Thirty years after the original Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, the “Cartagena +30”consultation is taking place across Latin America. FUNDEPS is contributing to the writing of the Cartagena +30 Academic Declaration, which will outline the position of the academic sector with regard to the situation of refugees in the region.

The commemorative process aims to strengthen the legal framework of protection for refugees at an international level. Amongst the additions proposed by the FUNDEPS Human Rights team are the need to consider emerging reasons for people to seeking refuge, such as environmental issues; the inclusion of gender perspective in regional documents; and the importance of creating links between the academic sector and civil society, in order to put knowledge to practical use.

The concept of “refugee” came into use after World War II, with a view to granting international protection for people who, fearing persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, adherence to a social group or political opinions, have to leave their own country or who cannot take refuge in their country’s protection.  The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and subsequent 1967 protocol, adopted by the United Nations, legislates refugee status at an international level.

The Cartagena Declaration was signed by a group of Latin American countries in 1984, following a series of Central American conflicts which had created large numbers of forced migrants. This declaration was not only important in Latin America, but also marked a change at international level in extending the critera by which a person could be considered a refugee, including internal conflicts, foreign intervention, violence, major human rights violations and other circumstances which severely disrupt civil society. These were added to the reasons for which a person can receive international protection and humanitarian aid.

30 years after this landmark declaration, the goal of the Cartagena + 30 process is to draft discussion documents outlining the region’s progress, challenges and opportunities; to facilitate discussions at a subregional, governmental, civil society and academic level; to establish the political support of Latin American governments and to identify possible partners from regional institutions and from civil society. It also aims to establish a committee of experts who will act as consultants for the commemorative process and to secure support from donors and other sources of revenue. All this will culminate in a comprehensive report which will be presented to ministers at a commemorative event.  This event will conclude with the adoption of a new declaration and a plan of action.

The forerunners of Cartagena +30 are two documents, one adopted in 1994 and the other in 2004: the   San José Declaration on Refugees and Displaced Persons and the Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action to Strengthen the International Protection of Refugees in Latin America.

FUNDEPS is actively contributing to the Cartagena +30 Academic Declaration, together with local universities, professors and academics. This declaration will be presented at the end of October at the Universidad Católica de Santos in Brazil. The Academic Declaration is one of the documents bringing together information and outlining regional challenges and opportunities, which will be presented at the ministerial summit.

Further information:

ACNUR Cartagena+30

Contact:

-Carolina Tamagnini

carotamagnini@fundeps.org

Translated by Hayley Wood

More than 20 organisations from countries all over the world demand that the second phase of the ICIM review allows a sufficient amount of time (no less than 60 days) to submit comments and suggestions to the preliminary version of the revised policy, as well as face-to-face meetings and/or videoconferences in the region that ensure an informed public participation, and a widespread and decentralised announcement that ensures effective involvement of all communities and individuals with an interest in the mechanism.

Last Monday, 7th June 2014, an assortment of more than 20 organisations from all over the world, including FUNDEPS, sent a letter to the President of the IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno, and the executive directors of the institution. The aim was to express the worry felt by civil society about the future of the complaints mechanism of the bank, known as the ICIM (Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism), which is currently being reviewed.

The ICIM, which replaced the failed and inefficient Independent Investigation Mechanism (IIM) in 2010, is the mechanism of evaluation for the financial operations of the IDB. Therefore, it intends to respond to the concerns of individuals or communities affected by projects financed by the bank.  This shows the importance of this mechanism inside the institutional framework of the IDB.

While the creation of the ICIM was well received by civil society and showed a clear step forward vis-à-vis the transparency and accountability of the bank, there still exist real challenges to overcome before it can be considered a truly effective resource working for the affected communities. With that in mind, the review process of the ICIM that the bank decided to carry out in mid-2013 will, after a number of delays, start its second phase of public consultations in the next few weeks.  This will be an ideal opportunity to strengthen the mechanism and deliver a much more effective system.

However, it has been reported that the bank is considering a consultation period of only 30 days for this second phase.  Thereby limiting the reception of comments to online-only and without considering the arrangements of face-to-face meetings or videoconferences.  Worryingly, this approach will discourage any informed and effective public participation. This prospect is even more worrying when one considers how important participation is for the recipients of this very mechanism: those affected or potentially affected by the bank’s projects, many of whom lack access to the internet or electronic media.

Consequently, the organisations signing the letter highlight the necessity of the administration and the Executive Director of the bank to promote an effective and participatory public consultation process for the second phase of review that allows:

· An adequate amount of time, no less than 60 days, to provide comments and suggestions to the preliminary version of the revised policy.

· Face-to-face meetings and/or videoconferences in the region to ensure an informed participation.

· A widespread and decentralised announcement that ensures a large turnout of all the communities and individuals that have a stake in the working of the mechanism, including those that have used the system in the past.

FUNDEPS will participate in this second phase of the consultation, with the aim to strengthen the ICIM and bring about a positive change in its operation.

More information:

Letter from CSOs – Considerations about the second phase of the ICIM review. Official website of the IDB’s ongoing ICIM review process 

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator of the Global Governance Programme

gon.roza@fundeps.org

The Director of Human Rights of the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ office welcomed Civil Society representatives to discuss Argentina’s position in the next session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Last Monday, the General Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office, the minister Federico Villegas Beltrán, welcomed a Group of representatives from different organizations of the civil society to discuss actions Argentina will be taking in the next session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Throughout June, the United Nations Human Rights Committee will receive reports carried out by the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Businesses and will debate the possibility of moving towards an international document that will regulate the responsibility of businesses in terms of human rights. Together with a coalition of organizations, FUNDEPS sent the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hector Timerman a letter requesting that in the next committee sessions the production of an international treaty on the matter be endorsed.

At the moment, numerous commercial businesses are directly or indirectly connected to a series of abuses and violations of human rights in different parts of the world. In addition, there is a strong preoccupation for the way in which the rights of the most vulnerable are seen to be affected: women, young people, underprivileged, farmers and indigenous towns, girls and boys amongst others. There has also been an increased amount of registered attacks, persecutions, intimidations and restrictions of the defenders of these rights, as well as members the organizations in the civil society, such as syndicates and representatives from indigenous towns.

In the UN’s framework, the link between businesses and human rights finds itself regulated by three fundamental pillars: the right to protection from the state when faced with abuse committed by third parties, the right for the business to respect them and their corresponding responsibility, and the victims’ access to justice, in order to achieve an effective reparation. On top of these pillars, they have developed the Guiding Principles and other guidelines such as the OECD guidelines and the framework of sustainability and IFC’s performance standards.

These types of guidelines do not only appear in autonomous regulations but in surrounding laws as well, defending consumers, labour policies and fighting against corruption. Nevertheless, Studies show that although there are a wide range of guidelines that directly or indirectly regulate the right to company due diligence, in practice they do not implement it or do not fully apply themselves.

The Treaty Alliance

Facing this panorama is a movement that demands the rise of the level of commitment, developing the guiding principles of 2011 into a binding treaty regarding company responsibility in Human Rights. A treaty that can guarantee that the obligations surrounding Human Rights are applied to company procedures, much like admonitory obligations and regulation of corporations, provide effective solutions for those who are affected by violations by the businesses and to create international mechanisms of control and implementation. The Treaty Alliance has elaborated a declaration in this sense, which has already been signed by more than 400 organizations in the civil society, amongst them some who have gotten drawn up formal communication with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs’ view

During the meeting, Minister Federico Villegas Beltrán protested in favour of the benefits that an instrument such as that that is being demanded could yield. Argentina is a pioneer in this matter and is producing advanced jurisprudence in that regard with the last trials on company responsibility in crimes against humanity; such is the case of the sugar factory Ledesma or the motor companies Ford and Mercedes Benz. Nevertheless, the minister showed caution and mentioned the importance of establishing progressive objectives, which allow the achievement of a consensus between the countries where the headquarters of the majority of the big companies are gathered.

All in all, Argentina’s participation in the council meeting will work to achieve the necessary consensus in order to raise the level of commitment of the states with the Guiding Principles. From FUNDEPS, we will continue working to promote the establishment of legal frameworks that make human rights a requirement not only facing the States but also facing institutions like companies whose power and impact has recently grown.

Translated by: Nailah Carr

As part of World No Tobacco Day, which is celebrated every year on the 31st of May, FUNDEPS is sharing a statement signed by various health organizations in order to promote the improvement of tobacco control policies and health protection, particularly in relation to taxation policies.

World No Tobacco Day is promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to highlight the health hazards generated by smoking tobacco. According to the WHO, the worldwide tobacco smoking epidemic kills almost 6 million people each year and of those 600,000 people are nonsmokers who die from second hand smoking. Without a change in the regulation framework we will see 8 million tobacco related deaths a year by the year 2030.  More than 80% of these preventable deaths will occur among the population of second and third world countries.

According to the Argentinian Minister for Health, the tobacco epidemic affects almost 9,000,000 people in Argentina. The consumption of tobacco is the number one cause of preventable premature deaths, causing more than 40,000 deaths annually. According to the health institute, Instituto de Efectividad Clínica y Sanitaria, the country wastes more than 20,000 million pesos treating diseases caused by tobacco addiction and 6,000 non-smokers die as a result of second hand smoking.

Faced with this situation FUNDEPS emphasises that the protection of health against the tobacco epidemic is a human rights obligation, just as they demonstrate the recommendations made by the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee. Here, in the latest review into the progress made by Argentina in relation to their obligations, the Committee made specific recommendations linked to the control of tobacco and health protection.

This year, 2014, the objective of World No Tobacco Day is to encourage governments to raise taxes. In Argentina, cigarettes are cheaper and more accessible than in the rest of the continent and the world, which is one of the main reasons for the high number of tobacco users in the country.

According to investigations by the Inter-American Heart Foundation in Argentina (Fundación Interamericana del Corazón Argentina) “While by the middle of 2005, buying 100 packets of cigarettes cost 42% of the average Argentine salary but midway through 2013 to buy the same amount of packets only account for 22% of the same average salary”.

Hence, numerous civic society organisations have made a statement which requests “the Argentine State authorities promptly implement of a taxation policy that increases the actual price and steadily reduces the affordability of tobacco products, with the aim of reduce tobacco consumption and improving public health”.

At the same time maintaining the demand for the ratification of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (Convenio Marco para el Control del Tabaco), since Argentina is one of the few countries in the region which has not yet ratified this international instrument.

Translated by: Sinead Barnett

Representatives of FUNDEPS took part in the latest meeting of the Environmental Issues Commission of the provincial legislature of Córdoba, during which the topic of mechanisms for civic participation in the Environmental Policy bill for the province, was discussed at great length.

Within the framework of the parliamentary process of the Environmental Policy Bill, launched by the Executive Committee, and in which FUNDEPS has participated since the start, a further meeting of the Environmental Issues Committee was called for the 20th May. The purpose of the meeting was for the different political parties to exhibit their work to date on the bill, and to present their proposals for instruments in environmental policy, which would be regulated by the legislation currently being debated.

The main focus of the meeting was regarding the establishment of civil participation in the provisions of the legislation, the scope of participation with regards to environmental issues and the ongoing importance of civil participation since the constitutional reforms of 1994. Specifically, the discussion focussed on which mechanisms for civil participation should be established by the bill, which body would have the legal authority and obligation to require participation, who can request participation, which segment of the population should participate, under which circumstances, for which type of projects participation should be used, how civil participation would work on a practical level, what would be the legal consequences of decisions taken under public consultation, under what context would they be considered, how negotiations would be held, and how would civil participation interact with other political mechanisms and environmental governance. In summary, matters which are extremely relevant when devising public policy, taking into account the growing social conflict in the province.

The mechanisms for civic participation discussed during the meeting, many of which are provided for in national as well as provincial laws, were as follows: unrestricted access to information, the obligation for public bodies as well as private entities to make public complete and accurate information about the project to be carried out, public surveys, public consultation by way of workshops in the neighbourhoods or localities which could be affected by the execution of activities of relevant environmental impact, public meetings as a part of the proceedings between the authorities and the citizens, and consultation with the public as an innovative mechanism at a provincial level.

The main focus of the political dispute was regarding the definition of “public consultation”; of what this consists and its’ implications, despite what is already provided in Law No. 7811 of 1989. The representative of the Civic Front, Santiago Clavijo, expressed that further legislation was needed regarding public consultations concerning the authorisation of projects of high environmental impact as provided for in Annexe 1 of the Regulatory Decree 2131/00 of Law No. 7343, as per the administrative proceedings of Evaluation of Environmental Impact. The legislator Cintia Frencia, of the Left and Worker’s Front (FIT), explained that the call to public consultation does not imply the prohibition of certain activities, rather that these activities are subject to approval of the public, as well as the legal requirements that the activities must meet. Alfredo Leytes, also from the FIT, agreed that in most cases the public welcomes the arrival of productive activities, given that they provide jobs and community development, as long as they do not bring any major disadvantages. Dante Heredia, president of the commission and representative of the officialist Union for Cordoba Party, was of the opinion that the criteria for legislating a public consultation were excessive and inflexible.

Since the beginning of the legislative discussions there have been two examples of projects which have been considered with most practical importance for the processing of the bill. The first is the bio fuel factory, whose location within the city limits has had a negative impact on bordering residential districts. Also, the conflict created by the location of Monsanto SAIC’s seed processing plant has caused several controversies on a scientific level, numerous judicial resolutions and uncertainty with regards to the permissions for its location.

It is expected that in June the bill will be voted in the unicameral legislature, provided that all political groups can agree upon a single bill. In this context, from FUNDEPS we are advocating for the establishment of the highest possible standards in order to ensure that the right to civil participation can be carried out effectively, especially for those who are directly affected by public decisions such as those mentioned during the debate. For this reason, we want to highlight our concern with regards to the risk of the restriction of civil participation at the beginning of this process, by conditions which can be waived at the discretion of the Environmental Authority, as stated in our document “Contributions to the debate for the bill for environmental policy for the province of Cordoba”.

Translated by: Richard Marsden

The event’s agenda revolved around the governance of and trends of investments in infrastructure in Latin America, and on the necessity of improved communication on the part of Latin American civil society in the face of a complicated and challenging regional backdrop.

The regional workshop “Trends in Investments in Infrastructure in the Region: Climate Change and Governance” took place in the city of Lima (Peru) on the 24th and 25th of April. Its objective was to examine and debate the economic and socio-environmental impact of investments in infrastructure financed by the multilateral development bank and by the national development banks of Latin America. The event was organized by AAyS (Environment and Society Association) of Colombia; CDES (Center for Economic and Social Rights) of Ecuador; CEDLA (Center of Studies for Labor and Agrarian Development) of Bolivia; DAR (Environmental Law and Natural Resources) of Peru; IBASE (Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis) of Brazil; FUNDAR Center for Analysis and Research of Mexico, and FUNDEPS (Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policy) of Argentina.

The first day of the event was dedicated to the presentation of papers and publications that the organizations of the region have been carrying out in the past few months. These papers covered various topics: the current situation of governance and financing of infrastructure in the region; socio-environmental safeguards and human rights; and climate change.  The presentations revolved around the infrastructure megaprojects in the Amazon, the financing of infrastructure by the multilateral development bank and by the national development banks, Chinese investment in the region, the financing of Climate Change, and the processes of citizen participation in spaces like UNASUR and BNDES, among other topics. Simultaneously, there was a space dedicated to the discussion around the adpotation of a strategy on the part of Latin American civil society in relation to the upcoming COP-20 (Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), to take place in the city of Lima in December of this year.
With these discussions the conference articulated the complex situation of infrastructure finance in the region:
  • Multiplicity of involved actors, be they multilateral international banks like the World Bank or regional multilateral banks like BId and CAF; national development banks like Brazil’s BNDES;
  • More global forums and spaces, like the G-20, the BRICS or UNASUR itself, via its Council on Infrastructure and Planning (COSIPLAN) charged with implementing the criticized IIRSA initiative in the region.
  • Growing Chinese investment in the region
  • Greater participation of the private sector either directly or via public-private partnerships.
  • Weakening of environmental safeguards on the part of the principal institutions offering financing
  • Failure on the part of the states to effectively observe and guarantee human rights when driving development projects.
On the second day of the event, the agenda was centered on a workshop activity in which the participants, members of diverse organizations and civil society network from the majority of the countries of the region, worked to identify priorities and to advance in the development of a strategic agenda that would allow the region to effectively confront such a complex and troublesome situation.
The Lima workshop is an important step in the direction of improved communication and coordination among the diverse organizations of the region, allowing for effective change on issues that would be impossible to deal with individually. Therefore, we invite all interested organizations to join us in the process of communication and collective work to promote a development model for our region that is more sustainable, participative, and respectful of human rights.
Translated by: Savannah Mcdermott

FUNDEPS was present at the meeting convened by the Joint Commission for the Legislature of Córdoba to discuss the environmental policy bill. Working document detailing observations and central criticisms of the bill.

In the context of the parliamentary handling of the environmental policy bill taken forward by the Executive Power, the Joint Commission for the Legislature of Córdoba Province convened Córdoba’s social environmental organisations on Friday 11 April of this year to participate in the debate and bring their viewpoints and deliberations closer together regarding the bill in question.

FUNDEPS was present at the meeting with a document prepared by the Legal Area of Human Rights, and put forward arguments and central criticisms of the environmental bill.

The Joint Commission in charge of processing the bill is made up of the commissions of Ecological Affairs, Institutional Affairs, Municipalities and Communities, Agriculture, Farming and Renewable Resources and Industry and Mining. More than 15 environmental and social organisations, which were very representative of the whole province, took part in the meeting. These included: Malvinas Assembly Fight for Life, Association of Friends of Río San Antonio (ADARSA), University Network of the Environment and Health-Network of Doctors of Fumigated Towns, Stop Fumigation Collective, Casa Córdoba Socio-environmental Assembly, Mapuche Nation Organisation and assemblies and residents from Candonga (Chavascate), Barrio San Antonio, Villa Giardino, Río Ceballos, Juárez Celman, San Marcos Sierras, Capilla del Monte, Río Cuarto and Punilla.

The rejection of the provincial environmental bill was absolute and unanimous. The bill in question is severely flawed from a technical-legal and legislative point of view, while at the same time it strictly violates the progressive, congruence and precautionary principles on environmental matters. As a result of this, and based on a technical-legal analysis we carried out in a working document, FUNDEPS is requesting a complete revision of the bill, or the development of a new regulatory body which will take into account and respect national environmental legislation and which will strengthen environmental protection at a provincial level.

In general terms, the bill does not respect the minimum standards established in National General Environment Law N° 25675, and does not fulfil its supplementary function which is to achieve an updated regulatory text on the environment. We therefore understand that it goes against constitutional environmental public order. Based on the corresponding analysis document, FUNDEPS argued that “the bill completely lacks operating rules, which means that it leaves everything subject to regulation and to what the enforcement authority decides at the time. Specifically, it distorts the principles concerning environmental material which the General Environment Law and other laws for minimum environmental standards stipulate in terms of operation and it does not deliver in its public order role as far as environmental regulations are concerned. Here there would be a kind of lack of complementarity and maximisation which it should have as a provincial law which aims to supplement the minimum environmental standards set out in national law”. (1)

The key principles in environmental policy such as the evaluation of environmental impact, citizen participation, land-use planning legislation and oversight, are lacking in this bill. The ambiguous wording leaves them vulnerable to arbitrary decisions by public and private operators and executors, and they are clearly insufficient as proposed basic standards and violate the minimum national environmental standards. For a detailed analysis of the article we recommend reading the analysis document developed by FUNDEPS.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(1) Transcript of the joint meeting of the Commission of Ecological Affairs, Institutional Affairs, Municipalities and Communities, Agriculture, Farming and Renewable Resources, and Industry and Mining. Córdoba, 11 April 2014.

Translated by: Lucy Driver

Civil society organisations from the region have published a document in which the Bank is demanded to adopt a Freedom of Information Policy.

The seminar was an evening of encounters, which included a panel of three speakers, specialized in the issue. Firstly, Adriana Spila, Journalist and Director of the Ñu Porá newspaper, Ex-president of the Commission on Gender and Human Rights of the Provincial Council of Women, President of the Center for In line with the work done to achieve transparency in the activities of the BNDES, a Spanish-language document has recently been published by FUNDEPS in collaboration with a group of organisations and networks from different Latin American countries, entitled Directives for the Debate: Implementation of a Freedom of Information Policy for the National Bank for Economic and Social Development of Brazil (BNDES).

This publication was presented in November 2013 at an international civil society forum on transparency in the BNDES which took place in the city of Brasilia. The investigation was carried out with the objective of acting as a building block for future advocacy and joint work between Latin American civil society and the Bank, at a time when the Institution has started to make incipient but promising steps with regard to transparency and social participation.

The document is divided into two sections: The first one presents the arguments (and possible benefits) as to why it’s necessary for the Bank to adopt a specific Freedom of Information Policy, and it offers a series of explanations for the reasons that it often uses to restrict the flow of information, such as Bank Secrecy and State Sovereignty, for example. The second section contains a specific Freedom of Information Policy Model for the Bank, establishing principles, guarantees and mechanisms to ensure transparency in the Institution.

Juan Carballo, Executive Director of FUNDEPS, stressed the importance of this type of document and stated that, “the adoption of a Freedom of Information Policy with the characteristics reflected in this publication constitutes a necessary and fundamental requirement, not only to guarantee that the BNDES provides thorough information in due time and manner regarding the projects that it finances in the region, but also so that it adopts a robust and effective programme of social and environmental safeguarding. Complaints are currently being raised about many of the projects that the Bank is involved in, due to its heavy impacts, both socially and environmentally. Once that’s in place, it’s necessary to ensure that these projects can effectively promote development and that they do so within a transparent framework”.

The publication comes as the result of work carried out collectively by the following organisations: Environment and Society Association – AAS (Colombia); Centre for Economic and Social Rights – CDES (Ecuador); Centre for the Study of Industrial and Agricultural Development – CEDLA (Bolivia); Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia – CIDOB (Bolivia); Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin – COICA (pan-regional); Rights, Environment and Natural Resources – DAR (Peru); Citizen Forum for Justice and Human Rights – FOCO (Argentina); Forum Solidaridad Peru (Peru); Environment and Natural Resources Foundation – FARN (Argentina); FUNDAR Centre for Analysis and Investigation (Mexico); Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies – FUNDEPS (Argentina); Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses – IBASE (Brazil); Institute of Socio-Economic Studies – INESC (Brazil); and The Amazonian Legal Network – RAMA (pan-regional).

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator for the Global Governance Programme

gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Thomas McGuinn

The civil society delegation held meetings in various European cities with government officials and delegates from the World Bank as part of the revision process of the Institution’s safeguards.

From 10th to 18th March, FUNDEPS took its place on a civil society delegation which was made up of representatives from South American, Central American and African organisations and supported by the Bank Information Centre, or BIC. The delegation travelled to various European cities (London, Brussels, The Hague and Paris) to participate in a series of work and advocacy meetings as part of therevision process of the social and environmental safeguards which is currently being carried out by the World Bank. These safeguards consist of a series of regulations and procedures which both the Bank and borrowing country must comply with when applying for funding from the Institution and which aim to guarantee that the operations financed by the Bank don’t have social and/or environmental impacts on the places where they’re carried out. (See World Bank Safeguard Policies).

There are two opposing perspectives in the revision process of the social and environmental safeguards. On the one hand, civil society organisations are looking to raise these standards to ensure that operations carried out by the World Bank respect human rights and guarantee environmental protection. And on the other hand, the Bank is looking to improve its competitiveness against other financial institutions which are supporting increasingly larger projects.

As well as holding private meetings with government officials, European representatives and executive directors of the World Bank, the delegation took part in meetings and forums within civil society, such as the international meeting, EuroIFInet, which was held on 12th and 13th March in the city of Brussels. The emphasis in those meetings was placed, amongst other things, on the need for the safeguards to adopt the highest international regulations and standards and to cover all of the Bank’s operations in a comprehensive manner.

Gonzalo Roza, the Coordinator for FUNDEPS’ Global Governance Programme, stated that, “The main objective behind FUNDEPS’ involvement on this delegation was to communicate to the Bank’s representatives and European officials the concerns and perspectives that exist in Latin America regarding the revision process of the Institution’s safeguards. Amongst these concerns, what stands out above all is the potential for the World Bank’s safeguarding framework to become diluted or weakened to facilitate the approval of funding given to projects and, in doing so, to recover part of the land that the World Bank is losing as a result of the increase in the number of investments from new development banks which have less stringent safeguarding regulations (or which have none at all), such as, for example, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the China Development Bank (CDB). Let’s not forget that a large amount of the projects financed by this kind of institution have strong social and environmental impacts on the countries in which they’re undertaken. Hence the importance acquired by a safeguarding framework which is robust and effective enough to be able to ensure that human rights are respected and the environment is protected”.

It’s worth pointing out that a potential dilution of the World Bank’s safeguards would have a negative impact on Latin American civil society, not only concerning the projects financed by the World Bank in the region, but also with respect to the funding from other institutions like those mentioned above, because the World Bank is generally seen as a role model by other financial institutions.

In this sense, it’s important that civil society makes its voice heard loud and clear in this revision process by demanding that the World Bank adopt safeguards that are even more robust and comprehensive than the existing ones, including issues which aren’t considered by the current safeguards, such as human rights and climate change, to name a few.

For more information:

BIC Coordinates Series of Safeguards Meetings in Europe with Southern Civil Society Partners (31-03-2014) BIC

World Bank Safeguards ReviewBIC

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator for the Global Governance Programme

gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Thomas McGuinn

Without the participation of civil society, the Board of Governors of the IBD decided to approve an historic institutional restructuring with the intention of consolidating its private sector activities.

As part of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) held on March 27 and 30 in the city of Bahía, Brazil, the governors of the Bank (finance ministers, central bank presidents, and high-level public officials of the member countries) decided to approve a major internal restructuring that aims to expand and improve its focus on the private sector.

With the restructuring approved in Bahía, “the Bank’s relationship to the private sector will be assumed by the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), which we are calling ‘New Corp’ or ‘New Corporation,’ that will assume the four windows of the IBD that currently serve the private sector,” explained Brazil’s Planning, Budget and Management Minister, Miriam Belchior. “Although the main role of the IDB has been and will be to work with the public sector of its borrowing countries, the time has come to take a fundamental step in regard to the IBD’s work with the private sector,” she added. In this manner, this “New Corporation” will have a role and relevance similar to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the institution of the World Bank Group responsible for directing funding to the private sector.

In turn, the governors decided to capitalize on this “New Corporation” and provide it with a structure to increase its efficiency. In addition, they considered that its main area of activity should be infrastructure investment, a current regional context where private investment has been gaining strength in recent decades. With these considerations, it will be an area that will have to be closely monitored in order to ensure transparent mechanisms of decision-making and respect for human rights and environmental protection standards.

Important Decisions without the Participation of Civil Society

One extremely disturbing aspect is that the approval of this historic restructuring took place in a context where civil society was excluded from the possibility of participating in the Annual Meeting for the first time since 2006, which led to serious questioning on behalf of a group of Civil Society Organizations, including FUNDEPS.

According to Patricia Miranda (Latindadd) y María José Romero (Eurodad): “Controversially, the IDB decided to instead organise a forum two weeks before  in the same city, just for civil society organisations, thus denying CSOs access to decision-makers, finance ministers and even the media. This is despite the fact that CSOs have participated in previous IDB annual meetings when key decisions were made, including on IDB replenishment and debt relief.”  Miranda and Romero added that “no matter what issues are on this year’s agenda, the IDB is a regional development bank whose processes are expected to follow the highest standards in terms of democratic participation and accountability. The lack of proper implementation of such standards by suddenly excluding civil society undermines the credibility of the Bank and poses an important reputational risk. This also brings up concerns about how the bank will address its future actions considering its goal is the implementation of an inclusive and sustainable development model, which is extremely worrying. CSOs will continue to advocate for an open and accountable process.”

For more information, see the following:

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza / Global Governance Program Coordinator
gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Jeremy Orloski

Last Friday, March 21st the FUNDEPS Human Rights team visited the courts and the legal counsel of the city of Alta Gracia, to continue the follow-up of the case that discusses the constitutionality of the “Protected Environmental Zones” established by Municipal ordinance No. 9375.

The Municipal Legal Counselor, Dr. Daniel Villar, who was informed about the court filing carried out by FUNDEPS and the neighbors of the city, received our team. The claim is related to the legal case initiated by the VERDOL SA. Company, which has attacked the constitutionality of the ordinance that prohibits fumigation in the created “Protected Environmental Zones”. Said zone consists of an area that extends for 1500 meters and that was created for the purpose of guaranteeing the human right to life, health and a healthy environment.

The municipal legal counselor, after finding out about our legal action along with the local neighbors, declared that from the municipality “the participation of the neighbors in this cause is celebrated because this way the authenticity of their claim is guaranteed”, by stating this he maintained the constitutionality of the questioned municipal ordinance.

During the visit to Alta Gracia, the FUNDEPS team met with the neighbors in the name of the claimants to update them on the case and to discuss the next steps to be completed, always with the objective of defending the constitutionality of ordinance 9375. To continue with the follow-up of the case, our team will send out the pertinent court notifications to the involved parties, among them the VERDOL SA company, regarding the court filing carried out for the neighbors of the place.

Translated by: Elizabeth Griffin

FUNDEPS appeared together with residents of Alta Gracia in a legal case to discuss the constitutionality of the ‘Zone of Environmental Protection’, in which the use of chemical spraying is prohibited. The regulations, which are disputed by farmers, have led to an important advance in the protection of the human right to health for the citizens of Alta Gracia, and the end of environmental pollution that should be guaranteed by law.

The by-law in question today is the result of the work of social movements that have managed to protect the outer suburbs of the city of Alta Gracia from repeated exposure to agrochemicals resulting from chemical spraying. The by-law clearly states that ‘all agrochemicals are potentially toxic’ and that ‘chronic and repeated exposure over long periods of time to even low levels of agrochemicals could be responsible for illnesses.’

These extreme effects have been confirmed in the inquiry by a medical report carried out by the Department of Allergies and Immunology at the National Clinical Hospital (UNC, National University of Córdoba), in which levels of disease much higher than average were detected in one of the affected neighbourhoods. According to the study that was carried out, ‘51% of those polled were affected by some type of illness, with a higher incidence amongst children,’ with asthma being the most recurrent condition. This finding indicates ‘a percentage that greatly exceeds the results of other studies of the prevalence of asthma carried out in the city of Córdoba.’ A year and a half since the introduction of the by-law, the Municipality of Alta Gracia states that it has seen a fall in the number of cases of skin and respiratory system conditions. Likewise, the medical report presented in the court papers explains that ‘…since then and to date, there is an overall perception by the residents that corresponds with a decrease in the appearance of new illnesses in the area.’

It should be noted that since mid-2013 FUNDEPS has held meetings with the inhabitants of Alta Gracia, who have made their voices heard through a legal process which has a direct impact on their quality of life. Through this work they are becoming participants in the legal process, hoping to maintain the appropriate public policy necessary to protect the right to good health and environment for the residents of Alta Gracia. FUNDEPS’ Programme of Human Rights will follow up the case, urging the courts to adequately recognise and value the constitutional responsibility to protect health and the environment.