Asia-Pacific groups walk out of Bank extractives review

26 May 2003

Civil society groups walked out of the Asia-Pacific meeting of the World Bank Extractive Industries Review (EIR) at the end of April. Coming after many other complaints about the process this raises major questions about whether the results of the Review – due to be released in December – can be portrayed as the result of a fair multi-stakeholder engagement.

The 15 Asia-Pacific groups emphasised in their statement that some key NGO groups and mine-affected communities had always refused to participate in the review of the World Bank’s role in extractive industries because they saw it as a deeply flawed and inadequate process. The groups which attended the April EIR consultation in Bali, Indonesia, said they had decided to play an active role in the EIR consultation process, but “this goodwill has not been reciprocated”. They questioned the non-transparent selection of academics and experts and complained that “extremely important issues of militarization, and structural adjustment policies and their link to the extractive sector have been completely left off the agenda despite specific requests”.

More importantly they questioned the seriousness of the Asia-Pacific consultation when they learned about a draft document produced by the EIR in February which claimed to comprise a “Compilation of Consultation Inputs” but was produced prior to the Bali meeting, the indigenous peoples’ consultation and one for the Middle East-North Africa which will take place in late June.

This document – which had been circulated among the extractive industry representatives and the World Bank – contained interim conclusions of the EIR process – including that:

  1. The World Bank Group should remain in extractive industries.
  2. Oil, mining and gas projects can be a tool for poverty alleviation.
  3. The World Bank Group can be a leader in tackling environmental and social issues associated with extractive industries.

The groups rejected these, saying a wide range of evidence, including from a recently leaked report from the Bank’s own Operations Evaluation Department, indicates that World Bank support for this sector has not reduced poverty.

As a result of these concerns they said they “can no longer continue within a process in which they have already lost faith”. In his response the EIR Eminent Person – former Indonesian environment minister Emil Salim – blamed the NGOs for poor preparation and said he was open to having NGOs participate in an advisory panel. This is not likely to satisfy his critics, who were gathering for a global strategy meeting at the end of May.