Extracting Promises: Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Industries and the World Bank (Report)

This detailed 2003 report presents a scathing analysis of World Bank-funded extractive projects, and World Bank policies that have favoured the interests of extractive corporations over the autonomy of local peoples and governments.   Canada has consistently been among the top 10 largest (in percentage terms) subscribers to the capital or contributors to replenishments of the funding base of the World Bank. Over 70 percent of Canada’s official development assistance to International Financial Institutions goes to the World Bank. This report includes case studies (some involving Canadian companies) and analysis of various policy frameworks (including Canada’s) relating to extraction and indigenous rights. 

[From the Executive Summary:]

This independent study was compiled as a contribution to the World Bank’s Extractive Industries Review (EIR). The EIR process has been criticised by many indigenous peoples and non-governmental organisations for being unduly controlled by the World Bank. It remains to be seen whether contributions, such as this one, are taken seriously by the review and, if so, whether the recommendations will be heeded by the World Bank itself. The study builds on an extensive literature review and legal analysis, seven specially commissioned case studies carried out by indigenous peoples of their experiences of the World Bank and extractive industries and a two-day workshop at which these various contributions were presented and discussed.

World Bank policies, however, make little mention of human rights. The Bank’s ‘safeguard’ policies on indigenous peoples and involuntary resettlement seek only to mitigate the impacts of destructive development schemes. They permit forced resettlement. However, in order to lessen the consequences for vulnerable social groups, specific plans are required during project preparation which, in the case of indigenous peoples, are meant to secure their lands and ensure participation in Bank-funded projects. The indigenous peoples policy was developed without the participation of indigenous peoples and have since been strongly criticised by them. Moreover, successive reviews show that these safeguard policies are routinely flouted in practice. The World Bank’s own studies show that only more than one third of World Bank projects that impact indigenous peoples have not applied the safeguard policy in any way at all. Even in the projects that did apply the policy, 14% had the required ‘Indigenous Peoples Development Plan’ and then only on paper. Case studies presented to the workshop from India and the Cameroon revealing the shocking consequences of this negligence for the indigenous peoples themselves.

The World Bank is currently reviewing its policy on indigenous peoples. The revision has been repeatedly repudiated by indigenous peoples, both for the manner in which the associated consultations have been carried out, and for the fact that the revised draft policy fails to uphold their rights and is indeed weaker than the previous policy which it is designed to replace. In resisting indigenous demands for a policy which respects their rights, the World Bank claims that it is prohibited from addressing human rights by its Articles of Agreement and it argues that it cannot require its borrowers or clients to observe even those human rights agreements to which they are party. This argument, while legally questionable, is routinely deployed by Bank staff and can be said to be part of the culture of the Bank. In an era when discourse about ‘rights – based development’ has become routine, the World Bank Group appears out of date and out of touch.

World Bank Group interventions in the extractive industries sector have negatively impacted indigenous peoples in manifold ways. In pursuit of national development through trade liberalisation, structural adjustment and the promotion of foreign direct investment, the World Bank has routinely advised countries to rewrite national mining codes to facilitate large-scale mining by foreign companies. These revised mining codes have been pushed through without the participation of indigenous peoples and without taking into account the interests and rights of indigenous peoples. The case studies from Colombia and the Philippines show how the revised mining codes have intensified pressure on indigenous lands and weakened or overridden the legal protections previously enjoyed by indigenous peoples. In Colombia, mineral, oil and gas reserves are exploited by unaccountable companies, which enjoy legal impunity while regularly violating national laws and using severely repressive measures to overcome local resistance. In Ecuador, the World Bank has also promoted national minerals surveys, again without taking the rights of indigenous peoples into account or assessing the likely consequences of intensified minerals extraction. Read the full report.

This entry was posted in Conflict and Repression, Corporate Impunity, Environment and Health, Local and Indigenous Rights, Oh, Canada: Canadian policy, Property and Livelihoods, Social Costs, Private Profit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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