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World Bank's draft safeguards drastically weaken social, environmental protection, say civil society groups

Civil society says that the World Bank's Environmental and Social Framework Safeguards draft, currently under consideration, fails to address social and environmental issues, including land rights and the rights of indigenous people.


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30 July 2014

Forest Peoples Programme says World Bank's proposal undermines indigenous peoples rights

Author: Forest Peoples Programme

"Press Release: World Bank moves to undermine the rights of indigenous peoples", 29 July 2014

In an unprecedented move, the World Bank will be proposing that governments could 'opt-out' of requirements designed to protect indigenous peoples from unintended and negative consequences from development activities funded by the multilateral lender. In a leaked draft of new environmental and social standards...language has been included that would allow governments to disregard their existing obligations to indigenous peoples...[P]roposing that governments can ignore international standards on protection of indigenous peoples, and ignore the human rights that underpin those protections, is with out doubt a significant and serious watering down of existing standards...A dangerous aspect of the Bank's proposal is the precedent it could set for other multilateral finance institutions. The Bank has historically been a leader in developing progressively stronger environmental and social protections, but this latest draft undermines that reputation significantly. Joji Cariño, Director of the Forest Peoples Programme, commented "Indigenous peoples' recommendations on the need to strengthen World Bank standards and bring them into line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have fallen on deaf ears. World Bank pledges on 'no-dilution' of existing policies are being broken with this proposed opt-out, despite advances made in other substantive areas of the new proposals." The real threat if the proposed policies are adopted is the practical and immediate impact that these retrograde standards could have for indigenous peoples living in countries where governments routinely deny them their rights. For many indigenous peoples in Africa and elsewhere, national and regional law is just now beginning to recognise and protect their lands and their livelihoods by applying the laws developed over decades of advocacy. Indigenous peoples are mobilizing worldwide to demand that the World Bank withdraw the offensive policy proposals. They are calling on the Bank to ensure that the policy revision results in standards that are fully in line with international norms and obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples. At the same time, they are pressing the World Bank President to uphold his promise to prevent any dilution of existing standards.

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29 July 2014

Human Rights Watch says World Bank's plan risks to harm communities affected by development

Author: Human Rights Watch

"World Bank: Reject Plan to Roll Back Safeguards", 28 July 2014

A leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new social and environmental policies reveals significant erosion of protections for communities and the environment, Bank on Human Rights, a global coalition of nongovernmental organizations, social movements, and community groups said in a statement today to the World Bank board. The World Bank board should reject the proposed draft and return it to Bank management for redrafting to address fundamental flaws, the coalition said. A committee of the World Bank board will meet on July 30, 2014, to decide whether to approve the draft safeguards policy for broad consultation with governments and nongovernmental organizations...The World Bank pioneered the development of social and environmental safeguards in the 1980s and 90s after several high-profile development projects resulted in human rights abuses and environmental devastation. The revision of the safeguards framework is intended to update the safeguards and improve their effectiveness. Nongovernmental organizations had said that the World Bank’s move to strengthen the safeguards was a positive step. But the leaked draft revealed an alarming rollback of protections instead....The draft policy would, for example, allow countries carrying out World Bank-financed projects to “opt-out” of applying protections for indigenous peoples...While the draft policy includes new language on various human rights issues, such as discrimination and labor rights, it provides major carve-outs and exclusions. The language on discrimination, for instance, leaves out discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, and political or other opinion, in contrast with international law. The provisions on labor rights leave out freedom of association and collective bargaining and apply to only some employees. “The Bank’s policy review is an opportunity for the World Bank to finally make itself accountable on human rights,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch, a coalition steering committee member. “If the Bank’s board allows the draft policy to go out without fixing these major flaws, it sends a message that respect for human rights remains discretionary at the Bank"

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29 July 2014

Inclusive Development Intl. says global civil society response to World Bank plan gathers momentum

Author: Inclusive Development International

"World Bank turns Its back on rights protections for the poor, global civil society response gathers momentum", 29 July 2014

Civil society organisations around the world are decrying a leaked draft of the World Bank's proposed new policies to avoid harmful impacts from the development projects that it finances. Despite earlier commitments by Bank President Jim Yong Kim that the policies would not be diluted and that safeguards on land rights would be strengthened, the proposed changes have gutted essential requirements that are necessary to prevent displacement, impoverishment, and environmental damage. The draft policies are up for discussion by the Bank's board on July 30 ahead of public consultations...Most shockingly, the draft policies provide an opt-out option for governments that do not wish to provide essential land and natural resource rights protections to Indigenous Peoples...The draft also weakens protections for people who will be evicted from their homes, land and livelihoods, increasing the risk that Bank-financed projects will impoverish people, exacerbate inequality and cause human rights violations. The proposal scraps critical rules that have been in place for thirty years requiring the Bank to take concerted measures to avoid and minimise displacement and for resettlement action plans capable of restoring the livelihoods of the displaced to be in place before committing funds to projects. It provides multiple opportunities for borrower governments, or even private "intermediary" banks, to use their own standards for impact assessment, compensation and resettlement, without clear criteria on when and how this would be acceptable...Land titling projects are exempted from the coverage of the draft resettlement policy. This will leave affected communities completely unprotected from forced eviction by their government, as happened in the case of Cambodia's Boeung Kak Lake community whose homes were demolished after they were deemed not to have ownership rights under a Bank-titling project...Despite the growing land-grabbing crisis displacing countless indigenous communities, small farmers, fisher-folk and pastoralists throughout the global south, the draft policy fails to incorporate any serious protections to prevent Bank funds from supporting land-grabs.

28 July 2014

Bank on Human Rights urges World Bank to reject proposed draft & address human rights concerns

Author: Bank on Human Rights

"World Bank Safeguard Draft Rolls-Back Protections for People and the Environment. Key Human Rights Concerns", 28 July 2014

We urge you to reject the proposed draft and send it back for revision to address the following fundamental flaws: 1) The new framework provides more carve-outs than coverage...2) The new framework distorts international human rights standards and undermines prevailing development institution practice...3) The new framework abrogates Bank responsibility for ensuring projects do not harm people or the  environment...4) The new framework offers little protection or recourse to project-affected communities...

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28 July 2014

World Bank's environmental & social safeguard policies (draft)

Author: World Bank, International Development Association

"Review and Update of the World Bank's Safeguard Policies - Proposed Environmental and Social Framework" (First Draft), 10 July 2014

[This draft] will be discussed at a meeting ofthe CommitteeonDevelopmentEftcctiveness scheduled for JuJy 30, 2014.


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27 July 2014

World Bank draft lending policies does not include social & environmental impact assessment requirements, watchdog groups say

Author: John Vidal, Guardian (UK)

"Leaked World Bank lending policies 'environmentally disastrous", 25 July 2014    

Radical plans by the World Bank to relax the conditions on which it lends up to $50bn (£29bn) a year to developing countries have been condemned as potentially disastrous for the environment and likely to weaken protection of indigenous peoples and the poor. A leaked draft of the bank's proposed new "safeguard policies"...suggests that existing environmental and social protection will be gutted to allow logging and mining in even the most ecologically sensitive areas, and that indigenous peoples will not have to be consulted before major projects like palm oil plantations or large dams palm go ahead on land which they traditionally occupy. Under the proposed new "light touch" rules, the result of a two year consultation within the bank, borrowers will be allowed to opt out of signing up to employment safeguards, existing protection for biodiversity will be shredded, countries will be allowed to assess themselves, and harmful projects are much more likely to occur, according to World Bank watchdog groups including the Bank Information Centre (BIC), the Ulu Foundation and the International Trade Union Confederation...

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25 July 2014

NGOs say World Bank's draft environmental & social safeguards fail to protect land rights, letter open for signatures

Author: Drafted by Inclusive Development International, signed by 111 civil society organizations & individuals (including by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)

"World Bank's Draft Safeguards Fail to Protect Land Rights: Major Revisions Required", 25 July 2014

At last year’s Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, the Bank publicly committed to ensuring that its new environmental and social safeguards would be informed by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forest and Fisheries...Yet, the draft Environmental and Social Framework currently under consideration fails to reflect the Voluntary Guidelines in every important way and fails to adequately respond to or incorporate years of input from civil society and experts around the world. Not only does the draft Framework fail to include a comprehensive set of safeguard standards on land tenure and land rights...alarmingly, it actually acts to narrow the scope of the current policies and weaken land rights protections for poor and vulnerable groups.

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