US water multinational Bechtel Corporation dropped its $50 million legal case in January against the people of Cochabamba for ending its contract to provide water to the citizens of Bolivia’s third-largest city. In April 2000, the company was forced to leave following massive protests against average rate hikes of over fifty per cent. In 2002, the company filed the legal action against Bolivia at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (see Update 27). NGO The Democracy Center says this sends a message to other corporations that “we will make you defend your actions in the court of world opinion, not behind closed doors where only a handful of lawyers has a voice”.
EarthRights International examines how the Jam v. IFC case has helped to shift the landscape of accountability for international financial institutions by successfully challenging their claim to “absolute” immunity in US courts, potentially opening IFC up to further legal challenges in future.
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