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21 May 2018

Carly Dooley, Marie Mekosh, Center for International Environmental Law

Seeking Justice: US Supreme Court Will Hear Case on World Bank Group’s “Absolute Immunity”

When a project funded by the World Bank and other development banks harms local communities, where can they turn to?...[I]n the US, these organizations have absolute legal immunity, meaning that they can’t be sued even in cases of explicitly illegal behavior...[F]or the first time, the US Supreme Court will address international organizations’ immunity from harmful or illegal conduct.  This case could pave the way for communities around the world to finally achieve meaningful relief from the damage international institutions leave behind...Indian fishing communities and farmers are challenging the IFC, a branch of the World Bank, for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant...In 2008, the IFC provided India with $450 million in loans to construct the Tata Mundra Power Plant...When the IFC’s own independent accountability mechanism (the CAO) investigated the project, it...denounced the bank’s failure to ensure that the project wouldn’t harm those it was ultimately meant to help...[T]he IFC largely rejected the CAO’s findings and failed to implement any plans that would remedy the harms to the communities...Continuing to grant “absolute immunity” disregards the effects of World Bank Group projects and actions on local communities, the very people projects are supposed to benefit...The IFC’s rigid adherence to this immunity only raises questions about whether they are truly evaluating projects in line with their stated goal of “helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.”  We hope that the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case points not only to a recognition of the communities devastated by one power plant in India, but to all the communities impacted by development projects around the world...