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

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Union Budget 'moves away' from Right to Education, 1.3 lakh schools closed down

By Dr Aparajita Sharma*
It was a shocking reply by the Union human resource development minister to a question raised in Parliament on closure of schools in a country where lakhs of children are still out of school. On December 2, the minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, told Lok Sabha that the NITI Aayog’s education project, Sath-E, has led to 35,996 schools of different levels being merged in Madhya Pradesh, 4,312 in Jharkhand and 1,803 in Odisha. NITI Aayog is the Central Government’s policy think-tank.

CAA-NPR-NRC will 'target' 99% homeless, who are without birth certificates: NCU

Counterview Desk
Claiming to base on a survey in five states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu), which finds that over 99% of the homeless people do not have birth certificates, a civil rights organization which networks activists, researchers, urban practioners, lawyers, informal sector workers, has claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as also the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), are likely to adversely impact this section the most.

Modi 'warned': Will not remain silent when women are labelled terrorists and traitors

Counterview Desk
As many as 13 women's rights organizations and 162 individuals have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that in the light of hate speeches during Delhi elections, especially directed against women, it is his "Constitutional duty to protect all citizens" and tell his partymen "to fight the elections in a manner that upholds the Constitution, not one that increases the fear and insecurity among women."

Law 'governing' world's tallest Statue of Unity refers to local tribals as occupiers

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant*
The recently enacted Statue of Unity (SoU) Area Development and Tourism Governance Act, 2019 in Gujarat comes amidst a terrifying atmosphere of intimidation, house arrests, detentions and FIRs, not to mention the overarching implementation of Section 144 across the state.

Anti-CAA: Mallika Sarabhai joins students, faculty to protest dy CM's 'divisive' talk

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to deputy chief minister Nitin Patel’s statement against those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), well-known danseuse Mallika Sarabhai has joined tens of activists and students and faculty of Gujarat University, CEPT University, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Gujarat Vidyapeeth and Nirma University to say that they are seeking “azadi” from the fascist and communal forces of the country.

Ramchandra Guha on how Gandhi outgrew his Gujarati bania 'parochialism'

By Rajiv Shah
More than a fortnight ago, prominent historian Ramchandra Guha, who calls himself Gandhi scholar and not a Gandhian, came to Ahmedabad. While I was part of a small group of persons who met him at lunch, his lecture on Gandhi in the evening, where he sought to interpret what swaraj meant to Gandhi, surely, interested the selected audience that had been called to listen to him.

Ironical? Hindutva is all 'fire and spite', as Muslim women become apostles of peace

By Sandeep Pandey*
On January 26, Republic Day, 2020, while protests simmered against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) throughout India, a dozen North American cities also witnessed historic protests. Indian Embassies have been witness to protests in the past. But this time it was different.

Union Budget: 24 crore people live in the dark, Sitharaman talks of prepaid smart meters

Counterview Desk
The Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), a Delhi-based advocacy group, commenting on the Union budget 2020-21, has has called it a case of missing wood for the trees, pointing out, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "missed an opportunity to fix the economy, which is reeling under an unprecedented slowdown, with all indices pointing towards a recession."