News / 25 June 2012

Does large scale infrastructure address the needs of the poor?

Infrastructure has become a buzzword of the current development debate. But will the recent infrastructure strategies of the World Bank and the G20, which favour large centralized projects, address the needs of the poor? This is the central question in International Rivers' report "Infrastructure for whom?". Strategic infrastructure projects such as large dams and transport corridors promoted by the World Bank and G20 are funded with public money. In order to make these projects attractive to private investors, they are supported by public guarantee schemes. One of the examples mentioned in the report is the Grand Inga Dam in the Congo River (DRC) which - if ever realised - would be the largest dam in the world.

Who benefits?
The main question the report seeks to answer is whether these infrastructure projects meet the needs of poor people. Or do they actually enhance and enlarge unequal power relations? The 'trickle-down effect' is a key assumption in World Bank and G20 models, which predict that support of economic sectors in a country will, in the end, reduce poverty.


Focus on the poorest
International Rivers, just like Both ENDS, supports infrastructure strategies that address the needs of the poor directly rather than through a trickle-down approach. In order to ensure that everyone's interests, especially those of the poorest, are taken into account we believe that the planning of a country's infrastructure must occur in an open, democratic process.


Strict Criteria
In case the World Bank and G20 continue to focus on large infrastructure projects, as expected, strong social and environmental safeguards are vital. These safeguards must ensure that the local population and their environment do not suffer negative consequences from a project. The World Bank announced it will revise its safeguards later this year. Both ENDS and partners will seek to influence the revision process with the objective of ensuring environmental and social protection in areas where large infrastructure is planned.


Read the full International Rivers report 'Infrastructure for Whom?'.

Also see the Counter Balance report on the Inga Dam.

photo: Michael Fludkov


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