Of its social and environmental safeguard policies
By Cong B. Corrales
International human rights groups have sounded alarm bells over a leaked draft of the World Bank’s proposed revision of its safeguard policies since it is seen to endanger local communities affected by the bank’s funded projects—specifically indigenous people’s communities.
The World Bank is currently revising its social and environmental safeguard policies. These are policies designed to prevent people and the environment from being harmed by Bank-funded projects.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the leaked draft policy because it includes a provision that would allow governments to “opt-out” of applying specific protections for indigenous peoples if the latter believes such requirement would raise ethnic conflict or contravene constitutional law.
“(It is) essentially rendering protections for indigenous peoples optional,” the HRW said in a press statement.
Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, non-governmental human rights organization made up of roughly 400 staff members around the globe. Its staff consists of human rights professional including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
While the intention of the World Bank in revising its safeguard policy may be good, it is the lack of consultation that has generated concern among local indigenous peoples.
In an online interview, National Anti-Poverty Commission for Indigenous Peoples Basic Sector Council Member Bae Rose Undag told PCIJ that she sees no problem with the World Bank revising its safeguard policy but it could have conducted consultations with the stakeholders.
“I think their intention is good, in particular with Land Bank because they mentioned that they respect the FPIC (Free, Prior, and Informed Consent) mechanism. But it would have been better if we were included in the consultations so that we could discuss collectively arrive in a more transparent process,” Undag said in the dialect.
However, she added that she will consult her members regarding the World Bank’s intention in revising its safeguard policy so they can come up with a collective stand on the issue.
A MOUNTAIN STILL STANDING GAZES at what could be its fate should mining operations resume in Sipalay City. At the foot of the mountain is the old millsite of the Maricalum Mining Corporation. What seems to be a lake is a former mountain, levelled then dug up by MMC. Estimated to be more than 20 hectares wide and more than a kilometer deep, this open pit was the source of copper of Maricalum for decades until its closure in the 90s. Image taken May 2011 in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.
“As far as I know this has already starting (revision of World Bank’s safeguard policy). This was one of the issues we discussed during the WCIP (World Conference on Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations) last September,” she said in the dialect.
Undag represented the country in the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples which was held in New York City, September, this year.
The meeting was designed for delegates to share their perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples. The discussions also included engaging the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
World Bank-funded projects in the Philippines include the Post Typhoon Recovery Loan, Cebu Bud Rapid Transit (BRT) Project, Philippine Rural Development Project, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Implementation Project.
HRW also cited the Bank on Human Rights reiteration of the World Bank and its member countries’ obligation to ensure that investments in dams, roads, or other projects do not result in forced evictions, labor abuses, or other rights violations.
“Instead, the Bank appears to be moving to a blank-check system, where communities will have no clear protections and little ability to seek recourse if their rights are violated,” Gretchen Gordon, Bank on Human Rights coalition coordinator, said in its
“The release of the new draft safeguards has caused considerable concern. Despite some improvement, the new framework proposes to remove much of the procedural requirements and enforceability of the current safeguards, including critical protections for indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, and communities which may be resettled because of development,” the Bank on Human Rights said in its separate statement on the World Bank policy draft.
Bank on Human Rights is a newly formed global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations, and grassroots groups working to ensure that all development finance institutions respect human rights.
The HRW advisory quoted Forest Peoples Programme Director Joji Carino as saying that the indigenous peoples’ recommendations to strengthen World Bank standards and bring them into line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have fallen on deaf ears.
“World Bank pledges on ‘no-dilution’ of existing policies are being broken with this proposed ‘opt-out,’ despite advances made in other substantive areas of the new proposals,” HRW quoted Carino as saying.
Forest Peoples Programme was founded in 1990 in response to the forest crisis, specifically to support indigenous forest peoples’ struggles to defend their lands and livelihoods.