Indigenous peoples and NGOs urge the UN to focus on the human rights impacts of multilateral finance institutions

The UN Human Rights Council – the highest body in the UN tasked with overseeing human rights law – has just finished meeting in Geneva. In a statement, a group of indigenous peoples’ organisations and non-governmental organisations urged the Council to urgently consider, and provide guidance on, the human rights obligations of multilateral finance institutions, an issue of key importance as these institutions review and update their safeguard systems. 

Civil society organisations urge the World Bank Group to be more transparent in the process of developing the new Change Strategy

Thirty civil society organisations, including Forest Peoples Programme, have sent a letter to Pamela Cox (Senior Vice President of Change Management at the World Bank Group) to request updated information on the development of the new World Bank Group Strategy and the related institutional change process underway at the Group. The organisations urge the Bank to ensure that this process is undertaken in a participatory, transparent and inclusive manner.

Joint NGO technical briefing on the World Bank Safeguard Review sent to the UK Executive Director

Following the closure of Phase 1 of the World Bank's safeguards review consultations, various international NGOs, including FPP, have written to Gwen Hines (UK World Bank Executive Director) to urge her to engage with the safeguards review team ahead of their presentation to the World Bank Board on 23 July, on issues of critical importance. These issues include the scope and process of the review, the architecture for the new system of safeguard application, implementation concerns, recommendations on  ‘Emerging Issues’ identified in the October 2012 approach paper, and consultation concerns. More details of these issues are included with the letter in a technical briefing.

Introduction: Why safeguards matter

So-called “safeguard standards” for international finance institutions emerged as a consequence of destructive forestry, agricultural colonisation and extractive megaprojects financed by the World Bank in the Amazon, Indonesia and India in the 1970s and 1980s.[i] Since then many other multilateral development banks and development agencies have adopted their own safeguard policies and related complaints mechanisms. In addition to the need to protect community rights from destructive development investments, it is increasingly recognised that even well-intentioned conservation and ‘community development’ projects can cause damage and violate rights if they are poorly designed and fail to protect human rights and fragile habitats.[ii] 

Introdução: A importância das Salvaguardas

As denominadas “normas de salvaguardas” para instituições financeiras internacionais surgiram como consequência da silvicultura destrutiva, da colonização agrícola e de megaprojetos extrativos financiados pelo Banco Mundial na Amazônia, Indonésia e Índia nos anos 70 e 80.[i] Desde então, muitos outros bancos multilaterais e agências de desenvolvimento adotaram suas próprias políticas de salvaguarda e mecanismos de ouvidoria associados. Além da necessidade de proteger os direitos das comunidades da destruição causada pelos investimentos de desenvolvimento, reconhece-se cada vez mais que até os projetos de conservação e “desenvolvimento comunitário” bemintencionados podem causar danos e violar direitos, se não forem apropriadamente elaborados, e se não protegerem os direitos humanos e habitats frágeis.[ii] 

Forwards or backwards? The World Bank’s safeguard review and update (2012-14)

The World Bank is currently undertaking a two-year “review and update” of eight of its ten social and environmental safeguard policies. NGOs have highlighted how the World Bank must use the review as an opportunity to upgrade its standards and bolster implementation and compliance systems to increase Bank accountability and deliver sustainable development outcomes. At the same time, they have raised concerns that the Bank’s plan to “consolidate” its policies, with greater emphasis on the use of country systems to address safeguard issues, could end up in weakened standards and less accountability of the Bank and borrower governments to affected communities and the public.

Avanço ou retrocesso? A revisão e atualização das salvaguardas do Banco Mundial (2012-14)

Atualmente, o Banco Mundial está realizando, num período de dois anos, uma “revisão e atualização” de oito das suas dez políticas de salvaguarda ambientais e sociais. As ONGs têm destacado como o Banco Mundial deve aproveitar esta revisão para melhorar as suas normas e reforçar a implementação e sistemas de cumprimento, com o objetivo de aumentar a responsabilização do Banco e alcançar os objetivos do desenvolvimento sustentável. Ao mesmo tempo, as ONGS expressaram preocupações de que o plano do Banco de “consolidar” suas políticas, colocando maior ênfase na utilização de sistemas nacionais para responder às questões de salvaguarda, poderia derivar em normas enfraquecidas, e menos responsabilização do Banco e dos governos mutuários para com as comunidades afetadas e o público. 

The World Bank’s Forest Policy

As the World Bank reviews its environmental and social standards, a major opportunity to overhaul World Bank approach to forests must not be missed.

The negative impacts of World Bank-financed projects on tropical forests have been an issue of concern for civil society and forest peoples for decades. In the 1980s, World Bank megaprojects in the Amazon and in Indonesia in support for infrastructure projects, agricultural colonisation and transmigration generated major criticism from the public. This in turn generated the political pressure that was a key factor in leading the World Bank Group to adopt mandatory social and environmental standards, known as safeguards, to demonstrate its commitment to preventing harm to people and the environment [See Article 1].

A Política de Florestas do Banco Mundial

À medida que o Banco Mundial revisa as suas normas ambientais e sociais, não deve perder-se uma grande oportunidade de reestruturar a abordagem do Banco Mundial em relação às florestas.

Há décadas o impacto negativo dos projetos nas florestas tropicais, financiados pelo Banco Mundial, tem sido uma preocupação para a sociedade civil e para os povos das florestas. Nos anos 80, os megaprojetos do Banco Mundial na Amazônia e na Indonésia, em apoio a projetos de infraestrutura, colonização agrícola e transmigração, geraram uma importante crítica do público. Isso, por sua vez, gerou uma pressão política que foi um fator chave para levar o Banco Mundial a adotar normas ambientais e sociais obrigatórias, conhecidas como salvaguardas, para demonstrar seu compromisso em evitar danos às pessoas e ao meio ambiente.

FPP E-Newsletter Special Edition on Safeguards, April 2013 (PDF Version)

As multiple international agencies adopt and update their social and environmental policies, this special edition Forest Peoples Programme E-Newsletter reviews experiences of communities and civil society with the safeguard policies of various international financial institutions. 

Upcoming publication: Special Edition FPP E-Newsletter on Safeguards

The next E-Newsletter from FPP will be a special edition on safeguards, investigating both the current update and review process ongoing in the World Bank and wider safeguard issues tied to climate finance, private sector standards and regional development bank investments.