Extractive Industries Review gets harsh reception

17 January 2002

NGOs say the World Bank’s Extractive Industries Review (EIR), launched at a workshop in Brussels at the end of October, has severe shortcomings. The EIR is an international consultation process aiming to produce recommendations to guide World Bank Group involvement in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

Four main “interest groups” are to be consulted during the review: governments, business, civil society and the Bank itself.

However many NGOs are concerned that the review process will not be adequately independent of the World Bank, that different stakeholders may not get their views adopted and that the Bank may not adopt its recommendations. An analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies, USA, comments that: “from the beginning, World Bank staff have promised a process that was transparent, inclusive, and participatory. To date, the EIR has failed on all of these counts”. The Bank has claimed that this review will be similar to the World Commission on Dams (WCD). However, civil society organisations such as Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links argue that this process does not “bear comparison” with the WCD. Whereas the WCD had twelve commissioners, who were chosen by consensus among stakeholders, the EIR relies on a single “eminent person” as the ultimate decision-making authority.

The Terms of Reference has also come under fire, because it states that the oil, gas and mining “industries make a positive contribution to sustainable development and poverty reduction”. NGOs feel this predetermines the conclusions and, as Friends of the Earth put it, “the EIR [is] only a process for legitimising further World Bank engagement in the sector.”

At the planning workshop in Brussels, concerns were raised about the tight time constraints for the review process. Emil Salim, the former Indonesian environment minister chosen by the Bank to be the eminent person leading the review, said this was because a draft report must be prepared by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in early September. NGO and company representatives also raised other concerns. These included the EIR‘s inadequate independence from the World Bank Group, especially as the EIR Secretariat will be located inside the Bank’s buildings. They also said that the oil, gas and mining sectors were diverse and hard to assess in one review.

In early January there were signs that a number of NGOs are losing patience with the EIR and are unlikely to participate.

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