Bank president James Wolfensohn surprised NGOs at the annual meetings by suggesting that he would consider establishing a new world commission to look into concerns about the oil, gas and mining industries. Responding to a question from Ricardo Navarro, Chairman of Friends of the Earth International, for a ban on World Bank financing for projects in the extractive industries, Wolfensohn said he was willing to look into a mechanism to “look at the pluses and the minuses, and see if together we can come up with something that will either lead to an exclusion or to an inclusion on certain terms of what we are doing.” Wolfensohn suggested this could be similar to the World Commission on Dams (WCD), the multi-stakeholder body set up two years ago in response to campaigns against the World Bank’s involvement in destructive dam projects. This body, whilst controversial in a number of aspects of its formation and execution, has generated much interesting material on the impacts of dams, and is likely to endorse a number of approaches that NGOs have been suggesting for some time. Groups will then have to work to ensure that funding agencies, governments and companies accept and implement the proposals.
Strategy discussions have begun to take place between NGOs most closely involved in the oil, gas and mining campaign and others who are veterans of the WCD processes. It does not appear that any new commission will be established in the near future, but many options for clarifying and limiting the World Bank’s aggressive promotion of extractive industries are being considered.
Nelson Mandela will launch the final WCD report in London on 16 November. Regional launches will also be held in Bangkok, New Delhi, New York, Sao Paulo and Cape Town.