Oxfam reaction to international exposé of World Bank lending

Published: 16th April 2015

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its media partners have today published an international exposé of abusive and unaccountable World Bank lending. Its exposé includes video and print explaining the issue and also based on country stories in Ethiopia, Peru and Kenya, with more promised from Kosovo, India and Honduras. The exposé found that the Bank has funded projects that have displaced 3.4 million people in the past decade while failing to protect them. It publishes evidence of significant and wide-spread human rights abuses.

The expose follows Oxfam’s own report revealing the Bank’s private-lending arm, the IFC, similarly negligent inside its own lending programs to third parties.

Oxfam’s Land Advocacy Lead Kate Geary said:

“The ICIJ’s exposure of immense human suffering around the world, linked to World Bank funding, should finally wake the Bank up to the reality of its failures. 

“These cases are symptomatic of a fundamental malaise in the Bank’s ideology and processes. Entire communities have been torn apart by violence and eviction, driven from their lands and farms on which they rely to feed their families without proper compensation. 

“ICIJ's findings echo what Oxfam has long been saying: that the World Bank Group - and its private sector arm the IFC in particular - is sometimes failing those people who it aims to benefit: the poorest and most marginalized. Instead of reaping the benefits of much-needed development initiatives, people all over the world are actually being further impoverished when the bank-funded projects force them off their lands and out of their homes. 

“It's not just Oxfam and the ICIJ who say this - these disturbing findings are backed up by the Bank's own internal audits which found, shockingly, that the Bank simply lost track of people who had to be “resettled” by its projects. President Kim himself has acknowledged this as a failure – and he’s right. The situation is simply untenable and unconscionable. Enough is enough. 

“The Bank must act urgently to address this crisis. First it must provide redress through grant funding to those people it has displaced and left worse off. Second, it must enact urgent and fundamental reforms to ensure that these tragedies are not repeated. It needs to strengthen it official Safeguards and reform IFC lending policies and practices. Third - the Bank must revise its “Action Plan on Resettlement”, released just last month by Kim in response to the critical audits, because it is inadequate to stem the terrible results of the worst of these projects. 

“We need the Bank to open up a truly participatory, accountable process to decide the radical measures needed to respond to this scandal. Infrastructure that benefits people, for example bringing energy access to those without power, is sorely needed. But large-scale infrastructure can also have a high price when it displaces peoples. It is essential that the World Bank both strengthens and upholds its Safeguard policies to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable are not left paying the price of development.

Oxfam stands ready to support the Bank to ensure its investments not only do no harm but instead result in positive development that promotes shared prosperity and reduces poverty.”

Contact information

Contact Lucy Brinicombe (in Washington) on lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk  or +44 (0)7786 110054.

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.