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Al-Haq calls on the World Bank to strengthen protection in conflict-affected areas through the safeguards framework reform process

On 16 June 2016, Al-Haq called upon 14 World Bank Executive Directors to strengthen protection in conflict-affected areas, particularly situations of occupation, through the World Bank safeguards framework. In October 2015, Al-Haq met with several World Bank representatives, including the United States Executive Director, Mr. Matthew T. McGuire. During these meetings, Al-Haq emphasised the importance of focusing on conflict-affected areas as part of the reform process of the World Bank’s environmental and social policies in order to ensure maximum protection of human rights in development projects.

In correspondence with the World Bank Executive Directors, Al-Haq stated:

Although the World Bank has highlighted that its reform process aims to cover areas that are particularly complex – including human rights, climate change, and a number of social issues – Al-Haq remains deeply concerned that increased protection for conflict-affected areas is not specifically included or adequately addressed as part of the current reform process. We understand that the World Bank has plans to increase investment in fragile and conflict-affected states, and that this will be a special theme of IDA18 replenishment. Given the complexity of conflict-affected areas, increased protection by the World Bank must be part and parcel of decisions to increase investments.

Conflict-affected areas are characterised by a heightened risk of human rights abuses. In situations such as the Occupied Palestinian Territory – where the Israeli occupying power plans and implements unlawful policies that result inter alia in direct and indirect forcible transfer[1], environmental injustice, and systematic discrimination – development projects must only be implemented with proper consideration of international human rights and humanitarian law. Al-Haq believes that this must be regulated through provisions such as the World Bank safeguards framework in order to provide maximum protection for the rights of people living under occupation, as well as other situations of armed conflict.

To that end, we urge you to incorporate language within the new World Bank environmental and social policies to ensure adequate safeguards for development in conflict-affected areas. This language should guarantee that:

  • The Bank respects human rights standards and refrains from causing or contributing to violations of human rights that ensue from violations of international conventions; international customary law or general principles of law, including international humanitarian law, in the activities it finances. This should be in the operative language of the safeguards, not merely the vision statement;
  • The Borrower conducts a social and environmental impact assessment which analyses the risks of causing, contributing to or benefiting from violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and implements projects in line with the assessment, including by refraining from carrying out the project if violations of international law are unavoidable;
  • The Bank assesses the enabling environment for public participation and meaningful consultation in its projects, including discrimination or risk of reprisal, and ensures meaningful consultation with stakeholders, especially marginalised groups or others vulnerable to project harms. 

The adoption of these key principles as part of the World Bank safeguards will serve to provide further protection of human rights in conflict-affected areas.

Source: Al Haq

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