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UN Expert Urges World Bank to Amend its Constitution to Effectively Advance Human Rights

September 14, 2017

GENEVA (14 September 2017) – The World Bank’s commitment to development can and should go beyond financing mega-projects and proactively support smaller, inclusive projects likely to create employment while advancing human rights and environmental protection, a United Nations rights expert has urged.

“Progress cannot be measured only by increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but must also encompass the enhanced enjoyment of human rights and a higher standard of living,” said the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas.

“I have gathered numerous examples of human rights violations which have been alleged in connection with projects the World Bank has financed, including mass evictions and involuntary resettlements, land-grabbing, pollution, the destruction of livelihoods, forced and child labour, and sexual abuse,” said Mr. de Zayas, who has highlighted many such cases in his full report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The World Bank should stop financing projects that adversely impact people’s human rights, and should instead seek to combine economic growth with the promotion of food security, clean water, health care, education and employment, as well as the equitable distribution of wealth,” said Mr. de Zayas.

“The Bank must also assess the likely impact on human rights, health and the environment before any loans are approved, and strengthen the existing monitoring mechanisms.”

He added: “Financing should be suspended when serious human rights violations occur, victims must have access to effective recourse, and human rights defenders who raise concerns should not face intimidation or reprisals.  No project affecting the lives and culture of indigenous peoples should be approved without the free, prior and informed consent of the peoples concerned.”