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.
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
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.
Before the end of this year, the World Bank will vote on whether to introduce a new lending instrument called "Programme for Results" (abbreviated as P4R), which aims to better meet the needs of developing countries while increasing the World Bank's reach by bringing funds from public and private donors together in sectoral programmes. NGOs from around the world have expressed concern about P4R, as has the business community and various governments. These parties are concerned that a large number of standards, which may have significant adverse effects on humans and the environment, will be released. A number of organisations have therefore voiced their concerns about P4R in a letter to the World Bank.
Development banks such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the German DEG and the Dutch FMO have some crucial similarities: they operate with public money, and their ultimate goal is to fight poverty and promote development. But in practice, 'development' seems to be a broad concept, as there are many people that do not profit from the projects these banks invest in. On the contrary, large groups of people are often faced with negative consequences of the investments of development banks. Under pressure from civil society organisations, including Both ENDS, a number of development banks set up a complaint desk for those that are adversely affected.
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.