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Development banks and the silencing of dissent

Author: Gretchen Gordon, Coordinator of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, , Published on: 5 September 2016

By ignoring community concerns around development projects, multilateral institutions can become complicit in human rights violations and closing space...Earlier this month, the World Bank approved a comprehensive overhaul of its social and environmental framework. After four years of heated debate, the final framework includes a new provision in the vision statement asserting that “the World Bank’s activities support the realization of human rights…” and that the Bank “seeks to avoid adverse impacts and will continue to support its member countries as they strive to progressively achieve their human rights commitments.” But prevailing forces within the Bank rejected the call to go further to include a binding commitment to respect human rights, falling back on stale arguments that human rights are political and outside the Bank’s development mandate. This refusal of the Bank to finally institutionalize human rights is an abject failure for the people who risk their lives speaking out about development projects or defending their lands. In fact, the government clampdown on civil society in many countries explicitly targets those who may stand in the way of development initiatives...Governments around the world are increasingly passing laws restricting the activities of civil society groups and making it more difficult for voices that may be critical of development initiatives to be heard...In recent months, the independent accountability mechanisms of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Inter-American Development Bank have developed or are in the process of developing protocols or guidelines for ensuring the security of community members who lodge complaints.


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