IFI governance


IFC slammed by Anthropologists Association

15 April 1998

In April Jane Hill, President of the American Anthropological Association, wrote a strong letter to Bank Group President James Wolfensohn and Carol Lee, IFC Vice President and General Counsel. It complained about the treatment of Dr Downing, a prominent US-based anthropologist hired to independently review the IFC-supported Pangue dam, Chile but whose findings were severely cut before publication. The letter states that

“The IFC and its project partners placed Dr. Downing in a profound conflict of professional ethics that he had specifically sought to preclude through the insertion of special language in his contractual agreement with the IFC. I protest this. Dr. Downing is owed an apology and reinstatement of his working relationship with the Bank Group.”

The letter continues that the Pangue project violated the human rights of the Pehuenche indigenous people who were not informed of the project’s ramifications. The IFC poorly monitored the Pehuen Foundation, which was supposed to protect them. Timber on Pehuenche lands was appropriated and the IFC turned a blind eye to the linkage between the Pangue Dam and the Ralco Dam soon to be built upstream.

The letter concludes that, while the Pangue controversy helped persuade the IFC to draft new guidelines for disclosure of environmental and social impacts, “this is helpful but insufficient”. She recommends that the Bank Group:

  1. adopts a uniform and uniformly binding commitment to guarantee the human rights of all groups impacted by its development projects,
  2. institute organizational changes that will prevent project implementation from ignoring Bank Group directives on human rights, resettlement and participation by local populations.

The full letter and report are on: www.ameranthassn.org/pehuenc.htm

  • Many NGOs have commented on the IFC‘s draft social and environmental policies. Among NGOs’ concerns are that some policy provisions are loosely worded and vague, that company, government and IFC responsibilities are notclearly delineated, and that the IFC‘s overall strategy for selecting which projects to support is unclear. Whilst it is taking some positive steps, the IFC does not demand sufficiently proactive consultations with local communities and NGOs about potential projects. The IFC will reply soon and then submit the final policies to the Board.

Most of the NGO and academic comments are on the Society for Applied Anthropology web site: www.anthrotech.com/ISCSfAA