World Bank Standard no.5 - Forced evictions
In his region of origin, the south of Ethiopia, Okok worked on the execution of a socio-economic program of the World Bank. And now he is at the table speaking on behalf of his own people, the Anuak, the inhabitants of this region. Their land is systematically confiscated by the Ethiopian government, to end up in the hands of the Tigray, the dominant population group from the north. The Anuak’s land is used for plantations, such as for growing cotton, and the Anuak themselves are put in ‘model villages’ where they can barely even earn a living. Okok is familiar with the World Bank program, and says that money from the bank was used to facilitate forced evictions to these villages.
Even though the land rights of minorities are incorporated in the Ethiopian constitution, in reality, the government has been enforcing an ‘apartheid regime’. Many of Okok’s people have been murdered, and he himself has been imprisoned multiple times. Eventually, Okok was also forced to flee. Nowadays, he lives in a refugee camp just across the border. The World Bank’s inspection team has investigated the complaint, which was issued by Okok and others, about the supported deportation, but it did not find any evidence of a direct relation between the violence committed against Okok’s people and the Bank’s social program. The World Bank is not directly responsible for the violence, the panel says, but it should be aware of a country’s political reality. After all, the Bank does not operate in a vacuum.
The World bank’s role
Okok’s story is the story of many. Each year, more people worldwide are forced to move from their homes due to infrastructure projects – such as large dams, roads and mining – than due to war or conflicts. The World Bank finances a large part of the projects that cause these forced evictions: according to a recent report of the Bank itself, over the course of the past decade alone, millions of people have been forced from their land and homes as a consequence of the World Bank’s investments. Moreover, the research shows that during all those years, the Bank never adequately monitored what happened to people after they were evicted.
Safeguard number 5
This week, the World Bank published a concept version of its new safeguards on its website for consultation and input from other parties. Safeguard number 5, for example, is supposed to prevent people from being evicted. In the extreme case of an eviction, a new relocation plan should be discussed together with all parties involved. This includes not only looking for new housing, but also for possibilities earn a living and be self-supportive in the new situation. For fishermen and people who depend on the forest for their sustenance, access to natural resources must be guaranteed.
Examples such as these from Ethiopia, and reports like the abovementioned one about forced evictions show, however, the social and environmental policies of the World Bank are poorly executed. But instead of strengthening its policies, in the upcoming years the Bank will invest in even more risky large projects which often include forced evictions. The World Bank management no longer requires relocation plans to be made before the project is approved of. Moreover, in the near future national governments should be made responsible for the execution of and compliance to the Bank’s rules. The Ethiopian example of Okok and his people, clearly show what this can lead to: he has been living in a refugee camp for some years now, together with many others who have been evicted by their own government. Imagine your land is taken from you, supported by the World Bank. After this, the bank doesn’t know what becomes of you, but it does invite to have a conversation about strengthening the bank’s rules. During the conversation, the bank – which financed your deportation – has one main goal: to keep the rules as weak and flexible as possible for borrowing countries.
Both ENDS and Okok urge the World Bank to stop forced evictions. The bank’s safeguards should ensure that the bank’s money is no longer used for projects that force people to leave their land and home.
You can find the World Bank report on forced eviction here: http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/pubdocs/publicdoc/2015/3/96781425483120443/involuntary-resettlement-portfolio-review-phase2.pdf
More information about the Ethiopia case : http://www.icij.org/blog/2015/03/world-bank-denies-blame-violent-ethiopian-evictions.
More information about the World Bank Safeguards review consultation: www.safeguardcomments.org. Both ENDS co-hosts this website.
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