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'.
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.
Indigenous Hondurans are resisting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrodam. Their fight has cost several lives, including that of Berta Cáceres. After considerable public pressure, Dutch development bank FMO withdrew from the project.
Small grants funds offer an effective, alternative way to channel big money from large donors and funds to local groups and organisations that are striving for a sustainable and just society everywhere around the world.
The U.S. is not always in the front line when it comes to the protection of human rights and the environment in developing countries, but there are exceptions. The Netherlands has recently joined the ‘climate initiative’ of President Obama, which aims at ending the public funding of coal plants. But the U.S. is going even further than that: under the ‘Appropriations Bill’, U.S. directors at international financial institutions have to vote against projects that support large dams and industrial logging or mining projects in tropical forests. We are calling on Dutch Minister Ploumen to follow the U.S. example!
This week, Both ENDS, together with 16 other environmental and human rights organisations from around the world issued a press release in response to the draft version of the ‘Safeguard policies’ of the World Bank. These are social and environmental criteria that a project must meet before it can be eligible for World Bank funding. An earlier draft version, released in July 2014, was strongly criticized by academics, experts from the United Nations, several banks and civil society organisations, because according to them the bank’s rules are becoming much too weak.
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.