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Africa: World Bank – Uphold Rights – Prevent and Address Adverse Human Rights Impacts of Bank Activities, By Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC) via AllAfrica, 15 November 2012


press release

Washington — The World Bank should incorporate human rights in its revised policies as a key component of fulfilling its mission to eradicate poverty, Human Rights Watch and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said today.

A new review of the World Bank’s environmental and social policies, known as the “safeguard” policies, begins with a consultation meeting in Washington, DC on November 15, 2012.

“The World Bank has long ignored the importance of free speech, assembly, and association and other basic human rights,” said Jessica Evans, senior advocate on international financial institutions at Human Rights Watch. “In the wake of the popular upheavals in the Arab world, the World Bank needs to recognize that human rights are critically important to its efforts to reduce poverty.”

Some World Bank-funded projects have been plagued by human rights problems. The World Bank recently approved a project in Ethiopia that indirectly funds forced evictions of indigenous peoples and other marginalized ethnic groups. These forced evictions, in violation of international law, violate rights to adequate housing and other social and economic rights including the rights to food, water, and education.

The World Bank Group, whose mission is to reduce global poverty and achieve sustainable development, should make a commitment to incorporate and abide by human rights standards in all of its activities, the groups said. As a starting point, it should require human rights due diligence and put measures into place to address any human rights risks before financing projects and programs.

The World Bank’s review of the safeguard policies is expected to take two years, during which time it will accept comments on its current standards, including policies on indigenous peoples and involuntary resettlement, and on whether to expand its coverage to other areas such as labor rights and climate change.

The World Bank has an obligation to ensure that it does not fund rights abuses, directly or indirectly, the groups said. The safeguards review is an important opportunity to introduce the necessary checks and balances in order to avoid adverse rights impacts.

There are other benefits to a human rights-approach, the groups said. The World Bank has recognized that many people living in poverty are victims of discrimination, including women, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities. By incorporating human rights standards, the bank would have a useful tool to address inequality and entrenched discrimination and to ensure that the benefits of development reach the most marginalized members of society.

Historically, the World Bank Group has dismissed human rights as a “political” issue and therefore outside of its mandate as a development bank. The same was true of corruption until a former Bank president, James Wolfensohn, took the seemingly risky step of raising “the c-word” and began to address the issue within the bank and in its lending. President Jim Yong Kim has a similar opportunity to modernize the bank by taking on human rights, the groups said.

“The World Bank Group is not above international law – the bank and its member states must abide by human rights standards in their development activities,” said Kris Genovese, senior attorney at CIEL. “Now is the time for the bank to move into the 21st century and, if he’s willing to show leadership andsustained engagement with member countries, Kim can realize this signature achievement.”

Background

The current policies of the World Bank Group and their implementation are not sufficient to prevent or address the adverse impact on human rights that lending may have, the groups said. The diversification of lending instruments and activities supported by the Group are governed by a patchwork of inconsistent and increasingly vague policies that leave too much room for interpretation.

For instance, in the Ethiopia project, approved on September 25, the institution has not applied its safeguard policies on involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples despite evidence that the project funds, at least indirectly, forced relocation of indigenous peoples and other marginalized ethnic groups. In other cases, even this patchwork of policies has been abandoned in favor of allowing funds to be disbursed without ensuring any protection for communities or the environment.

Commitment to human rights is not just a matter of good policy; it is also a political commitment and an obligation under international law. Member countries should not set aside their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights when they enter the boardroom or when they sign a loan agreement.

Further, as a UN specialized agency, the World Bank Group must act consistently with the UN Charter, which requires “[u]niversal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all …” The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has also stated that the World Bank “should act as [an] advocate of projects and approaches which contribute … to enhanced enjoyment of the full range of human rights.” Individually and collectively, member countries have the duty to ensure that their decisions do not lead to human rights violations.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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South Africa: Jamaica Endorses the Establishment of BRICS-Led Development, South African Government (Pretoria) via All Africa, Bank 9 November 2012


press release

The government of Jamaica has come up in support of the establishment of the BRICS-led Developmental Bank. Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs and oreign Trade, Senator Arnold Joseph Nicholson, told the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies during their bilateral meeting in Jamaica today that a BRICS Bank was good for Jamaica and that his country was in support of it.

South Africa will host the fifth BRICS Summit in March next year and among the key decisions expected to come out of the summit is the formation of a BRICS Development Bank. BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the emerging economies, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The two Ministers agreed that the BRICS Bank should play a role in mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other Emerging Economies and Developing Countries (EMDC). They also said that the Bank was not intended to replace the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. According to them, the BRICS-led Developmental Bank will complement the two institutions.

Minister Davies said that the importance of South Africa’s membership to BRICS was not just for South Africa, but for the African continent and emerging economies. Nicholson added that Jamaica was proud to be associated with South Africa and to see that the Caribbean economic bloc, the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) was included in the South African agenda. Jamaica is a member of Caricom, which consists of 15 countries that are located in the Caribbean Sea.

“Next year you are going to assume the chairperson of BRICS and it seems to me you are not only thinking of South Africa in a traditional way of doing things. You are also looking for an expansion of opportunities and diversifying trade. We are pleased to see that Jamaica and Caricom are within that category of opportunities,” said Minister Nicholson.

Minister Davies is in Jamaica on a two-day visit to discuss trade relations between the two countries. The two ministers also agreed that there would be a South African business delegation to Jamaica sometime next year.

Davies’s visit to Jamaica follows President Jacob Zuma’s state visit in August this year.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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