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Commentary: World Bank’s new social safeguards fail to adequately protect civic space & human rights defenders

Author: Gretchen Gordon, Coalition for Human Rights in Development, on OpenGlobalRights (UK), Published on: 7 September 2016

"Development banks and the silencing of dissent", 5 Sep 2016

...[T]he World Bank approved a comprehensive overhaul of its social and environmental framework...[T]he final framework includes a new provision...asserting that “the World Bank’s activities support the realization of human rights”...But prevailing forces within the Bank rejected the call...to include a binding commitment to respect human rights...This...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...Global Witness identified 2015 as the worst year on record for killings of land and environmental defenders...This environment of violence, intimidation, and closing civil society space renders meaningful public participation in development virtually impossible...[T]he growing pressure on land and resources, and the recent resurgence in big infrastructure projects, [c]ombined with a move by traditional development banks to increase investments in “fragile and conflict affected states”, and a shrinking space for civil society globally, [means] development finance is on a collision course with human rights...[A]ny development bank that has requirements for consultation and public participation...should be examining the enabling environment for civic space within the project area. The banks can’t purport to be financing sustainable development if local communities aren’t able to engage in the development process without putting their lives at risk.

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