Skip to main content

World Bank seeks to "modernise" environment safeguards, NGOs say it is "reversing generation of gains"

By Our Representative
Amid widespread objections from civil society activists across the world, including India, a World Bank board has cleared its policy draft to “modernize” policies seeking to “safeguard people and the environment in the investment projects Bank finances.” Taking strong objection to the clearance, the Bank Information Centre (BIC), an independent apex body of NGOs advocating with the World Bank, said, the board has cleared “a weak new set of rules to replace its existing environmental and social safeguard policies.” The policies, it adds, “Reverse a generation of gains by weakening protections from harm for the poor and the environment in Bank-funded projects.”
A World Bank spokesperson claimed, “The proposal aims to maintain and build on existing protections, including the enhanced protection of disadvantaged and vulnerable people, Indigenous peoples, communities and the environment, including provisions for pest management, dam and road safety, natural habitats, and cultural heritage. It also highlights the importance of non-discrimination.” He added, “We are proposing to extend the existing protections for Indigenous Peoples and introduce Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples.”
However, civil society has refused to buy this argument. “By eliminating clear rules and gutting key requirements, the Bank is breaking President Kim’s repeated promises not to dilute the safeguards,” says Sasanka Thilakasiri, Policy Advisor at Oxfam International. “The Bank’s promises that this new ‘flexible approach’ will be made up for by closer supervision fall flat because the Bank is notoriously bad at it and lacks the capacity to monitor impacts on the ground,” adds Cesar Gamboa, a long-time Bank-watcher from Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales in Peru.
BIC said, “Consistent with its mantra on flexibility, the Bank is proposing a new loophole that allows governments to ‘opt out’ of previously guaranteed protections for indigenous peoples, citing discomfort among certain African governments with the term ‘indigenous peoples’ and the rights it confers. This would be a major blow to indigenous peoples, particularly in Africa, who have counted on the Bank to recognize their rights when their own governments refuse.” Final approval of the Bank’s draft will come in 2015.
“Despite repeated promises by the World Bank that the revised safeguard policies would include stronger protections for poor communities and those it terms ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘vulnerable’ groups, the leaked draft contains only general mentions of the need to consider impacts of projects on those who may be ‘disadvantaged’ due to age, disability, gender, and sexual orientation or gender identity”, BIC added.
Objection to the approval of the draft has also come from Adrien Sinafasi, a prominent indigenous “pygmy” activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who argues that “the World Bank’s intention to allow our governments, which have marginalized our communities for decades, to decide whether we are indigenous would severely undermine our fundamental human rights and weaken the limited protections we currently have.”
Mohammed Loutfy, Disabled People’s International, Arab Region Advisory Body Chair said, “It is imperative that the World Bank looks at the unique impacts on each ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘vulnerable’ group given their specific rights and needs. Only this will enable all persons to benefit from and not be harmed by Bank projects.”
“Despite the Bank’s warning of the dangers that a warming world poses to development, there is only sporadic mention of climate change in the safeguard proposal. Nowhere does it lay out what governments have to do to assess if their projects will exacerbate climate change or how climate change will affect the viability of their projects,” said Soumya Dutta, Convener of Beyond Copenhagen collective and other climate justice groups in India.
Makoma Lekalakala from Earthlife Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa says, “the introduction of ‘biodiversity offsets’ into previous ‘no-go’ areas substantially weakens existing protections for critical natural habitats and protected areas, based on the shaky premise that destruction to these areas can be compensated or ‘offset’ by agreements to preserve habitats elsewhere in perpetuity.”
Ultimately, the policies not only fail to protect communities impacted by Bank projects, they will also lower the bar for development finance institutions that look to the World Bank as a trend-setter. Vince McElhinny, the Bank Information Center’s Senior Policy Advisor, notes, “the World Bank has fallen far short of its goal of setting a new global standard when it comes to protecting the poor and the planet. Instead, it is setting off a race to the bottom.”

Comments

Gaiafrique said…
There is a petition in this regard...
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/986/515/257/tell-world-bank-dont-scrap-environmental-protections/

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.