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International Financial Institutions: World Bank
The World Bank
People submerged by the World Bank’s Kedung Ombo dam in Indonesia
Created in 1944, the World Bank is the largest international financial institution. It is also the world’s most important financier of large dams. In the course of its history, the World Bank has supported more than 550 dams with a total amount of more than $86 billion (in 2004 dollars). These projects have displaced at least 10 million people.
The World Bank’s approach to large dams has changed over time. The Bank financed many dam projects in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Due to strong public pressure and after a humiliating defeat in India’s Narmada Valley, the World Bank largely withdrew from financing dams after1993. Pressured by conservative governments, the Bank decided to re-engage in large dams as part of a new high-risk strategy in 2003.
World Bank Energy Framework Sells Climate and Poor People Short
As the World Bank unveiled its new Investment Framework on Clean Energy and Development at its annual meeting in Singapore in September, a coalition of environment and development organizations charge that the strategy will not be effective at combating climate change and expanding energy access for the poor. The World Bank proposed raising $10 billion for conventional energy technologies such as fossil fuels, while selling renewable sources of energy short. The strategy will do little to slow global climate change or bring energy services to the 1.6 billion people that currently lack them. Download the full report.
Singapore Government Bans Activists from Attending World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting
While "good governance" tops the agenda of the World Bank and IMF’s upcoming Annual Meetings in Singapore, authorities in Singapore are attempting to silence civil society. The government of Singapore has "blacklisted" more than 20 civil society representatives who will be denied entry into the country despite having accreditation from the Bank and Fund to participate in the Meetings. Read a joint press release from civil society groups on this issue. Read a letter from IRN to the World Bank and IMF protesting the Singapore government’s decision. Read an IRN press release in German about this issue.
World Bank Recommends Weakening of Environmental Standards
A confidential World Bank strategy paper proposes to weaken social and environmental safeguard policies by relying on national policies rather than the Bank’s own safeguard policies. Before agreeing on the new strategy, the Bank already approved a pilot project in Mexico that is based on this strategy. IRN prepared a critique of the strategy paper in September 2004. In January 2005, some 200 NGOs from around the world sent a letter to the World Bank expressing concerns about the new strategy.
While weakening its safeguard policies, the World Bank also proposes to expand its lending to middle-income countries (MICs). In May 2004, IRN also prepared a critique of the Bank’s new MIC strategy.
Nam Theun 2 violates the World Bank’s procurement guidelines
In violation of the World Bank’s procurement guidelines, the investors in the Nam Theun 2 project have awarded key project contracts to themselves without any competitive bidding. Electricity consumers and the Lao people will ultimately pay the price for this shady deal. See the IRN memo that elaborates the procurement problems of Nam Theun 2.
Letter to World Bank from WCD Commissioners
July 2002 letter from WCD Commissioners to World Bank President James Wolfensohn criticizing the Bank’s Water Resources Sector Strategy and its response to the WCD report. (Adobe PDF Document)
"The World Bank at 60: A Case of Institutional Amnesia?" International Rivers Network reports on how the World Bank is implementing its Infrastructure Action Plan, and concludes that the new high-risk strategy "has not incorporated the lessons of past experience, will exacerbate conflicts, and will not help to reach the Millenium Development Goals".
Gambling with People’s Lives
Big is beautiful again at the World Bank, and megaprojects are back in style. A new report published by Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth and International Rivers Network examines the track record of the World Bank’s high-risk projects. The report analyzes whether the Bank has learned from past mistakes and presents recommendations for change.