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MRG and Lex Justi issue final remarks on the World Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework

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Batwa women in Uganda. Credit: MRG/Emma Eastwood

After having participated in the consultations held by the World Bank on its draft Environmental and Social Framework, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and Lex Justi issue our analysis of the document as adopted last month.

‘When reviewing the final results of the negotiations, our main feeling is relief,’ comments Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. ‘The results are certainly mixed, but they could have been so much worse.’

At stake, for instance, has been whether the World Bank would affirm international human rights norms. The previous draft had stated that it merely ‘shares the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,’ and that any promotion of human rights would depend on whether they were consistent with the World Bank’s Articles of Agreement. Civil society representatives were uniformly critical, pointing out that the proposed wording would have placed the World Bank out of step with the rest of the UN system.

‘The language in the final version is better, but can safely be described as luke-warm,’ notes Corinne Lewis, managing partner of Lex Justi. ‘The World Bank’s activities now “support the realization of human rights” as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Why couldn’t they just have said they will promote respect?’

Another key issue in the consultations has been the Environmental and Social Standard 7 (ESS7) specifically concerning indigenous peoples. In previous drafts, there was a real danger that borrowing governments would be able to opt out totally and put its provisions aside. And even during the final negotiations, there were rumours that governments were demanding that the central principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) was going to be reformulated and softened.

‘The dropping of the ESS7 opt out clause was a major victory for indigenous community representatives and their civil society allies,’ emphasises Lewis. ‘But reading the fine print, we see that a number of wording changes have restricted application of FPIC in a very worrying way. With increasing demand for land, the lack of sufficient FPIC protections means that indigenous peoples’ rights, and even the very existence of their communities, may be at risk with some of the World Bank’s investment projects.’

Preliminary consultations began in October 2012 and a first draft was presented to the World Bank Board in 2014. Extensive series of consultation meetings were held on the basis of that draft and a subsequent one before the World Bank Board approved the final text on 4 August 2016.

MRG and Lex Justi staff attended the consultation sessions held in London in 2015 and Brussels in 2016, and submitted detailed comments on both drafts.

Notes to editors

  • The full text of the MRG and Lex Justi analysis of the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework can be found here.
  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • Lex Justi is a specialist law firm that provides legal consulting services to a range of clients, including law firms, multi-national companies and international and nongovernmental organizations, in two diverse but dynamic areas of law.
  • For interviews please contact:

Corinne Lewis, Corinne Lewis, managing partner of Lex Justi

T:  +32 491 562 644

E: clewis@lexjusti.com

Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications

T: +44 (0)207 4224227

E: carl.soderbergh@mrgmail.org

Photo: Batwa women in Uganda. Credit: Emma Eastwood/MRG.

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