For more than three decades, the World Bank has maintained a set of “safeguard” policies that it claims have brought about a more humane and democratic system of economic development.
Governments that borrow money from the bank can’t force people from their homes without warning. Families evicted to make way for dams, power plants or other big projects must be resettled and their livelihoods restored.
The bank’s commitment, it says, is to “do no harm” to people or the environment.
The World Bank has broken its promise.
Over the past decade the bank has regularly failed to enforce its rules, with devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (a project of the Center for Public Integrity), The Huffington Post and other media partners has found.
Among the findings:
- New evidence that links World Bank money to a resettlement program in Ethiopia that, witnesses say, was enforced with beatings, rape, and murder;
- Inside sources and data analysis indicate the bank regularly fails to enforce its own safeguard policies designed to protect vulnerable communities;
- Reports of homes burned down in Kenya, a shanty town destroyed in Nigeria, and Peruvian farmers’ lands turned toxic by projects linked to World Bank funding — all at a time when the bank is rewriting its safeguard policies and has proposed to give its borrowers more authority to police themselves.
The World Bank often neglects to properly review projects ahead of time to make sure communities are protected and frequently has no idea what happens to people after they are removed. In many cases, it has continued to do business with governments that have abused their citizens, sending a signal that borrowers have little to fear if they violate the bank’s rules, according to current and former bank employees.
“There was often no intent on the part of the governments to comply — and there was often no intent on the part of the bank’s management to enforce,” said Navin Rai, a former World Bank official who oversaw the bank’s protections for indigenous peoples from 2000 to 2012. “That was how the game was played.”