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The Upstream Journal

A magazine on social justice since 1975

Posts Tagged / world bank

  • Aug 03 / 2014
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Journal

Aid and debt follow natural disaster

Marcos

Bust of Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator who embezzled $10 billion. International creditors still collect payments from the people of the Philippines because of their loans to his corrupt regime.

After super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, nations and charities were praised for their quick response. The United Kingdom offered more than $110 million in grants and humanitarian assistance, and the US promised $90.5 million.  They did not offer to cancel debt payments.

In 2014 it is estimated that the Philippines will have to spend $8.8 billion on debt service, almost as much as the $8.99 billion it will spend on infrastructure projects and reconstruction.

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  • Jun 04 / 2014
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The World Bank disregards international human rights standards

The Chad-Cameroon Pipeline that was more harmful than beneficial.  Photo by Ken Doerr.

The Chad-Cameroon pipeline, a World Bank project that critics say was more harmful than beneficial. Photo by Ken Doerr.

The World Bank is planning to include a policy against discrimination in its new social safeguard standards. This is a big step forward for the institution, because it has refused to adopt explicit commitments to protect human rights in the past.

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  • May 14 / 2014
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Journal

High Costs, Small Benefits – World Bank-Funded Dams

Floods due to constructions at Yacyreta dam Photo by: International Rivers

Floods due to constructions at Yacyreta dam
Photo by: International Rivers

“The World Bank funds large dam projects, but does little to help the displaced millions who are forced to relocate. The most recent data available indicates that 1.9 million people are being displaced by projects in the Bank’s current portfolio and that these numbers continue to grow.” (International Rivers) Continue Reading

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  • Nov 10 / 2012
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World Bank told to get real, be more sensitive

The 2012 evaluation, “Results and Performance of the World Bank Group,”  found that it continues to fall short of its goals, mainly because it needs to be more realistic and sensitive to the local “political economy”

The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group examined the effectiveness of its activities. Here are excerpts from its recent annual report, along with our take on what it means:

“Although country programs have met their objectives more often than not, the record falls short of the 70 percent performance standard set in the World Bank’s Corporate Scorecard. There is little disagreement on the need to strengthen realism and results frameworks for country programs, a finding supported by recent IEG country program evaluations and an evaluation of the Bank’s matrix system. Realistic country programs typically show an understanding of the country’s political economy and are characterized by selectivity and focus on areas in which the Bank can best add value.”

Upstream’s translation: The World Bank continues to neglect the needs of the people it is supposed to serve, operates in an imagined environment, and leaves out stuff it doesn’t like – like human rights abuse and oppression.

“In infrastructure, agriculture, and beyond, evaluations regularly stress the relevance of high-quality project design and effective progress monitoring to project outcomes. They repeatedly refer to overambitious project design, inadequate consultation with stakeholders, insufficient candor during supervision, and failure to follow up on problems identified during supervision missions as reasons for less-than-satisfactory achievements.”

Upstream’s translation: When you don’t include the people affected, things don’t work.

“Human development was the only area in which the share of projects rated moderately satisfactory or better in development outcome ratings improved between FY06–08 and FY09–11. Although the change is not statistically significant, it is a positive development for the sectors that can be examined further.”

“Since the mid-2000s, ratings for human development operations have been poorer than those in other areas.”
Upstream’s translation: The economy, not the people, is still the point of World Bank programs.

“Dialogue with a range of stakeholders is important in driving the demand for change. An in-depth understanding of political economy and associated risks is key to assessing ownership of and opposition to a particular intervention, as well as the likelihood that it will succeed and its eventual impact. More effective management of governance and anticorruption risks calls for greater consistency in the Bank’s approach to setting risk tolerances across client countries as well as a harmonized control framework across Bank financing instruments.”

Upstream’s translation: Another way of saying that the people affected don’t have a say, their realities aren’t taken seriously, and the World Bank’s Washington-based technocrats need to get real.

What wasn’t in the report? No mention of these words or phrases: human rights, rights-based development, consent, empowerment.

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  • Nov 10 / 2012
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Talking about climate change – but not about it’s biggest cause and who is responsible

In the World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4C Warmer World Must be Avoided”(Nov. 2012), World Bank President Jim Yong Kim gave these comments on climate change:

“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.

This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.”

Coal-fired power plants are the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, yet coal was not mentioned at all in that World Bank report. And it wasn’t mentioned in a Washington Post editorial by Kim in January on the World Bank’s role in climate change.

1,199 new coal-fired plants are being proposed worldwide, according to the World Resources Institute.* China and India together account for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacities. Among the largest developers of new coal-fired plants are the “Big Five” Chinese power companies, the world’s biggest coal-fired power producers. China consumes more coal than the next ten largest consumer nations combined.

Japan, the World Bank and the US provide more than half of the world’s public international finance of coal-fired power plants.
Japan 27 projects, $10.1 billion
World Bank 29 projects, $5.3 billion
United States 23 projects, $4.2 billion
Asian Development Bank 21 projects, $3.9 billion
Germany 12 projects, $3 billion
China 7 projects, $3.1 billion
European Investment Bank 9 projects, $2.5 billion
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 9 projects, $869 million

Others public funders: Italy, Korea, United Kingdom, the African Development Bank, Italy, France, Norway, Spain, Canada, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, Switzerland and Netherlands. Total: $37 billion for 156 projects.
* Ailun, Yang, and Yiyun Cui. 2012. “Global Coal Risk Assessment: Data Analysis and Market Research”. WRI Working Paper. World Resources Institute, Washington DC. Available online at wri.org.

 

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  • Jan 01 / 2012
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New energy strategy may be an improvement, but will it be enough?

The World Bank is preparing a new energy sector strategy that it says will respond to the need to increase energy access for the poor while supporting the shift towards environmentally-sustainable development. To provide large energy supplies, the Bank continues to invest in oil, coal and fossil fuel-powered plants that have large environmental impacts, so its energy strategy is a concern for environmentalist groups.
Environmentalist NGOs note progressive steps in the latest draft, but are concerned with several aspects:
– the lack of clear screening procedures and requirements for projects to promote decentralized and environmentally sustainable projects,
– the lack of a clear definition of “clean energy,”
– the promotion of hydropower without appropriate guidelines.
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  • May 01 / 2011
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World Bank strengthens its human rights policy

“Consulation” no longer good enough:Consent of local indigenous people now required for commercial projects

The World Bank division that funds private sector projects, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), recently revised its operating guidelines to require the “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) of indigenous people for projects affecting them. This replaces a much-criticized policy that only required “consultation” with local people.

Human rights groups are pleased with the change, for which they have lobbied for years, but are concerned that the new policy – set out in what are called “Performance Standards” – does not go far enough and that the IFC will limit its use. In February, several international NGOs sent a letter to the IFC claiming, among other things, that the “IFC’s current approach does not include a clear commitment to ensuring that human rights are respected and protected in the context of its activities. IFC’s approach is also inconsistent with, and undermines, the emerging international consensus on the responsibility of companies to take concrete actions to ensure that they respect human rights.” Continue Reading

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  • May 10 / 2010
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Journal

eye on the World Bank and IMF:Experts assess compliance by Department of Finance with law requiring human rights in international aid

In 2008, the Canadian government passed the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Accountability Act in order to increase the effectiveness of Canadian aid money in developing countries.  The Act stipulates that through its ODA, Canada must contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of the poor, and be consistent with international human rights issues.

10% of Canadian ODA is channeled to the World Bank by way of the Department of Finance. While the World Bank claims that it informally supports human rights, there is no operations policy that enforces them; the Bank claims that human rights is a political issue that falls beyond the scope of its mandate.

So, how does Department of Finance plan to uphold the Act with regards to human rights standards? Continue Reading

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  • Nov 01 / 2009
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Journal

Moving Out of Poverty: Success from the Bottom Up

 Deepa Narayan, Lant Pritchett & Soumya Kapoor. 428 pages. A co-publication of the World Bank and Pelgrave MacMillan, 2009.

movingpoverty
Moving Out of Poverty is an engaging read and will be of interest to the academic, the development practitioner, the policy maker and indeed anyone who has an interest in the poverty eradication and economic development effort. The book’s observations and findings are based on first hand narratives and life stories as told by more than 60,000 people, from 500 communities across 21 regions in 15 countries – a truly massive undertaking. It provides an inside look at the lives of the poor, the near poor and even the not so poor. It identifies, from their varied perspectives, the challenges, constraints and obstacles to moving out of poverty and the sometimes more challenging task of staying out of poverty. It effectively consolidates these stories into discussions around the determinants of poverty and what is important at the individual and household level in the fight to reduce poverty.
Regardless of one’s experience in economics, development, sociology or other social science, the book is certain to change one’s views about the nature of poverty. By starting at the ground floor, in talking to thousands and thousands of people, a level of clarity and insight into the condition of poverty is achieved that has rarely been attained elsewhere. And the authors emphasize that poverty is a condition. Throughout the book, the poor themselves are clear in describing poverty as a condition that they temporarily find themselves in; it is not perceived as permanent, or something that defines them. One is not a “poor person”, one is simply presently experiencing poverty. Continue Reading

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  • Nov 01 / 2009
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Journal

Notes from the corridors

World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn speak with NGOs.  The reception hall featured a display of mannequins in fashion from around the world.  Photo: World Bank

World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn speak with NGOs. The reception hall featured a display of mannequins in fashion from around the world. Photo: World Bank

Wednesday

I arrive in Washington at noon, depressed as I consider the financial crisis and what it will mean for people in impoverished countries. It’s time for the main policy meetings of the World Bank and IMF, and NGOs like me take part in some of the dozens of meetings that are planned.

I take the metro from the airport to the guesthouse to drop off my bag, and within an hour I’m at my first session, on gender and income. It’s not a hopeful start. Money from production goes increasingly to corporate profit, and less to wages, and the financial bailouts are reinforcing inequalities. Continue Reading

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