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 comensation 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. 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 and encouraging Congressional action. Financed by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other international institutions at a time when state-sponsored violence against its indigenous citizens was widely reported, the history of violence and massacres accompanying Chixoy Dam development received international media attention in spring 2013, with the highly publicized genocide trial of former dictator General Rios Montt and the related questions: Who financed these crimes against humanity? Who profited? And what remaining obligations exist to provide meaningful redress to victims and their families? At the height of the genocide, the sole source of funding for the military Government was achieved through internationally-financed hydro-development. Congressional action in this case and in the development-induced human rights abuse in Cambodia and Ethiopia reflects the obligation of the United States Government to insure that the expenditure of public funds do not violate national law, including US and IFI obligations to protect the environment and human rights.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014


Guatemala Chixoy Case “Chixoy Dam Legacies: the struggle to secure reparation, and the right to remedy in Guatemala.” BR Johnston, Water Alternatives, 3(2):341-361, June 2010. Chixoy Dam Legacies. Social Commitments and Resettlement Obligations: Promises, Actions, Consequential Damages, and Community Needs. Five-volume report presented to the Government of Guatemala Presidential Commission on Human Rights (COPREDEH), UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Rudolfo Stavenhagan, the World Bank, and the InterAmerican Development Bank. Center for Political Ecology (Santa Cruz, CA). Published in Spanish and English. March 17, 2005. Also seeReparation Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala.” April 2010.

Hydrodevelopment, displacement and reparations Dams and Development – A new Framework for Decision Making. The Final Report of the World Commission on Dams. 2000. World Commission on Dams, Cape Town, South Africa. 2000 “Reparation and the Right to Remedy” Barbara Rose Johnston. World Commission on Dams, Contributing Report, Thematic Review 1.3: Displacement, resettlement, reparations, and development. World Commission on Dams, Cape Town, South Africa. 2000.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 February 2014)