News / 12 July 2013

Urgent letter to 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.

Why was it necessary to send this letter?

“Traditionally the World Bank is a frontrunner in the field of safeguards and often an example for other development banks. But currently this position is under pressure. The World Bank is no longer the only source of financing for developing countries; development banks from countries like China and Brazil have entered the scene. These banks’ safeguards and criteria are much weaker, and consequently their loans are more attractive for governments, project developers and companies: they don’t have to comply with the same level  of rules and regulations. Despite all this, we want to encourage the World Bank to implement strict rules and to keep setting the benchmarks for other development banks”


What do you hope to achieve with this letter?

“The executive directors of the World Bank, like Frank Heemskerk, will most likely now start to define the broad framework of the new safeguards policy. I hope that this letter will help achieve that the Netherlands –preferably in close cooperation with other European countries – takes the opportunity to translate its commitments to sustainable development into concrete measures. Therefore we made a number of recommendations. From our point of view, for example, the safeguards should apply to all loans and grants from the World Bank. Also, we think that every loan and grant should guarantee the respect for human rights. If the executive directors of the World Bank take up our advice, we can trust that the safeguards will get stronger.  We would like to see the Netherlands advocate these ambitious goals.”


What is Both ENDS’ role?

“Both ENDS, together with partner organisations from the South, has been committed for years already to promoting policies that enable poor communities to participate in decision-making. We believe that communities should have a say in how land or water resources can be managed in a sustainable way. Strict social and environmental criteria can help to make sure that funds from development banks will only be channeledto projects that do no harm. Strong safeguards are an important aspect of our work .”


The letter to Frank Heemskerk, the Dutch executive director of the World Bank

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