NGOs continue challenge to Bank on oil, gas and mining

25 March 2002

Following the concerns raised about the Extractive Industries Review (EIR) process, its terms of reference have been revised. NGOs consider that important procedural changes have been made but that problems remain. NGOs’ determination not simply to rely on this review process to change the Bank’s approach to oil, gas and mining is shown by a new campaign launched in France.

Emil Salim, the eminent person leading the Bank’s review, wrote to World Bank President James Wolfensohn in January saying he had concluded that “a number of fundamental changes are needed in the way we are approaching this”. Salim argued that he did not have sufficient time, independence from the Bank or the full trust and cooperation of major stakeholders – all of which he felt were essential for the review’s success.

The Bank accepted changes to the review’s timeframe, and to the location of the EIR secretariat. The latter is now based in Jakarta, although some staff will remain in Washington. The EIR consultation report is now due in June 2003. However despite time frame modification the EIR‘s budget has not been increased. In his reply to Emil Salim, James Wolfensohn wrote that “the Board of the World Bank was adamant that the budget for the EIR should not be extended beyond the amount already set aside”. Salim has complained that half the $3 million budget has been pre-allocated for World Bank staff to attend meetings and for the EIR secretariat. Nonetheless Emil Salim now considers that the changes made, reflected in new terms of reference, allow the review to be carried out.

NGOs that have been following the process closely such as the Center for International Environmental Law, Bank Information Center, Friends of the Earth-US, Institute for Policy Studies and Oxfam America, consider it “flawed, but potentially worthwhile”. They argue that the process is still “too rushed”, the budget “inadequate”, and that participation of Bank staff in consultations will place the Bank in too influential a position. In addition they are not clear what impact the EIR consultations and report will have on World Bank operations. NGOs taking part in a similar consultation, the World Commission on Dams, have been highly disappointed by the failure to implement its conclusions (see, page 2). It is still unclear which NGOs will engage significantly in the EIR process. They will have to decide quickly, as the first regional consultation is scheduled for April 16-19 in Brazil.

NGOs throughout the world have been campaigning strongly against World Bank support for extractive industries. Following other initiatives, such as a call by Friends of the Earth International for a phase out of IFI funding for fossil fuel and mining projects, French organisations have launched a new campaign denouncing the social and environmental impacts of World Bank-funded oil, gas and mining projects. They complain that extractive industries create little economic growth and fuel human rights violations, armed conflicts, displacements, deforestation, biodiversity destruction and climate change. “Ca carbure au Nord, ca chauffe au Sud!” is run by Agir ici, AITEC and CRID, together with Friends of the Earth France, Greenpeace and the French Climate Action Network, and is supported by 34 other groups. It asks French decision-makers and the Bank’s President to ensure that the World Bank does not back any oil, gas and mining projects that would endanger sensitive areas and go against local communities’ wishes. In practice it would exclude projects from indigenous peoples’ territories, biodiversity ‘hotspots’, pristine marine areas, and primary forests. The campaign also asks the Bank to take full responsibility for damages already inflicted on populations and their environment, to make reparations, and to shift its financing towards renewable forms of energy favouring the needs of poorer people.

Extractive Industries Review

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