world bank imageFirestorm Builds over Major Attempt to Eviscerate Involuntary Resettlement Standards

In a backroom move, The World Bank’s is attempting to substantially dilute, if not eviscerate,  social and environmental protections that have evolved over the past thirty years.  Under the guise of modernizing their “safeguard policies” and after a enigmatic global consultation with limited participation, a subcommittee of the Board of Directors, the Committee on Development Effectiveness – CODE)  unexpectedly approved a heretofore secret draft of a new safeguard policy framework.  The CODE cleared the draft for a brief 4 months of further consultation (Phase II). The brief draft and consultation program lacks plans for consultation with involuntary resettlement professional organizations. An initial review by David Pared and Natalie Bulgalski of Inclusive Development International  discovered substantial changes in involuntary resettlement policy development.  INDR members are conducting further analysis.  We are discover a substantial downgrading and dilution of the new draft compared to the current Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement policy.

A Statement on Land Rights in Draft World Bank ESF  is being prepared comparing the existing standard (Operational Policy 4.12) to the proposed new standard offers another preview of how serious this weakening is.  The World Bank’s shamelessly announced that they are strengthening the standards?

A flood of protest is rising. Near the end of July, 111 NGOs, Professional Organizations, including the International Network on Displacement and Resettlement ( asked The World Bank to scrape this dilution of its international standards (see letter). The Bank on Human Rights strongly reject the Bank on Human Rights Letter to the Executive Directors on CODE -7.28.14 and demand The Executive Director’s to roll back their committee’s decision. And the firestorm builds.  The Bank Information Center (unaffiliated with The World Bank) is tracking scores of OpEds, press stories, CSO and public complaints not only to the proposed framework but the unorthodox manner the Bank intentionally avoided public consultation.

World Bank safeguards: Pushing more money out the door at the expense of the poor?

By Natalie Bugalski, David Pred 05 August 2014  Reprinted from

Natalie bugalski   David pred profile

Last week, the World Bank released a draft of its proposed new environmental and social safeguards.

While over a hundred civil society groups, development practitioners and professional associations denounced the draft as a significant roll-back of standards, Devex reported last week how Kyle Peters, vice president for operations policy and country services, defended the proposed new rules because they “will uplift sustainable development” and represent “a strengthening of existing policies.”

However, after a careful analysis of the draft, we think that Peters’ assertions are wrong.

Let’s take the example of involuntary resettlement. Every year, some 15 million people are uprooted from their land and homes to make way for development projects around the world. The risks of displacement for poor families are well documented: homelessness, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, psychological trauma, economic and cultural marginalization, to name a few. It is by now well established that in order to avoid these impacts, strong resettlement safeguards must be in place.

There’s a dearth of public information on the scale and impacts of displacement financed by the World Bank, or the effectiveness of its resettlement policy in achieving its objectives to date. Any credible policy review should be based on analysis of such information. But despite this, the bank is proposing to dismantle the fundamental architecture of its resettlement safeguards that has been in place since 1980 without presenting a shred of evidence that the changes will lead to better — and not worse — development outcomes.

Elimination of ‘front-end’ requirements

A hallmark of the bank’s proposed new Social and Environmental Framework is the elimination of “front-end” safeguard requirements to make it simpler, quicker and cheaper to get projects approved.

Gone is the 34-year old requirement that borrowers must submit a comprehensive resettlement plan before the bank commits to financing a project that causes displacement. The proposed new standards permit borrowers to submit resettlement plans at some undetermined point in time — but after financing has been approved. By that point, the bank will have lost the vast majority of its leverage to ensure that the plans are capable of preventing harms to displaced families. Affected communities would also be deprived of the opportunity to provide input into project designs and resettlement plans before funds are disbursed.

Once the money is out the door, it’s much less likely that the voices of impacted communities will be heard.

The draft also discards the requirement for thorough baseline socio-economic studies to be conducted prior to displacement. These studies are crucial to designing effective resettlement programs and preventing impoverishment, and without them it’s impossible to measure the impacts of resettlement and whether the objective of improving — or at least restoring — affected people’s living standards has been met.

This tectonic policy shift is part of the move away from so-called “rules-based” safeguards to a more flexible approach.

The World Bank asserts that this will deliver better social and environmental outcomes, but provides no evidence to support this claim. In contrast, the bank’s Independent Evaluation Group has examined the evidence and found that rules-based safeguards have “helped to avoid or mitigate large-scale social and environmental risks financed by the bank.”

Gutting of monitoring and supervision requirements

While the bank has repeatedly claimed it wants to shift resources from project preparation to implementation, we find nothing in the draft that indicates more robust oversight and support for borrowers to ensure that safeguard objectives are met.

In fact, monitoring and supervision procedures have been gutted alongside the front-end safeguards.

The bank procedures currently in force recognize the “importance of close and frequent supervision to good resettlement outcomes” and include detailed supervision requirements during implementation through to completion. These detailed procedures have been removed, and the bank’s role has been reduced to little more than reviewing progress reports and self-evaluations submitted by borrowers.

Gaping loopholes

For a borrower looking for a way to evade the safeguard requirements, the draft is littered with loopholes.

To name just a few, if the bank finances a project with multiple “sub-projects” that involve displacement, the resettlement safeguards only apply if the borrower classifies the sub-project as having a “high” social risk — a classification that is undefined in the draft. Sub-projects classified as having a “substantial risk” (also undefined) need only comply with national regulations. That may be fine for countries with their own strong land management laws and systems, but this is extremely rare among World Bank client countries.

If there is cofinancing with another agency — which is frequently the case for big projects that cause large-scale displacement — the borrower and financiers can agree on a “common approach” to managing risk. Rather than requiring the higher of the applicable standards, the draft ambiguously states that the common approach “will not materially deviate from the objectives” of the World Bank standards, allowing for considerable discretion with minimal accountability. The same loophole is available to financial intermediary clients, such as private banks and equity funds.

Also, to the outrage of indigenous peoples organizations and support groups, borrowers can also opt-out of applying the indigenous peoples safeguards in certain circumstances, a provision that undermines international human rights standards and is thus open to abuse.

Abdication of World Bank responsibility

Mark King, the bank’s chief environmental and social standards officer, said last week that “we’re trying to be clearer in knowing who’s responsible for doing what for our projects.”

But he didn’t mention that the proposed new framework eliminates the fundamental principle — long embedded in the bank’s safeguard policies — that the bank shares responsibility with the borrower for avoiding and mitigating the social and environmental risks of the projects it makes possible. The draft transfers all responsibility for compliance with the standards to the borrower, exonerating the World Bank from its obligations to the people displaced by its projects.

At the same time, the rules for the borrower are nebulous and elastic. Compliance has become an open-ended affair, required only “in a manner and time-frame acceptable to the bank” — which gives staff total discretion to decide when compliance is met and by what standard.

All of this would mean that, if the safeguards draft is adopted, the Inspection Panel would have no hard rules against which to hold the World Bank accountable. Communities displaced or otherwise harmed by bank projects would be left with little recourse.

We agree with Peters that the bank’s safeguards have not been “watered down” with this draft. They’ve been drowned to death.

Report on Railways Development Project in Cambodia

Something has gone dreadfully wrong with the forced population displacement and involuntary resettlement caused by a large Railways Development project in Cambodia. Co-financed by the Government of Cambodia, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) and by the bilateral Australian Aid Agency (AA), the project is expected to follow international involuntary resettlement standards. It does not…Read More.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 30 April 2014)

A KOSID-INDR Study Examines Mining-induced Involuntary Resettlement in Kosovo

INDR President Downing has completed a report on a proposed forced displacement by a proposed Kosovo lignite mine.

The Government of Kosovo is taking preparatory actions to involuntarily displace over 7000 people to make way for an open pit lignite mine as part of the Kosovo Power Project (KPP). Kosovo Civil Society (KOSID) invited Ted to determine whether this preparation complies with the international involuntary resettlement standards (OP 4.12, PS5, PR5, OECD, and Equator Principles) that must be met for the project to obtain international financing? Ted’s report finds it does not. The reasons why provide a good overview of the risks involved in a mining-induced displacement.

Last Updated (Monday, 28 April 2014)

Inter-American Development Bank Job Posting

The Inter-American Development Bank is seeking a Social Safeguards Lead Specialist (English and Spanish bilingual) for employment. Details on applying can be found on the American Anthropological Association website. Last Updated (Wednesday, 9 April 2014)

Comments Invitation on UNDP’s draft Social and Environmental Standards

UNDP is pleased to invite your comments on their draft Social and Environmental Standards by *May 2, 2014 (French and Spanish versions will be posted soon on the website). The objectives of the standards are to: (i) strengthen the social and environmental outcomes of UNDP’s programmes and projects; (ii) avoid adverse impacts to people and the environment; (iii) minimize, mitigate, and manage adverse impacts where avoidance is not possible; and (iv) strengthen capacities for managing social and environmental risks. For more on submissions.

*the deadline for comments has been extended to May 2, 2014.

Last Updated (Monday, 28 April 2014)

Call for Papers on Urban Renewal and Resettlement Workshop 2014

Prof. Dolores Koenig, American University, Washington, DC, is convening a workshop on Planning for Renewal and Resettlement: Contested Visions at the Annual Conference of the Commission on Urban Anthropology [CUA-IUAES] on Dreamed/planned cities and experienced cities.  Conference to be held at the University Jean Monnet, St Etienne, France, 8-10 July 2014.  Her workshop seeks contributions that look at the particular clashes that occur when governments and private organizations propose development and change that involve the destruction of existing neighborhoods and the relocation of their residents. To what extent do politicians and urban planners justify these plans by visions of urban growth or quality of urban life? How do the potentially relocated respond? Under what conditions do they create alternative visions? When do they negotiate or collaborate with planners? What sorts of activism do they undertake?  For more information on submissions.   Last Updated (Monday, 31 March 2014)

Forced Displacement, Reparation, and a US ban on financing international hydro-development…  policy ramifications of new US law

 “The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United
States executive director of each international financial institution
to seek to ensure that each such institution responds to the findings
and recommendations of its accountability mechanisms by providing
just compensation or other appropriate redress to individuals and
communities that suffer violations of human rights, including forced
displacement, resulting from any loan, grant, strategy or policy
of such institution.”    United States Consolidated Appropriations Act 2014.

Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology

In January 2014, the United States Congress passed compromise legislation on the annual budget. Buried within its’ 1500+ pages is specific and far-reaching language that clarifies US obligations and related policy with regards to public funds invested in foreign contexts, including US investment in international financial institutions (see Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014). Specifically, international financial institutions (IFIs) must ensure that a negotiated reparation agreement between the Government of Guatemala and communities affected by Chixoy Dam construction, forced displacements, and related violence is fully implemented; take demonstrative measures to ensure similar compliance to reparation agreements between residents of Boeung Kak lake in Cambodia and the Cambodian government; and, oppose financing for any activities that involve forced evictions or other violations of human rights in Ethiopia. This law also requires US representatives at IFIs to vote against “any financing to support or promote the expansion of industrial scale logging or any other industrial scale extractive activity into areas that were primary/intact tropical forest as of December 30, 2013” and any loan, grant, strategy or policy of such institution to support the construction of any large hydroelectric dam (as defined in “Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making (World Commission on Dams, 2000).” IFIs are also required to undertake independent outside evaluations of all of its lending to ensure that each institution “responds to the findings and recommendations of its accountability mechanisms by providing just compensation or other appropriate redress to individuals and communities that suffer violations of human rights.” This language was originally introduced as part of the Foreign Appropriations bill adopted by the Senate in the spring 0f 2013, following a series of meetings with representatives of affected communities, IFI staff, civil society advocates, and input from independent experts such as myself. Documentary evidence submitted in support of Senate deliberations demonstrated IFI failures to attend to the recommendations of internal and external compliance mechanisms and, thus, an unmet IFI obligation with regards to continuing human rights abuse.

The case of the forced displacement at Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam played an important role in garnering public attention ….

FOR MORE INFORMATION Last Updated (Monday, 31 March 2014)

Resettlement News Issue #29

Hari Mohan has released our latest issue for January 2014, containing the following headlines:

  • U.S. Pushes for Outside Oversight of World Bank, Opposes Push Forward ‘Big Hydro’
  • A Victory Over 30 Years in Coming Reparations for the Victims of Chixoy Dam in Guatemala
  • Under Pressure from Human Rights Groups ADB Admits Fault in Rail Project, Pledges Compensation
  • Doing Dams Differently Can Mean Development for All
  • International Consultation on Climate Change and Population Resettlement in San Remo, Italy, 12-14 March 2014
  • Raising the Profile of Displacement/Resettlement NZASIA Conference, Auckland, November 2013
  • Social Impact Assessment of Resource Projects Canberra
  • Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction

Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 February 2014)

INDR names Jessie Connell as new Hot Issues editor on Environment and Climate Change-Related Displacement

How might decades of research about development-forced displacement and resettlement (DFDR) help inform responses to environment and climate change-related displacement?  See Editor Connell’s introduction to the new hot issue and join in this critical dialogue.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 February 2014)

India Enacts New Legislation to Protect Those Internally Displaced by Development Projects

INDR’s own Michael Cernea reviews in an OPED article on the Brookings Institution website on the new Act just adopted by India’s Parliament, entitled The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act”(LARR) 2013.  The new law repeals and replaces India’s 119 year-old, colonial Land Acquisition Act (LAA) of 1894, empowering farming families with the right of prior consent to land acquisition for some sub-categories of development projects, too narrowly defined, and increasing compensation rates for land up to four times the market value of land in rural area, and of up to two times the market value of land in urban areas. Importantly, the new Land Act legislates the mandatory incorporation of a resettlement and rehabilitation plan in each main project causing displacement. Additional comments on critical issues of policy and human rights are forthcoming in a second part of this two parts article.

Last Updated (29, Oct 2013)

Ad Hoc Committee on Mining and Sustainable Development

Critique of the Model Mining Development Agreement Project

How are, or should, the rights and lives of local people be considered when governments and mining companies negotiate secret agreements, granting companies access to the subsoil beneath them?

Such agreements are usually secret – non-disclosed to those “in the way” but they may threaten the existence of groups with ill-defined property rights. Tribal and indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable since Government may have an adversarial role with them before the mining deal is negotiated.

In 2009, the Mining Law Committee of the International Bar Association collected and analyzed over 50 existing mine development agreements to prepare a Model Mining Development Agreement (MMDA) as a tool, or set of tools, that can be used by mining companies and host governments for mining projects. As a compilation of existing agreements, the resulting protocol did not pay attention to critical social and local economic issues that are increasingly being considered by the sector, particularly when they seek financial guarantees form international lenders.


The expansion of a coal mine ends the life of a Kosovo village. Photo by Ted Downing 2013.

INDR President Ted Downing appointed a talented committee, an Ad Hoc Committee on Mining and Sustainable Development, to critically review the draft protocol. On 11 April 2013, the INDR Committee presented their preliminary findings to Luke Danielson, a member of the Mining Law Committee and their revised version will be published shortly on this page.

Learn more about mining and forced displacement:

Avoiding New Poverty: Mining-induced displacement and resettlement. Theodore Downing 2002. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Mining and Indigenous Peoples: Stakeholder Strategies and Tactics. Indigenous Peoples and Mining. Theodore Downing, Carmen Garcia-Downing, Jerry Moles and Ian McIntosh. 2003 IN Finding Common Ground:Indigenous Peoples and their Association with the Mining Sector. World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Institute for Environment and Development (UK). P. 11-46.

 Last Updated (Monday, 8 April 2013)