On September 20th FMO published its new position statements on human rights, land governance and gender. We appreciate that FMO takes human rights serious and applaud the efforts that have been made to come to an improved position on human rights, land and gender. However, to truly have a positive impact on people and the environment, some important follow up steps are necessary.
Last weekend there was an article in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant about the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya. I was surprised and angry about how the story was presented. How can people be so blind to the perspectives of others? And how can a progressive paper like De Volkskrant devote so much space to such an unnuanced account? This is exactly why such projects lead to conflicts.
It's October, time for the annual meeting of the World Bank in Washington DC in which the annual results and future plans will be presented to the outside world. It also gives NGOs from all over the world an oppotunity to talk with World Bank’s administrators and relevant staff on future policies. Pieter Jansen of Both ENDS travelled to Washington together with three representatives of local organisations in the South: Yu Chen of Green Watershed from China, Mayra Tenjo of ILSA from Colombia and Ram Wangkheirakpam of NEPA from India. Their main purpose is to highlight the importance of social- and environmental requirements that the investments of the World Bank should meet, the so-called 'safeguards'.
The United States Senate has sent a letter to the US Treasury, calling for better enforcement of the World Bank’s social and environmental rules. These rules, the so called ‘safeguards’, are meant to prevent the World Banks projects from causing social and environmental damage. But these safeguards are not always adhered to, and are likely to become even weaker as the Bank’s Board is currently revising them. Therefore, Pieter Jansen from Both ENDS, together with different partners from civil society organisations from all over the world, informed Republicans as well as Democrats about the negative consequences of the investments of the World Bank on local communities. Successfully, as the letter shows.
After months of lobbying of a group of NGOs, including Both ENDS, the United States Congress has opposed weakening of the investment criteria, the so-called ‘safeguards’ of the World Bank. The Congress sent a letter to the US Treasury, stating that the Banks’ social and environmental criteria for investments should not be weakened and the Treasury should oppose this. This is a great success for civil society organisations from around the world - including Both ENDS – which have been working for years to maintain and even improve the current investment criteria of the World Bank.
On July 23rd the World Bank board of directors will discuss the Bank’s safeguards review: In the coming months, the World Bank revises its social and environmental safeguards and according to Both ENDS programme officer Pieter Jansen this offers opportunities to encourage the Bank to strengthen them . This would improve the level of protection of people and the natural resources they depend on in World Bank projects. But if the Bank decides to make the safeguards more flexible instead, its investments could have more negative consequences for local populations and their habitat. Civil society organisations have repeatedly expressed their concerns, and since it’s almost the 23rd, Pieter makes a last attempt to make the World Bank aware of its responsibility: on behalf of Both ENDS he sent a letter with recommendations to Frank Heemskerk, the Dutch executive director at the World Bank. Pieter explains.