standards or set up proper grievance mechanisms.

The findings could be problematic as the World Bank is considering putting more governments in charge of policing its aid projects, a move that watchdog groups worry could undermine social and environmental safeguards the lender currently has in place.

The proposals, which are still going through revisions, would represent the biggest shake-up in 20 years to the policies governing how the bank's big development projects are monitored, and are likely to influence other international institutions.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Leslie Adler)

World Bank Admits It Ignored Its Own Rules Designed To Protect The Poor

Huffington Post

5 March 2015

This story was reported and written with Sasha Chavkin and Mike Hudson from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The World Bank, created to fight poverty, has admitted that it’s failed to follow its own rules for protecting the poor people swept aside by dams, roads and other big projects it bankrolls.

This conclusion, announced by the bank on Wednesday, amounts to a reversal of its previous efforts to downplay concerns raised by human rights activists and others working on behalf of the dispossessed -- people evicted from their land, sometimes in violent ways, to make way for World Bank-financed initiatives.

It comes days after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Huffington Post informed bank officials that the news outlets had found “systemic gaps” in the bank's protections for people who lose homes or jobs because of development projects.

The World Bank, which is controlled by the United States and other member countries, had failed to respond to the news organizations’ repeated requests over the past several weeks for an interview with Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank Group, the parent institution. The news outlets have been pressing the bank for months for answers to questions about how well it enforces its own “social and environmental safeguards.”

The bank said in a news release that its conclusions followed internal audits conducted over the past two years.

“We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern,” Kim said in a statement.

Under its current rules for safeguards, the World Bank and its borrowers are supposed to make sure that people physically or economically displaced by a project are identified, consulted and provided new homes, jobs or other help that restores them to living conditions that are equal to or better than before.

The World Bank said that it did not know how many people its projects had uprooted, and that it did not do enough to keep track of projects that push communities off their land or cost people their livelihoods. ICIJ, HuffPost and other media partners that have examined the issue found that projects backed by the World Bank have displaced millions of people over the last decade.

The World Bank also said it is taking steps to fix the problems with its oversight of projects that cause “involuntary resettlement.” The bank will increase the number of staffers who oversee social and environmental protections, and will build a new database to track people displaced by bank projects, the lender said in a press release.

The bank’s announcement comes in the midst of a multiyear revision of its safeguard policies, including its policy on resettlement. The bank’s guidelines set a global standard for social and environmental protections in development aid that is often followed by regional development banks and private lenders worldwide.

An initial draft of the revision, released in July 2014, was widely panned by human rights experts and civil society groups as a dramatic rollback of the bank’s standards. Critics said the proposed rules would reduce borrowers’ obligations to plan in advance for displacement and other harms to local people and the environment, and instead allow borrowers to ignore problems until the harm is already done.

Ted Downing, the president of the International Network on Displacement and Resettlement, said the bank’s statement was meant to divert attention from the larger issues at stake.

“The purpose is to distract people,” Downing said Thursday. “The big question is which policy all this staff that are being rearranged are enforcing.”

Stephanie Fried, executive director of the Ulu Foundation, an environmental group that advocates for forest communities, said the bank’s promise to do a better job of enforcing its safeguards won’t do much good if its safeguards are going to be “radically diluted.”

A second draft of the safeguards revision is expected to be released later this year.

A bank spokesman denied that the bank’s release of its action plan on Wednesday had anything to do with the questions being asked by media organizations. The bank said that its action plan on resettlement was meant to address the urgent issues identified in its reviews without the additional delay of waiting for a new policy.

“We’re not going to wait until that process is through to implement this action plan,” the spokesman said. “This work needs to happen now.”

In the months prior to the release of the action plan, the bank had been working to distance itself from abuses carried out by the governments it backs.

In Ethiopia, ICIJ revealed in January, the bank’s internal Inspection Panel found that the World Bank had repeatedly violated its own rules in failing to acknowledge the link between a bank-funded health and education initiative and violent evictions targeting indigenous peoples.

Last week, the bank denied blame for the evictions. Many of the people forced out of their villages now live in refugee camps in South Sudan.

The Inspection Panel also found that the World Bank violated its safeguards policies in Kenya by failing to protect indigenous people who said that a bank-funded conservation effort had been used to force them from their ancestral forests.

In both Kenya and Ethiopia, the World Bank declined to insist that its client governments compensate the people who lost their homes.

Human rights activists who have criticized the bank for its failure to live up to its own standards for years said they were taken by surprise by the sudden release of the audits, and the bank’s avowals of reform.

Natalie Fields, the executive director of the Accountability Counsel, a legal group that represents indigenous peoples in disputes with the World Bank and IFC, said the plan to address the problems seemed “slapped together.”

The reforms announced Wednesday don’t include measures to hold bank staff accountable for not doing a better job of identifying and helping displaced people, she said.

“It’s a positive that the bank is acknowledging problems, but in many respects this is the same old story,” Fields said. “They have come up with their own plan for how to address the issues, without consulting people who have spent years of their lives on resettlement, and without consulting with the communities themselves.”

World Bank Chief Vows Stronger Oversight of Resettlement Policies

Bank’s new ‘action plan’ follows allegations of human-rights abuses

By Ian Talley

Wall Street Journal

4 March 2015

The World Bank is bolstering its safeguards against human-rights abuses in bank-funded projects after a scathing internal review found major failures in the development institution’s oversight of land resettlements.

A yearslong review of hundreds of bank-financed infrastructure and agriculture projects in the world’s poorest countries found the institution had little idea whether local authorities were violating strict land resettlement guidelines. The bank hasn’t been adequately monitoring projects where governments used—and sometimes abused—their powers to move people from their homes, take over land and relocate businesses, the review concluded.

The announcement comes as the World Bank backs ramping up spending on major infrastructure projects across the globe. As those projects move ahead, governments will compel large numbers of people to uproot their homes and livelihoods to make way for hydroelectric dams, pipelines and railways.

“We must and will do better,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. That’s particularly critical as “it’s likely resettlements will grow.”

Among a number of criticisms, the bank’s internal review found more than 60% of projects that required people to move “lacked information about the status of families after relocation.” In more than half of the projects, managers couldn’t document whether local authorities were adequately compensating people whose livelihoods were affected by eminent-domain powers.

And although the bank had established a process for those affected or moved by bank-financed projects to file complaints, a random sampling of programs found a grievance system that “existed on paper but not in practice.”

“The inability to confirm that resettlement has been satisfactorily completed poses a reputational risk for the World Bank,” the internal auditor said.

Of the banks 218 active projects with resettlement plans, officials say around three-million people will be affected by imminent-domain powers. Roughly 15% of those will be involved in relocation, or around 500,000 people. Advanced economies usually have robust laws and judicial systems protecting human and property rights, but many of the poorest countries don’t provide recourse against abuses of power by local authorities.

That is why, in principle, the World Bank’s oversight of its financing is vital to safeguard against human-rights abuses, critics say.

Bank-financed programs in Ethiopia and Honduras have recently come under fire for alleged human-rights abuses. The World Bank’s ombudsman last year found its International Finance Corporation unit failed to conduct due diligence in a 2009 loan to a Honduran palm-oil company involved in a violent eviction of farmers that turned deadly.

Inclusive Development International, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Monday said the World Bank “whitewashed damning evidence of widespread human rights violations” in an internal investigation into an Ethiopian project that involved allegations of a violent and forced resettlement of farmers.

“That is absolutely not what we did and we would take issue with that characterization,” World Bank President Mr. Kim said.

The nonprofit group cited transcripts of audio interviews conducted by a consultant working on behalf of the World Bank’s investigative panel. In the interviews, witnesses allege Ethiopian authorities beat, killed and raped farmers and their families as part of its resettlement campaign.

In both those cases, the bank said that although it financed projects that had land resettlement plans, it wasn’t responsible for the management of those plans, and so isn’t culpable for alleged human-rights abuses. In the Ethiopian case, the panel said it recorded allegations of human-rights abuses, but it didn’t investigate the claims.

The bank provides funding , supervision and technical assistance, “but it is the governments that roll out these projects,” Mr. Kim said.

David Hunter, a professor at American University’s College of Law who specializes in the accountability mechanisms of international institutions such as the World Bank, said by giving the investigative panel a very narrow jurisdiction, the bank sidesteps responsibility.

“The bank really doesn’t want to have that accountability,” he said.

In a statement, the investigative panel said that looking into the allegations of human-rights abuses in Ethiopia was “beyond its mandate.”

A member of the panel said separately that officials can only probe violations by the bank of its own policies. “We could not investigate those episodes because they were not explicitly linked to the program ,” the person said. “We were not authorized,” the official said.

In principle, the bank’s land-resettlement policies are a gold standard, outlining strict compensation guidelines. But the institution’s subsequent supervision of projects has historically proven weak, Mr. Hunter said.

The bank’s accountability process “provides some oversight, but it’s deficient for sure,” Mr. Hunter said. Combined with the bank’s immunity, “There’s no legal recourse for communities affected,” he said.

Even if there is better follow-up on whether land resettlement plans are up to snuff, the bank’s investigating panels provide little remedy, if any, for the poorest who are affected by new infrastructure and agriculture projects, critics say. In many cases, the local authorities are also involved in the complaint process, raising questions about conflicts of interest.

The bank said it has proposed providing support for some of the farmers in Ethiopia affected by the resettlement, but didn’t elaborate.

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