Three days after the first homes were flooded as a consequence of the Barro Blanco dam, the government of Panama signed an agreement about this dam with a number of representatives of the Ngäbe-Bugle people. The affected communities however have still not been involved in the process. Both ENDS is worried about these developments.
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.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) will clean up its act regarding coal plants. In recent years, the bank invested around 2 billion euro’s in polluting power plants which emit huge amounts of CO2. The EIB, which had a total capital base of 242 billion at the end of 2012, is doing business in 150 countries outside Europe.
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.
Currently, on the initiative of China, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is being set up. As the ‘Chinese alternative to the World Bank’, AIIB will focus on financing large-scale infrastructure projects in Asia. The bank promises to be ‘lean, clean and green’, or in other words: non-bureaucratic, non-corrupt and environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, civil society organisations fear there will be disastrous consequences for local populations and the environment, considering China’s poor track record in these areas. In a letter to AIIB and in a press release, our partner 'NGO Forum on ADB' calls on the bank to develop strong safeguards.
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.