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Report: World Bank failed to protect poor from land eviction

world bank


by Joseph Earnest April 16, 2015


Newscast Media WASHINGTONThe World Bank often violates its own rules by failing to protect the people whose ancestral lands and livelihoods are in the paths of the project it bankrolls, an investigative report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media partners revealed.


According to ICIJ's team of around 50 journalists,  a total of 3,350,449 people were physically or economically displaced by a World Bank project between 2004 and 2013, after a 11-month investigation. (pop-up)

The first story in the investigation, tells the story of indigenous peoples in western Kenya who claim they’re being forced from their ancestral forests by a World Bank conservation program. In addition, the investigation takes a look at mass evictions in Ethiopia tied to a World Bank project and an examination of a Peruvian gold mine backed by the bank’s private-sector investment arm.

The reporting partners analyzed thousands of World Bank records, interviewed hundreds of people and reported on the ground in 14 countries – Albania, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, South Sudan and Uganda.

In Uganda, the World Bank has been accused after a 2012 investigation, of providing millions in funding and technical support to a large-scale project causing communities to lose access to land for farming, forest products and water supplies. Despite promises of employment, local people have lost their means of livelihood and are now struggling to make ends meet, as shown below:


According to the Guardian, the farmers who were wrongly evicted filed a lawsuit over a month ago suing the foreign investors who evicted them. The farmers, with the support of Friends of the Earth Uganda, are demanding restitution and fair compensation for damages, three years after their land was taken for plantation development. The case is Ugandan farmers vs. Palm Oil Giant Wilmar.

The ICIJ confirms a 2011 Oakland Institute study that revealed Ethiopians were being forcefully evicted because of World Bank projects that were underway. (pop-up)

The 3,350,449 people were either forced out of their homes, deprived of some or all of their land, or had their livelihoods damaged by one of nearly 1,000 projects funded or administered by the World Bank over a ten year period. (pop-up)

These displacements are in direct violation of the World Bank's own policies contained in its Operational Manual. When it comes to ressetlement, the manual reads:

OP 4.12 - Involuntary Resettlement:

2. Involuntary resettlement may cause severe long-term hardship, impoverishment, and environmental damage unless appropriate measures are carefully planned and carried out. For these reasons, the overall objectives of the Bank's policy on involuntary resettlement are the following:

(a) Involuntary resettlement should be avoided where feasible, or minimized, exploring all viable alternative project designs. (pop-up)

The reporting team interviewed hundreds of people and analyzed more than 6,000 bank documents. Days after ICIJ informed the World Bank that the team’s investigation had found "systemic gaps" in the bank’s enforcement of its "social safeguard" rules, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim acknowledged "major problems" with the bank’s resettlement policies and vowed to seek reforms.

The investigation’s key findings include:

  • Over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods.
  • The World Bank has regularly failed to live up to its own policies for protecting people harmed by projects it finances.
  • The World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp., have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases the lenders have continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.
  • Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.
  • From 2009 to 2013, World Bank Group lenders pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for “irreversible or unprecedented” social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.

The global media team led by ICIJ includes more than 20 news organizations.


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