World Bank Admits Botched Resettlement Policy
Anna Yukhananov, Reuters
4 March 2015
WASHINGTON—The World Bank admitted on Wednesday that it had no idea how many people may have been forced off their land and lost their jobs due to its projects in developing countries, and whether these people were compensated fairly and on time.
The admission comes as the global development lender seeks to ramp up investments in risky infrastructure projects that often lead to forced resettlement, including dams and highways, in an effort to eliminate extreme poverty.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim pledged that we must and will do better, on a call with reporters, and launched an action plan to address shortcomings.
In a recent case, indigenous Anuak people in Ethiopia`s Gambella region said the World Bank contributed to the Ethiopian government`s villagization program that forced about 70,000 people off their land.
The bank`s Inspection Panel found that the forced evictions and the use of intimidation were not linked to the bank`s project, but that the World Bank did not fully assess and mitigate the risks.
Similar issues have arisen in many of the bank`s projects that involve resettlement, according to internal reviews released on Wednesday, which found the lender did a poor job monitoring and reporting on the status of affected people.
The sizeable gaps in information point to significant potential failures in the bank`s system for dealing with resettlement, according to an internal review from last June.
By the bank`s limited data, about half a million people have been affected by resettlement out of a sample of 218 active projects. The World Bank said it did not have a clear idea of how many of those did not receive compensation or new land.
The reviews also found that many countries may not be able to resettle people according to the bank`s own standards or set up proper grievance mechanisms.
The findings could be problematic as the World Bank is considering putting more governments in charge of policing its aid projects, a move that watchdog groups worry could undermine social and environmental safeguards the lender currently has in place.
The proposals, which are still going through revisions, would represent the biggest shake-up in 20 years to the policies governing how the bank`s big development projects are monitored, and are likely to influence other international institutions.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)
World Bank Chief Warns of Surge in People Facing Resettlement
Shawn Donnan, Financial Times
4 March 2015
WASHINGTON—The head of the World Bank expects a surge in the number of people forced to relocate from their homes as a result of projects it funds, as the organisation ramps up lending for new infrastructure in the developing world.
Some 3m people in developing countries are directly affected by active World Bank-funded projects, with almost 500,000 of those forced to relocate their homes.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, warned that this number would rise significantly as the bank seeks to meet a “dramatic increase” in requests for help to fund dams and other infrastructure projects in developing countries.
The need to relocate people to build dams or roads was an inescapable reality, Mr Kim said. “This happens in every single country in the world...Every highway or dam requires use of eminent domain.”
The bank has said developing countries must spend $1tn a year on infrastructure through to 2020 to maintain current growth rates and meet demand.
The anticipated surge in resettlements alongside that comes at an uncomfortable time for the World Bank — which has for decades faced criticism that some projects it has funded in developing countries have been associated with forced relocations and human rights violations.
The bank has in recent years faced significant competition to fund major infrastructure projects from China and its own development bank, which many critics accuse of paying less attention to environmental and social issues such as resettlement.
It also faces future competition from a new China-backed Asian infrastructure bankand the New Development Bank funded by China and other emerging economies.
The bank is also conducting the first major revamp of its social and environmental “safeguards” in two decades—a process that has already taken four years and drawn much criticism from activists.
The prediction of a surge in resettlements came alongside the release of a critical internal review of the World Bank’s current policies that Mr Kim said had identified “major problems” in how it handles resettlement.
“We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern,” he said.
The review — completed in June but kept private until Wednesday — found that people forced to leave their homes as a result of World Bank-funded projects received too little compensation too late and faced significant delays in being provided permanent homes.
It also found that the bank did not do enough to make sure its resettlement policies were actually abided by and to track exactly what happened to people relocated as a result of projects it funded.
Mr Kim’s response included an action plan aimed at improving how the bank handles forced resettlements linked to its projects. But he also noted that the issue was in many ways inescapable as the bank seeks to help developing world governments meet their vast infrastructure needs. More dams needed to be built to meet Africa’s growing electricity needs, he pointed out, and “dam projects always lead to resettlement”.
Photo: President of The World Bank Jim Yong Kim gestures during the final session “The Global Agenda 2015” in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, 24 January 2015. Source: Reuters/Ruben Sprich.