World Bank back to Cambodia?

28 September 2015

Concerns have been growing that the World Bank may resume lending to Cambodia despite the lack of resolution for families evicted due to a Bank-financed project. The Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s accountability mechanism, found in 2010 that the Bank breached its operational policies in Cambodia, and contributed to “grave harm” to affected families (see Update 75). In August 2011 the Bank suspended all new lending to Cambodia until a resolution was found for families forcibly evicted in 2007 from the Boeung Kak area (see Bulletin Nov 2014).

In September 2014 the Phnom Penh Post reported that the Bank was considering “granting $25 million in fresh loans to Cambodia to fund social land concessions.” In August a group of 15 Cambodian NGOs, including the NGO Forum of Cambodia and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, supported by 28 international NGOs, submitted a letter to the World Bank country director seeking “assurances … that the ISN [Interim Strategy Note] will [deal] with outstanding grievances of the Boeung Kak families, as per the Bank’s public commitment.” The letter demanded that the Bank establish “a programme that will provide livelihood and other development support for the evicted Boeung Kak families”.

Reacting to the possibility of new World Bank lending to Cambodia, Natalie Bugalski of US-based NGO Inclusive Development International stressed that “the Bank made an explicit commitment to the evicted families from Boeung Kak lake that it would not make new loans to Cambodia until the government agreed to assist the families in accordance with their entitlements under the project’s resettlement policy framework. These families, who were excluded and made more vulnerable to impoverishment by previous ill-conceived World Bank projects, are precisely the people the Bank should prioritise in any re-engagement strategy if it is seriously committed to the goal of shared prosperity.”