Smart assessment: Capturing and managing human rights risks

10 April 2014 | Minutes

Sponsor: Bank on Human Rights

Panelists: Isabel Lavadenz-Paccieri (Former Ombudsperson for the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism, IDB), Dylan Tromp (Human Rights Technical Expert), Anne Sipilainen (Undersecretary of State for Development Cooperation, Government of Finland), Alan Rousso (Managing Director, External Action and Political Affairs, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development  / EBRD), Johanna Suurpää (Senior Program Officer, Nordic Trust Fund, WBG),  CHAIR: Arvind Ganesan (Director of Business and Human Rights Division, Human Rights Watch)


  • Finnish approach, finalised beginning of 2012 on human rights based approach
  • Concrete guidelines last year, still not enough as can’t address everything
  • Country based approach needed, applying to all cooperation including human rights
  • Strong internal discussion, human rights policy not a new thing, but now strongly based on human rights
  • Created discussion but not creating new standards, there are already standards everyone is forced to comply with
  • Before human rights based approach, all aid is incorporated in this way
  • Human rights principles, universality, participation etc are processes, important, planning monitoring etc
  • Pay close attention to HR in the processes
  • Not saying it is doing no harm, but that it is doing good
  • Important it is not a separate thing, included in results based guidelines
  • Focus on people, rights holders, re emphasise the participatory approach – all groups need to have their voice heard
  • Implementing human rights based approach, what impact on human rights, assessment of HR situation, analysis, incl national capacity essence of participation
  • Identifying risks and opportunities in implementation, attention to inequalities and vulnerable groups
  • Prime responsibility for implementing HR with state, but also other actors
  • Guiding principles on business and HR also important, paying increasing attention to private sector activities
  • In a process for drafting Finnish national action plan on implementation of the guidelines
  • Finnish private sector active in developing CSR
  • Study of 98% corporates confirming importance of HR
  • Also guidelines for multinational approaches, acting in line with human rights charter
  • Work on-going, willing to be active participants in this


  • Written into our mandate to look into democracy
  • Compliance function at project level, doing under existing soc env policy, just been updated for approval later this year – explicit ref to importance of HR modelled on Ruggie framework
  • EBRD article 1 mandate, in preamble to establishing the Bank includes respect for human rights
  • Only direct ref to human rights, not in article 1 where it was dropped, instead focus on economic and social rights
  • Methodology for implementation in 1991 paper, updated in the last 1 ½ year
  • In EBRD we realise that functioning democracy doesn’t happen overnight
  • Do have a mandate to pay attention to HR violations
  • Purpose of the bank is not to foster democracy directly, no tools to promote democracy – mandate to foster economic transition
  • Board takes considered view on whether a country is committed to apply principles
  • Don’t create benchmark or levels of democracy
  • Decision is reached on qualitative judgement, in accordance with article 1
  • Measuring if on a trajectory, not level
  • Look at a set of factors, 14 in update, if they comply with article 1
  • Not just a set of impression by members of staff, anchored in reference source, otherwise would get criticised
  • Includes Council of Europe, etc, to ground the assessment
  • Four sub heading, incl civ society media and participation, civil and political rights (including political inclusiveness)
  • Where there are difficulties in particular countries, don’t dip in and out of countries, look at big picture – can’t rule out EBRD engagement in a country just because of one criteria
  • Can put in place strategic approach to a country where we limit what we can do there, eg cease doing business with the public sector
  • Two countries Belarus and Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan no work, but some portfolio, historic reason
  • Governors have opportunities for stronger approach


  • Nordic Trust Fund, launched in 2009
  • End of current mandate, knowledge and learning programme
  • Internal programme, helps WB to develop a more informed view on HR
  • 27 grants, various activities in the WB that are rights related
  • Eg on LGBT rights, gender, social accountability, citizens’ rights
  • Learning events and materials
  • Surveys suggests that there is a growing interest amongst Bank staff on HR
  • Knowledge gaps, staff members would like to know more about HR standards and how to implement them
  • Publication on HR impact assessments, published last year
  • Identifying differences with other types of assessments
  • Growing interest in developing HRIA
  • Key feature that it is based on a framework of binding international HR, compliance with HR law in substance and process
  • Should ensure public participation, gender, minorities
  • Non discrimination, promote inequality
  • Accountability mechanisms
  • Various ways of doing the assessments, stand alone or integration into other types of assessments
  • Will continue this work, something broader on HR due diligence
  • Grant to IFC to fund develop rights elements in the PS
  • Get a lot of good practice, more since adoption of Ruggie principles
  • Risk focus with HR due diligence, assist in assessing and addressing risks in relation to PS
  • Labour, rights and indigenous peoples’ rights
  • HR due diligence on impact, both positive and negative
  • Can be done in various ways
  • Should not discuss technical aspects too much, but look at purpose and identify relevant HR issues and take action on this basis
  • Risk element is crucial, failure to identify major risk in challenging situation – could jeopardise project and expected development outcomes


  • Entry points for integrating human rights assessments into project level assessments
  • Trigger to conduct project level assessments sits at policy level in WB, env assessment – but where is the social assessment?
  • Timely to have this discussion, currently safeguards under review, including next incarnation of project level assessment
  • How will HR elements constitute the social level, connecting to HR benchmark in the international sphere
  • WB currently has risk based categories, A, B, C , FI
  • Generally project’s screened on anticipated env footprint
  • Need to look at social risk contour too, eg assessing state of freedom in country
  • Environmental assessments required, social assessments have grown around – they are done, but not clearly required
  • Should do social assessments for expected large social impacts
  • Since not triggered by OP 4.01, no annexed recipe what need to look at and how
  • Instead sits in social policies, eg indigenous peoples – but need to be triggered
  • Should start with presumptive list to look at
  • Shape and scale required proportionate to risk
  • Seeing in private sector projects
  • If you build HR aspects in, you get better outcomes – better decisions on better information
  • Board not seeing any of the risks, as no one goes to look for them
  • Ruggie: coined HR due diligence, spoke to company in extractives sector spending 1/6 stakeholder related management
  • Safeguards team 3% on all safeguards related work, Bank and borrowers should do this – greater return on investment
  • Environmental and social handbook, EIB – ten thoughtful and operative criteria on how to screen project
  • WB OECD review, revealed clear trend to incorporate HR in policy level decision – WB exception
  • Policy first step, followed by capacity, implementation and implementation


  • This is about human dignity, access to rights part of parcel of this
  • Started working in developing in Bolivia, home country, in late 80s, then in World Bank
  • Seen progressive improvement of social process, not sure when the social assessments started happening
  • When did we loose the focus on people
  • Three years ombudsperson for IDB – on the side of what people and communities were feeling and receiving
  • When had to deal with operational staff, two answers: this is too complex, difficult, actively seek to avoid indigenous peoples, or actively manage the risk, but not avoid the impact – that’s why we exist, as a last resort, loosing the people centre of focus
  • In context because complex operations and last resource, need higher degree of accountability – towards people
  • Requires expertise, etc – also requires something that doesn’t cost money, to listen – we have lost this
  • Banks say they are not owners of the projects – which is true, but on the other hand it is costly
  • Have the responsibility to be transparent
  • Remember it is about people
  • Human rights approach leads to more sustainable outcomes


Q: Reluctance in the WB to front load projects, costs – thoughts?

Q: CAO, private sector driven by profit motive, until seeing communities as partners will be struggling, does this methodology address this?

Q: WB, criteria for definition of HR rely on presumption of pluralism and democracy – if systems are not pluralistic, will they not be considered compliant? Term pluralism and democracy, how is different definitions taken into account?


  • All IFIs face costs, efficiency exercises – but no good answer to question
  • Article 1, don’t see interdependencies between pluralism and HR, look at factors independently
  • But could guess less pluralistic societies, less towards HR
  • Qualitative than quantitative view, quantitative measures often means reductionist view which is also contested


  • On cost, also little appetite for obligatory procedures, but have already been recognised IA can be done in various ways
  • Completely freestanding HRIA is relatively rare


  • Convinced it is cheaper when you take HR into account
  • Bilateral projects when not inclusive and participatory approach, you make mistakes – bad policies


  • Costs worries everyone, but if people at the centre, we can invest more
  • It’s cheaper
  • Front loading will be resolved not because we avoid social assessment, because WB is moving towards more emphasis on implementation, where most the problems are


  • On costs, private sector do it even when the existence of a HRIA is confidential – to understand and mitigate risks, to save money in the long run
  • CAO question, who owns assessments – HR can say a lot about this
  • Independence of assessment complication, avoid too many red flags as wanting the next job

Q: Friends assessments policies. Does the failure on HR and failure on market economy mean that the goal is the wrong goal?

Q: WB required env assessment process since 1989, including social assessment – used standard terminology. Seems to be a misunderstanding of this. Expenditure on env and social issues. Looking at WB comparison, 10-25 % could also be a misunderstanding of IEG.


  • Social assessments need to find a home, other organisations look to WB – should push for highest standards
  • Need comprehensive social safeguards including human rights, don’t see this – need to go the extra mile


  • Should think more about people rather than growth – but not saying growth is not about people
  • It’s about time to rethink a bit
  • When I joined the Bank another big restructuring had happened, that included the social side, made it a great institution
  • WB has many tools, how do we apply them in practice
  • Timely proposal is an important point, we are seeing cases today where if we had a good social assessment including human rights assessment, they wouldn’t have happened
  • Am a WB:er, but  doesn’t mean I can’t support something so obvious – not just right, doing the right thing
  • Social assessment, couldn’t find one good

Comment, CAO:

  • 60% cases coming into CAO written in HR languages, 66% raises issues around process and disclosure, etc – worrying, comes back to assessments and who does them. Need independent verification
  • IFC PS not the greatest in the world – what will happen if you shift responsibility to country systems