Indigenous groups angered by Bank policy decisions

26 November 2002

Indigenous peoples and NGOs supporting them have released angry statements about the World Bank’s indigenous peoples and forests policies.

Indigenous peoples representatives gathered in Washington in mid-October to discuss the Bank’s draft indigenous peoples’ policy. After their meeting they released a statement saying the Bank had not addressed their concerns or proposals to improve the policy. “We reject this draft revised policy because it does not respect our rights guaranteed under international law”. Their statement presents fifteen “minimum principles” for revising the policy, including:

  • prohibiting Bank funding of projects or programmes that risk contravening the borrowers’ international obligations on human rights and the environment;
  • extending the coverage to address structural adjustment lending;
  • recognising the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent to development proposals affecting their lands.

Later in October the Bank Board approved a new forests policy, despite objections from some governments and many NGOs. The new policy reverses the 1991 policy which banned Bank funding for logging primary moist tropical forests. Instead the new policy aims to prevent Bank operations which would cause “significant” damage to “critical forests”. NGOs are deeply concerned about who will decide what are ‘significant’ and ‘critical’ interventions and because the policy does not apply to adjustment loans.

The Bank has also launched a new five year process to review and revise its entire safeguard policy framework. The Bretton Woods Project will release a short briefing on this in December. sguards@brettonwoodsproject.org

Briefings on indigenous and forest policies, FPP, October 2002

New Bank safeguards framework proposal, October 2002

IFC safeguard policy framework review, October 2002