Tag Archive for: Global Governance

In response to the proposed modifications to the World Bank’s social and environmental safeguards, a large group of UN human rights rapporteurs launched tough critiques of the proposed changes, requesting via a letter addressed to the President of the World Bank that human rights be properly considered in the guarantees that the financial institution demands.

On December 16th of last year, 28 special rapporteurs for the United Nations Human Rights Council sent a collective letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, severely criticizing the proposed modifications to the Bank. These modifications have been in full discussion and have been an ongoing project for FUNDEPS. According to the human rights rapporteurs, the proposed modifications “appear to move in opposition to progress” considering that they would reduce the amount of social and environmental guarantees that the Bank requires when approving loans, especially in regards to human rights. According to the special rapporteurs,“the document seems to go out of its way to avoid any meaningful references to human rights.”

Philip G. Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, maintains that the principal reason for these modifications appears to be the Bank’s intention to compete with alternative financing initiatives (mainly backed by China, Russia, and India) which do not apply these minimum safeguards. Nevertheless, Alston explained that this is not sufficient reason to reduce the existing safeguards, considering that the World Bank, in their Articles of Agreement, are formally committed to the elimination of extreme poverty and to improving the quality of life for people in developing countries. The pursuit of these goals does not line up logically with the proposed modifications.

The authors of the letter hold that “the international community has already accepted that development and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.” That is why, in keeping with international law, they maintain that the World Bank should consider the relevance of human rights in its programs’ objectives, as well as incorporate human rights into its policies.

Ultimately, after appending a list of well-founded criticisms to the original letter sent to the President of the institution, the rapporteurs recommend that the Bank only finance projects that satisfy the established requirements. Further, they should withhold support from projects that do not comply with human rights obligations. In the screening process for each project, the Bank should rely not only on the information provided by the loan applicant, but should itself carry out the pertinent investigations, keeping in mind the affected or potentially-affected groups, as well as human rights defense groups and civil organizations. In this context, the rapporteurs pointed out that many vulnerable groups remain unprotected under projects funded by the World Bank, an issue that inspired protests at the Bank’s most recent annual meetings . In the same vein, they maintain that the proposed modifications should utilize stricter language that through clarity and precision would minimize discretionality when approving loans.

Here at FUNDEPS, we will continue participating in these global discussions, and in this way attempt to ensure that the World Bank establishes respectable human rights standards in its operational processes.

More information:

Letter to the President of the World Bank by the human rights rapporteurs-Safeguards-ENGLISH

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza, Area Coordinator of Global Governance
gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Elizabeth Laudenslager and Julian Novales Flamarique

 

The frame of activities for the Conference of Parties in the framework convention on the Lima Climate Change Conference, will discuss how international funding and socio environmental safeguards in infrastructure projects in Latin America have an impact on the Amazon jungle.

This event has been jointly organised by FUNDAR, Centre of Analysis and Investigation (Mexico), Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies- FUNDEPS (Argentina) Association for Environment and Society AAS (Colombia) and the Right of the Environment and Natural Resources- DAR (Peru) all constituting as the regional group for Funding and Infrastructure.
The discussion forms part of the Conference of Parties in the framework convention on climate change in Lima. The speakers will tackle the actual state of funding for infrastructure in Latin America from traditional banks like the World Bank Group/ International Finance Corporation and the new bank from the BRIC Countries. A comparative analysis of four projects with external funding has been carried out in Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, evaluating the impacts on the Amazon forest and the instruments (safeguards) for the management of social and environmental risks.

It will especially be about the negative example of Brazil and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES, its acronym in Portuguese). The BNDES, who also funds projects outside of Brazil, has been accused of its lack of transparency, of described social and environmental norms, which have been clearly defined, and the mechanisms guaranteeing the fulfillment of national laws.
It is feared that the recent creation of the BRICS nations bank will neither put enough emphasis on the norms that protect the environment and society in the process of its application. This reality is affecting the policies of traditional banks, such as the World Bank Group or the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Those countries seeking to attract more investment will also react to the changes in the available international funding. Large infrastructure projects that ignore the environmental concerns, such are the cases of CVIS (Peru), Mocoa Pasto (Colombia), Coca Codo Sinclair (Ecuador) and the TIPNIS (Bolivia), are proof of it.

A panel of experts on climate change, megaprojects and governance (transparency, participation, risk management) will debate the key ideas and any advance of the previously mentioned analysis. The session will also give the public the possibility to participate in the debate.

Key questions:

1.How can banks apply safeguards on project funding in Latin America to prevent social conflicts and environmental disasters?
2.What is the role of the new national and regional banks in the funding of regional infrastructure?
3.How the weakening of standards in funding the region affects the countries system? How can these react in front of new challenges?

More information:

Details on the logistics of the event
Panorama on the funding for infrastructure in Latin America
Guideline for the discussion. Implementation of a Freedom of Information Policy for The Brazilian Development Bank
Paradigmatic cases of BNDES investment in South America. Need and opportunity to improve internal policies

Contact:

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

Translated by: Gisela Quevedo

In recent years, our country received and continues to receive various funds from international financial institutions in order to manage existing forest resources.  How are theseplanned, executed and decided? 

In this context, it is worthwhile for civil society to question the principles and governing rules that are taken as the starting point to apply the funds and if these areactually implemented. For this reason, FUNDEPS has decided to monitor the management of the funds that our country has received and match the conditions to the “AR Sustainable Natural Resources Management”, provided by the World Bank and the “AR – L 1067: Forest Sustainability and Competitiveness Program” provided by the Inter-American Development Bank. These standards are applied in several Argentinian provinces and will impact much of the country, but the goal is the same: improve forestry production sustainably.

The management of our forestry resources has historically been marked by the excessive encroachment on agricultural land, the constant deforestation of native forests and human rights violations of indigenous farming communities as well as the absence of transparent and participative decision-making processes. As such, we sent out numerous requests soliciting information linked tothese projects and we contacted a number of persons responsible for implementing the funds.

Although in our final report will include all the relevant conclusions, we find it necessary to bring forward that after the specified deadlines for responses to the information requests sent to the provinces had expired, only a handful responded. Of the responses received, the majority did not provide relevant information about the application of the projects. It is extremely complex to access the information needed to evaluate the areas where forestry projects are implemented and the breakdown of the state organizations is overwhelming.
Although we found much information about the rules that are applied, benchmarks and accountability, and technical criteria on the objectives of the funds, we believe that this reading is complex, the information is over-abundant, which, in practical terms, makes it inaccessibleand, in some cases, it is in another language.

For more information:

Informacion_sistematizada_-_Proyectos_gestion_de_bosques – Banco Mundial – BID

Contact:

info@fundeps.org

Translated by D. Phillips

The process towards international environmental governance has its origin in 1972 in the Stockholm Conference, and developed through various conferences and summits.

The process towards international environmental governance has its origin in 1972 in the Stockholm Conference, and developed through various conferences and summits. In the 1992 Rio Summit, the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” adopted principle 10, which refers to the rights of access in environmental matters: right to information, participation to decision-making and access to justice. This declaration, of global scope, isn’t binding on the countries, so that its operativity is needed.

For this reason, in 1998 in Europe the Aarhusen Convention was dictated, serving as an instrument that regulates and operationalize these three pillars of environmental democracy being binding on countries in Europe, Central Asia and the European Community.

Regional Convention for Latin America

In terms of Latin America, we hope that within 2015-2016 a Regional Convention operationalizing principle 10 and effectively reflecting the highest standards of access to information, participation and environmental justice will be dictated.

Many conferences and meetings have been held to advance this process, with ECLAC as Technical Secretariat. In the last four meetings on Focal Points of the signatory countries of the Declaration on the application of Principle 10 there has been a clear advance, and committed participation by the signatory countries towards the realization of this regional instrument. The first meeting was held on November 6th and 7th in Santiago de Chile, where delegates of the signatory countries agreed on a Roadmap for the full implementation of the regional convention.

The second one took place in 2013 on April 18th in Guadalajara (Mexico), and here was approved an Action Plan up to 2014 to strengthen the rights of access in environmental matters. The third one was conducted in 2013 on October 30th and 31st in Lima (Peru), and members agreed on a series of lines of action for 2014 on the empowering of capacities and cooperation.

Recently, from the 4th to the 6th of November 2014, the forth meeting of Focal Points was held in Santiago de Chile, where the representatives of the 19 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that signed the Declaration of Principle 10 approved to start the negotiations for the creation of a regional convention in this area. From 2012 to date, the Declaration has been signed by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay. In the fourth meeting also participated as observers Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua and Saint Lucia.

Attendees welcomed the recent incorporation of Bolivia and El Salvador, and reminded that the process is open to all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. During this last meeting, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, highlighted that the instrument should not be merely declaratory, but must be ambitious and set clear and specific legal obligations to ensure effectively the three pillars of right of acces in environmental matters: information, participation and justice. These negotiations, will have to be based on the minimum contents of San José de Costa Rica.

Through FUNDEPS will be supported the work of other NGOs in the region towards the effective implementation of the rights of access and to cooperate with governments through recommendations and/or exchanges of ideas to move towards a regional instrument support. More information: – Comunicado de prensa de la reunión de la CEPAL – Propuesta de naturaleza y contenidos del instrumento regional de principios de acceso en materia.

Contacts:

info@fundeps.org

Translated by: Arianna Tamanini

In addition to participating in the discussions and demonstrations that took place regarding the process of reviewing the World Bank’s environmental and social safeguards, FUNDEPS met with staff from the IDB and MICI; and it was part of a discussion panel where a publication about the current funding landscape for infrastructure in Latin America, prepared by the Regional Group on Finance and Infrastructure, was presented.

During the course of this last week, FUNDEPS was involved in the 2014 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Washington DC (USA).

En el transcurso de la semana pasada, FUNDEPS estuvo participando de las Reuniones Anuales 2014 del Banco Mundial y el FMI en la ciudad de Washington D.C. (Estados Unidos). Si bien la agenda predominante durante estas Reuniones Anuales fue el proceso de revisión y actualización de las Salvaguardias ambientales y sociales del Banco Mundial, la visita a Washington sirvió también para trabajar en una serie de agendas adicionales en las que FUNDEPS está involucrado, tales como el proceso de revisión del MICI del BID; la presentación de una publicación sobre Financiamiento para Infraestructura en América Latina, realizada con el Grupo Regional sobre Financiamiento e Infraestructura; e incluso tener una serie de reuniones estratégicas y de planificación con diversas organizaciones de la región y del mundo.

Sin dudas, la agenda prioritaria actualmente respecto al Banco Mundial es el futuro de las salvaguardias de la Institución, cuyo proceso de revisión tiende a un preocupante debilitamiento y dilución de los estándares ambientales y sociales a cumplir cuando el Banco financia un proyecto en uno de sus países miembros (Ver Comunicado “El Banco Mundial busca debilitar los estándares socio-ambientales en sus proyectos. Respuestas de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil”). El borrador del nuevo régimen de salvaguardias recientemente publicado por el Banco confirma en gran medida esa tendencia y fue fuertemente criticado y rechazado por gran parte de la sociedad civil alrededor del mundo. Justamente, a principios de Octubre fue enviada al Banco una Declaración con la suscripción de más de 130 organizaciones alrededor del mundo, rechazando el borrador y destacando cuáles son los principales retrocesos que plantea. (Ver Declaración enviada al Banco).

A tal punto llegó la inconformidad de la sociedad civil respecto al proceso de revisión de las salvaguardias, que en el transcurso de la consulta pública planificada por el Banco para el pasado sábado 11 de octubre, la mayoría de los participantes, tras cuestionar tanto las reformas que plantea el Banco como el proceso de consulta en general, decidieron abandonar la sala (Ver Videos sobre la Consulta) y realizar una movilización fuera del Banco, que contó con una amplia participación de diversos actores descontentos no sólo con el proceso de revisión de las salvaguardias sino también con el modelo de gobernanza y financiamiento que plantea la Institución. (Para ver fotos de la movilización acceder Aquí)

En el transcurso de las Reuniones Anuales se confirmaron, también, los lugares en donde se desarrollarán las próximas consultas regionales para brindar comentarios acerca del proceso de revisión siendo Brasil, Paraguay, Perú y Bolivia los países latinoamericanos donde se estarán desarrollando las consultas presenciales en el transcurso del próximo mes.

En cuanto al proceso de revisión del MICI, FUNDEPS aprovechó su presencia en Washington para mantener reuniones presenciales con Victoria Márquez-Mees, Directora Ejecutiva del MICI; y con Flavia Milano, especialista de Sociedad Civil del BID. Más allá de obtener una actualización acerca del estado de la revisión del Mecanismo, las reuniones sirvieron para trasladar al Banco y al equipo del MICI la gran preocupación existente en relación al retroceso en materia de Accesibilidad, Independencia y Efectividad que representa el Borrador de Política Revisada que el Banco ha sometido a consulta. (Ver comunicado “Preocupa el potencial debilitamiento del MICI en el proceso de revisión que está llevando adelante el BID”)

A su vez, con Flavia Milano pudieron tocarse temas de la relación entre el BID y la Sociedad Civil, tales como la situación de los Grupos Consultivos de la Sociedad Civil (ConSOCs); el estado de implementación de la Política de Acceso a la Información, la misma revisión del MICI e incluso las reformas institucionales que está planificando el Banco, como la reforma de la Corporación Interamericana de Inversiones (CII) con el objetivo de darle mayor relevancia al financiamiento de carácter privado (Ver comunicado “En una reunión en la que se excluyó a la sociedad civil, el BID realiza cambios en su estructura”); e incluso el probable inicio de una revisión de las salvaguardias sociales ambientales del Banco, siguiendo los pasos del Banco Mundial.

Finalmente, cabe destacar que en el marco del Policy Forum de la Sociedad Civil de las Reuniones Anuales del Banco Mundial/FMI, se realizó la presentación del documento “Panorama del Financiamiento para Infraestructura en América Latina”, elaborado por el Grupo Regional sobre Financiamiento e Infraestructura, del cual FUNDEPS forma parte junto con otras tres organizaciones de la región: Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR) de Perú; Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad (AAS) de Colombia; y Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, de México.

Más información

– Panorama del financiamiento para infraestructura en América Latina

Contacto:

Gonzalo Roza

Coordinador del Programa de Gobernabilidad Global

gon.roza@fundeps.org

The changes put in place by the bank suggest a deliberate weakening of the Mechanism, especially in terms of accessibility and independence, aspects that are crucial for creating an effective and efficient instrument.

The Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (ICIM) is an independent mechanism within the institutional framework of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which aims to respond to worries and complaints of individuals or communities affected by “some direct damage which is both unfavourable and substantial, as a consequence of the Bank’s posible breach of some of it’s operating policies in an operation financed by the institution”.[1] At the same time it is trying to improve social and environmental results of the bank’s operations through its actions. Hence, the importance of this instrument for the protection of the environment and human rights in countries where the bank operates: and the worrying outcome of the changes that they are trying to introduce, that imply a clear weakening of the Mechanism and a clear step backwards in the process of strengthening itself, which started in 2010.

In 2010 the ICIM rightly replaced the failed and inefficient Independent Investigation Mechanism (IIM), which represented a good bet for the Bank to strengthen and make the mechanism more efficient. However, in the year 2013, they started new revision, which resulted, through the first phase of public consultation, in the elaboration of a draft policy revised by the ICIM, which was published by the Bank recently. The document was submitted to a second phase of public consultation that was recently finalised, last September 15th, where the bank received the opinions and commentaries of civil society at the same time.

It is under this mark that a group of more than 20 civil society organisations from different countries [2] are sending a document of Commentaries to the Revised Draft Policy, expressing their concerns about the changes that the bank are putting in place. The document, in which FUNDEPS has had active involvement, underlines the huge setback that the Bank’s proposal suggests, above all in terms of Accessibility and Independence of the Mechanism, and has set out a series of criticisms and recommendations, which include:

  • The revised policy not only represents a weakening and setback in relation to the mechanism which is still in place, but also in relation to the rest of the issuing mechanisms of existing accounts of institutions that are similar to the BID. Despite the majority of the mechanisms of said institutions have to facilitate and promote the access to its mechanisms: The BID  is trying to do the opposite by establishing a mechanism that is barely accessible, barely independent, and even less reliable or effective;
  • The Revised Draft Policy establishes dispositions that keep independence of the mechanism in check in addition to creating a lot of unnecessary obstacles that prevent access to it and makes the presentation of a request on behalf of those affected more complicated;
  • Over the course of the Bank’s revision process, a series of irregularities and scams have been noticed, especially those concerning Public Consultation and the inclusion of comments on civil society, which puts the legitimacy of the process in doubt; consequently the bank has to establish a participative and inclusive implementation process for the new mechanism which allows us to soften said irregularities.

In turn, the document raises a wide and detailed series of commentaries and suggestions regarding the revised draft policy in terms of implementation; Accessibility, Independence; Effectiveness; Structure, mandate and process; Terminology and definitions. (See full document)

FUNDEPS has been actively participating in the revision process of the ICIM (see communiqué “Organisations of civil society call for the IDB to carry out a effective and participative public consultation process for the second revision phase of the ICIM”) trying to avoid the weakening of the Mechanism, which would clearly result in the slightest possibilities of an amendment for those affected by the projects financed by the banks. Accordingly, and in the mark of its participation in the month of October in the next Annual Meeting of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington DC, the global governability team from FUNDEPS will carry out meetings regarding the Executive Board of the Bank and the personnel from ICIM with the aim of expressing the strong concerns of civil society regarding the revision of the Mechanism and avoiding the weakening of the Mechanism.

More information:

The ICIM Website

Proposal of Revised Policy

Summary of the Main Proposed Changes

Policy of the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism 2010 (actualmente en vigencia).

Attachments:  Comments to the ICIM Revised Draft Policy -IDB_-English.pdf

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator of the global governability programme
gon.roza@fundeps.org

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] See section of the ICIM on the IDB Website: http://www.iadb.org/es/mici/inicio,7736.html  [2] Accountability counsel of the USA-Environmental association and society of Colombia- Interamerican association for Environmental Defence (AIDA) in Mexico- Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in the USA – Commission for Justice and Peace in Colombia – United communities macroproject El Dorado Airport Colombia – AC Cooperative of Foundations in Mexico – Environmental right and natural resources (DAR) IN Peru – Ecoa in Brazil – EarthRights international in the USA- Foundation for the Environment and Natural resources (FARN) in Argentina – Public prosecutor for the environment (FIMA) in Chile – Citizen’s participation forum for justice and human rights (FOCO) in Argentina – Fundar, Analysis and investigation centre, AC in Mexico- Foundation for the development of sustainable policies (FUNDEPS) in Argentina- Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Law in the USA- Human Rights Council in Ethiopia- Jamaa Resource initiatives in Kenya- Natural Justice in South Africa- Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) in the USA – Social justice connection in Canada- centre for research on Multinational Organisations (SOMO) in Holland- Yansa foundation in the USA

Translation by: Luke Sidaway

In recent years, China has substantially increased its investments and funding for the development of the majority of the countries in Latin America. Civil society organizations are worried about environmental standards and human rights.

The recent tour of Latin America by the president of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping in Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, and the corresponding agreements both bilateral and multilateral signed by the president, did nothing but reinforce a tendency that has been growing little by little over the course of recent years: the growing presence of China in the region, resulting in a substantial increase in the amount of investments and funding for the development of the majority of the countries in Latin America.  Specific examples of this are the official visits, which, during 2013, were made by the president to Mexico, other Central American countries and the Caribbean, and the visits by the former Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile in 2012, which resulted in the creation of the China-Latin America Cooperation Fund.

If the main agreements signed during this presidential tour are analyzed, it is easy to see that the infrastructure sector is the leading destination of the Chinese investments, especially transportation and energy. For example, the agreements signed in Argentina involve the investment of more than $4,800,000 for the restoration of railroads (e.g. Belgrano Cargas), the funding of hydroelectric dams, and various agreements on the subject of nuclear energy, infrastructure, agriculture and the naval industry, among others (listed under signed agreements). In the case of Venezuela, the agreements involve funding social and infrastructure projects and an agreement with PDVSA for mineral research. In Brazil, the Chinese president attended the sixth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit at which the Reserve Fund and Development Bank of the BRICS (named New Development Bank) was established. The bank aims to mobilize resources for infrastructure projects and sustainable development in emerging and developing economies, and is considered an “alternative” to the World Bank and the IMF.

If the total numbers are observed, since 2005 onwards China has given loans to the region topping 100 billion dollars, in a relationship that many have defined as “mutually beneficial,” considering that China obtains the resources and raw materials that its growing economy demands (basically food and energy resources), while the Latin American countries access an important and needed source of external funding.

However, what has not been taken into account in this analysis and is being largely overlooked by the different Latin American stakeholders both public and private are the socio-envrionmental and human rights risks that can come with projects and initiatives funded in this way, which generally come with requirements and socio-environmental standards more flexible than traditional funding sources, like the World Bank or the IDB, for example. Projects funded this way continue to be strongly questioned by civil society for their inability to effectively address the protection of the environment and the human rights of the populations involved.

In turn, it is very difficult to access accurate and reliable information about the Chinese investments (amounts, conditions, characteristics of the funding, stakeholders, etc.) both in the region in general and in Argentina in particular, since there is not currently a large number of stakeholders (whether they be from the civil society, like academia, the private sector or even the public sphere) who are dedicated to detailed tracking and monitoring of this type of financing, and, more importantly, of its impacts and implications on each one of the countries.

In this type of scenario, where on one hand the amount of the investments and loans increase exponentially and on the other hand, the information is limited and ambiguous, some of the stakeholders in the civil society have begun to try to conduct research and monitoring, and have even built tools that allow a greater understanding of the characteristics and particularities of the Chinese investments in the region.

Recently, for example, the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CDES) in Ecuador presented the “Legal manual for Chinese environmental and social regulations for foreign loans and investments,” a theoretical and practical tool destined to serve as a guide for local communities and share the parameters in relation to rights and sustainability against Chinese investments and loans. The document, written by Paulina Garzón, represents a huge advance for the communities and the rest of the sectors of civil society involved and contributes substantially to a better comprehension of a topic of increasing relevance for our region.

Keeping in mind this increasing need, FUNDEPS has recently begun a project monitoring and tracking this topic in the framework of research and advocacy being carried out by the different regional stakeholders of the funding for development.

More information:

CDES – Legal manual for Chinese environmental and social regulations for foreign loans and investments

Contact: 

info@fundeps.org

Translated by Lindsay Graham  

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

Through the intense internal work done by the Latin American Civil Society in 2013, 2014 appears to be a key year for encouraging transparency and access to information within BNDES and thus aiming to strengthen the regime of socio-environmental safeguards of the Institution.

The Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) constitutes, nowadays, one of the main financial sources of infrastructural work in the Latin American region, Argentina being one of its principal clients. However, the strong growth that the Bank has experienced in its number of activities throughout the recent decades and that it has been allowed to cross the national borders of Brazil with its operations has not come accompanied by the corresponding adjustment in its operational policies and rules of operation to the high standards currently in the Latin American countries, including in International Financial Institutions or multilateral bodies that operate in the region, such as the World Bank, the IADB or the Inter-American Development Bank, among others. At least in terms of socio-environmental safeguards, public participation and transparency; which is an important concern for the Civil Society of Latin America, since a large part of the projects financed by BNDES result in enormous socio-environmental impacts in the territories in which they develop, and the possibilities of participation and of access to information of such projects is extremely limited.

In this context, during 2013 FUNDEPS has worked, alongside a group of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), as many being Brazilian ones, as ones from the rest of the South American countries, in the effort to clarify the actions and financings of this Institution in the region. Thus, for example, through having participated in various workshops about the operation of BNDES created in the months of June and October 2013 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, FUNDEPS took active participation in the International Workshop of the Civil Society “BNDES’s Agenda: dialogues, convergences and incidence” carried out on the 26th and 27th of November, in the city of Brasilia (Brazil). In this event FUNDEPS presented, alongside other organizations of the region, the document “Guidelines for the Discussion on the Implementation of a Policy of Access to Information for BNDES”, which contains a Model Policy of Access to Information for the Bank and a series of counter-arguments against the reasons alleged by the institution to restrict the information. Both resources have the aim to serve as basic and essential tools for the future incident actions regarding the Organization.

In that regard, 2014 seems to be a key year, since the Bank has decided to open the gateway for dialogue with the Civil Society and to set up an institutionalized space for discussion with the SCOs, where different subject matters concerning the operation and functioning of the Organization are addressed. The first of these meetings, agreed on for February of 2014, will approach the subject of Transparency and Access to Information within BNDES fairly, which with a doubt forms a unique opportunity to work alongside the Bank with a view to perfect its regime of transparency and access to information. The bad news is that this space will be restricted, at least for the moment, to Brazilian organizations only, without participation of the rest of the organizations in the region. Despite this impediment, FUNDEPS will continue working throughout 2014 in the effort to make the actions of BNDES clear and ensure that the Bank adopts an appropriate Policy of Access to Information, a prerequisite to be able to effectively influence the strengthening of the socio-environmental safeguards applied to the projects financed by the Institution.

Resource:

Document of Work – Transparencia en el BNDES. Una agenda de desarrollo. (Transparency in BNDES. A Development Agenda)

Contact:

Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator of the Global Governability Programme

gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Max Jeremiah

The creation of this open space received a warm welcome from civil society organizations and movements. Additionally, it underlined the importance of ensuring mechanisms of transparency, accountability and community participation, as UNASUR is a space from which large projects with a significant impact can be initiated.

With a number of important national and regional organisations and social movements in attendance, the Preparatory Meeting of UNASUR’s first Citizen’s Participation Forum took place on 19th and 20th September in Buenos Aires. Organised by the Argentine Ministry of  Foreign Affairs and Worship, the main purpose of the meeting was to agree with South American citizens the Forum’s Operating Guidelines which were approved by the Heads of Council and Heads of State of UNASUR’s Governing body in August 2013; and to discuss its internal structure and workings, in light of the first Citizens Participation Forum (CPF) due to take place in November in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia.

The meeting’s dynamics were based on the organisation of work groups made up of representatives from South American social groups and various representatives and civil servants of UNASUR’s member States. Each group discussed all three of the main topics on the agenda: the Internal Workings of the Forum; regional topics for discussion by the Forum; and the “Route Map” leading up to the first Forum in Cochabamba.

The creation of a citizen participation space, as part of  the integration process at a regional and national level which UNASUR is taking forward is welcome and long anticipated, and is the result of what is stipulated in Article 18 of their Founding Treaty. For this reason, the majority of the social groups which took part in the meeting asked that the political decision of member States to pursue the creation of the Citizen Participation Forum be highlighted and congratulated.

At any rate, during the conference the work groups reflected their intention to validate and strengthen this initiative, as well as strongly emphasising the need to work exhaustively and continually on the internal workings of the Forum in order to reach an effective level of operation. As a result, amongst other things, it underlined the importance of:

  •  The need for UNASUR, and the CPF generally, to support the principle of Transparency and Free Access to Information in their operation, which means providing citizens with information (such as topics for discussion, documents, agreements, work schedules etc.) in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • Implementing clear, simple and practical mechanisms for guaranteeing broad and inclusive participation in the CPF, placing special emphasis on the participation of grassroots communities, indigenous people and other stakeholders.
  • Guaranteeing civil participation in the Sectoral Councils of UNASUR and other forums and institutional mechanisms which have been, or will be, created in the future. This is due to the heterogenous nature of work agendas and the interests of different social groups which makes up the CPF and the need to be able to take part in specific area topics associated with the South American integration process.
  • Member countries committing to provide the CPF with sufficient budget so that it can be properly implemented, paying specific attention to issues of participation and communication in relation to the Forum, internally and externally.
  • An action plan with targets for the realisation of the first Citizen’s Participation Forum in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia.

It should be noted that participation in the CPF is open to any South American organisation, social movement, community or individual, for which it brings together and encourages everyone interested in participating in a process destined to play an important role in the integration of the South American people. For this reason, time and again throughout the meeting, the representative of the Argentinian Foreign Ministry, Marcela Bordenave, Focal Point for Citizen Participation in Argentina in respect of UNASUR emphasised that: “South American integration is not an issue for governments. It is a matter for the people”.

See the minutes of the Meeting of South America Social Groups to prepare for the first Citizen Participation Forum of UNASUR.

For more information:

Página Web de UNASUR

Página web de Cancillería Argentina – Sección de la Subsecretaría de Política Latinoamericana

Tratado Constitutivo de UNASUR

Directrices para el Funcionamiento del Foro de Participación Ciudadana de UNASUR

Declaración de Paramaribo – Agosto de 2013

Decisión N°2/2013 de UNASUR – Aprobación de las Directrices del Foro de Participación Ciudadana

Decisión N°7/2012 de UNASUR – Creación del Foro de Participación Ciudadana

Contact:

Lic. Gonzalo Roza / Programme Coordinator of Global Governance
gon.roza@fundeps.org

Translated by: Stephen Routledge