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29 Jul 2014

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch says World Bank's plan risks to harm communities affected by development

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"World Bank: Reject Plan to Roll Back Safeguards", 28 July 2014

A leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed new social and environmental policies reveals significant erosion of protections for communities and the environment, Bank on Human Rights, a global coalition of nongovernmental organizations, social movements, and community groups said in a statement today to the World Bank board. The World Bank board should reject the proposed draft and return it to Bank management for redrafting to address fundamental flaws, the coalition said. A committee of the World Bank board will meet on July 30, 2014, to decide whether to approve the draft safeguards policy for broad consultation with governments and nongovernmental organizations...The World Bank pioneered the development of social and environmental safeguards in the 1980s and 90s after several high-profile development projects resulted in human rights abuses and environmental devastation. The revision of the safeguards framework is intended to update the safeguards and improve their effectiveness. Nongovernmental organizations had said that the World Bank’s move to strengthen the safeguards was a positive step. But the leaked draft revealed an alarming rollback of protections instead....The draft policy would, for example, allow countries carrying out World Bank-financed projects to “opt-out” of applying protections for indigenous peoples...While the draft policy includes new language on various human rights issues, such as discrimination and labor rights, it provides major carve-outs and exclusions. The language on discrimination, for instance, leaves out discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, and political or other opinion, in contrast with international law. The provisions on labor rights leave out freedom of association and collective bargaining and apply to only some employees. “The Bank’s policy review is an opportunity for the World Bank to finally make itself accountable on human rights,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch, a coalition steering committee member. “If the Bank’s board allows the draft policy to go out without fixing these major flaws, it sends a message that respect for human rights remains discretionary at the Bank"