The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was founded in 1944 to rebuild Japan and Germany after World War II. Once successful the IBRD found a new mission: “To fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results. To help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.” That fundamental change of mission caused what is now called the World Bank to become a major lender to countries to promote development and thus reduce poverty. Indeed, the World Bank has become a “public” and a “development” agency that is necessarily obligated to exhibit full accountability for its actions and its decision-making.
For indigenous peoples the obligation to exhibit accountability is considered essential in part due to the 1982 World Bank Policy on Indigenous Peoples. It is this policy that requires governments requesting loans for development projects that may have a potential adverse effect on the lives and property of indigenous peoples to negotiate a mitigation plan with the affected peoples. The point of this policy is to encourage indigenous peoples living outside the “cash economy” to become dependent on that economy…thus reducing their potential resistance to “development projects” sponsored by the World Bank.
Given increasing concerns over climate change and development projects intended to mitigate the adverse effects of environmental changes, indigenous peoples have become increasingly alarmed that the World Bank must establish safeguards that avoid negative consequences for indigenous peoples. The World Bank has been engaged in what is called the World Bank Safeguard Policy Review and indigenous peoples want to be consulted on its contents and outcomes.
The Center for World Indigenous Studies joined 129 other indigenous organizations and non-governmental organizations around the world to issue a formal request to the World Bank for direct indigenous peoples’ involvement in the development of the Safeguard Policy Review. In a letter entitled “Concerns and recommendations of indigenous peoples on the Safeguard
Policy review of the World Bank” (17 October 2011) we are calling on the World Bank to not only open discussions with indigenous peoples’, but we are urging the World Bank to incorporate in its Safeguard Policy these added points:
1. The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in accord with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
2. Recognition of pastoralism as a livelihood and a lifestyle.
3. Recognition and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation.
4. Effective and immediate resolution of the gaps and shortcomings in the Policy process.
The Bank draft of its Safeguards Policy must be revised immediately to include these elements and then make the policy publicly available in multiple languages no later than December 2011. Subsequent to regional and global consultations the final plan should be submitted by June 2012.
These are reasonable and modest proposals that the World Bank must implement.