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World Bank decides action on "sweeping failures" in rehabilitating people affected by projects funded by it

Fishing community in Gujarat "affected" by World Bank power project
By Our Representative
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a powerful group of cross-border journalists, has appreciated that, after years of delay, the World Bank has initiated “action to address sweeping failures in its oversight of development projects that force people from their land or harm their livelihoods.”
ICIJ, which is a project of the US-based Centre for Public Integrity, says, “The changes are aimed at fixing a decades-long problem at the planet’s preeminent development lender: the World Bank has strong ‘social safeguards’ for protecting people in the path of development, but it often fails to make sure that governments that get the bank’s money follow these rules.”
ICIJ notes, “The bank has completed a reorganization that gives the specialists who enforce social safeguards independent budgets and supervisors, to give them autonomy from the managers of the projects they oversee.”
It reports, the World Bank is “hiring 11 new social safeguards specialists, reviewing its lending portfolio to identify projects in need of additional safeguards support, and requiring that all safeguards staff attend a Resettlement Boot Camp.”
In addition, ICIJ says, “The bank has increased funding for safeguards operations by about 15 percent, although it did not provide specific budget figures.” It quotes a World Bank statement as saying, “We recognize that our efforts have not always been sufficient, and we are continuing to engage with borrowers to make sure that people displaced physically or economically are compensated and assisted.”
ICIJ, along with its media partner Huffington Post reported in April how, between 2004 and 2013, development projects financed by the bank such as dams, roads and power plants physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people. One of the projects in India was a coal-based ultra mega power plant at Mundra, Gujarat, affecting fishing communities.
“The bank often failed to follow its rules for protecting these communities and in some cases funded governments and companies accused of human rights abuses”, says ICIJ in its blog titled “World Bank Rolls Out Reforms to Address Resettlement Failures.”
ICIJ’s investigation also found that the bank “often failed to properly review projects ahead of time to make sure that people living in the path of its projects were protected, and often did not keep track of what happened to displaced communities after projects were approved.”
It adds, “In many cases, governments and companies funded by the bank did not adequately resettle or compensate people who were displaced. In some instances, the bank’s borrowers used threats and violence to push people out of their homes.”
Reporting on the new change, ICIJ says, “The World Bank’s rules require that governments that receive the bank’s loans restore the livelihoods and living conditions of communities negatively affected by their projects to an equal or better standard than before the project was approved, and to resettle people who lose their homes.”
Since March, ICIJ says, it has been regularly inquiring about the details and progress of the bank’s reform plan. The latest update, announced on a fact sheet posted on the bank’s website on December 16, came in response to questions sent by ICIJ, The Huffington Post, NDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Fusion.

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