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!
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
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.
Recently, the World Bank announced to change its social and environmental regulations, the so-called 'safeguards'. These safeguards do not only apply to investments of the World Bank, but are often adopted by other banks and credit institutions all over the world. "If the World Bank changes the regulations, there will be significant global consequences!", Pieter Jansen warns. Last Tuesday he was in Brussels on behalf of Both ENDS for a consultation of the World Bank with European civil society organisations to give his view on the proposed changes.
The World Bank, an institution that aspires to achieve global sustainable development, now wants to position itself as an environmental bank. This role does not seem like a natural fit and is inconsistent with the implementation of its policies. So, for example, its climate investment funds' criteria are not ambitious enough to realise a transition to (real) renewable energy.
The World Bank has agreed to suspend all new investments in the palm oil industry by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - an independent body within the World Bank focused on the private sector - with immediate effect. In a letter to Both ENDS' partner Forest Peoples Programme, Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, writes that all existing investments will be re-examined, pending a number of guarantees that must limit damage to humans and the environment.