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

[email protected]

Translated by: Thomas McGuinn