In many countries where international financial institutions (IFIs) are investing, these rights are under attack, from violent crackdowns on protests and criminalization of speech, to arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs). (2) In 2014, Global Witness identified 116 killings of land and environmental defenders in 17 countries – on average more than two assassinations per week. (3) This environment of violence, intimidation, and closing civil society space renders meaningful public participation in development virtually impossible. It also significantly increases the risk that IFI-financed activities will contribute to or exacerbate human rights violations. (4)
In all their activities, IFIs should do everything within their powers to support an enabling environment for public participation, in which people are empowered to engage in crafting their own development agendas and in holding their governments, donors, businesses, and other actors to account. IFIs should also ensure that their activities do not cause or contribute to human rights violations, including taking necessary measures to identify and address human rights risks in all of their activities.
We, the undersigned, call on all international financial institutions to ensure that the activities they finance respect human rights and that there are spaces for people to participate in the development of IFI projects and hold IFIs to account without risking their security. We call on IFIs to actively support the realization of rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and related human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), in all their activities.
We also urge shareholder governments to actively support these reforms at each international financial institution of which they are a member.
We call on international financial institutions to:
1. As part of country-level and project-level engagement, systematically analyze the environment for freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and the realization of other human rights critical for development and the implications for development effectiveness and project outcomes. Build this analysis into country development strategies and project design, including by identifying the actions and measures which will be taken by the IFI and the client to address any risks.
2. Develop and institutionalize creative methods to enable people, including marginalized and discriminated against groups, to freely participate in proposed IFI-financed development initiatives that may affect them or that should benefit them, without risk of reprisals.
3. Systematically analyze and take measures to mitigate project-related risks relating to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and other human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
4. Establish policies to ensure that information and communication technology investments are not used to limit freedom of expression or infringe international obligations on privacy rights.
5. From the earliest stages of project development until following project completion, take all necessary measures to mitigate risks of all forms of threats, attacks, or reprisals to community members, workers, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations for participating in project development, for criticizing or opposing a project or otherwise speaking out (or being perceived to have spoken out) against a project. Such measures should include: incorporating clauses preventing reprisals in loan agreements and developing an urgent response system to address threats to project critics.
6. Consistently highlight the importance of the rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association for participatory, sustainable, and accountable development in dialogue with all levels of government and in relevant IFI publications. In the face of proposals that would roll back protections of these rights, emphasize to governments the adverse impact such proposals would have on development effectiveness and the IFI’s activities in the country.
7. Concerning compliance/accountability mechanisms: develop measures to protect people’s right to remedy, including the right to freely approach and fully participate in the IFI accountability mechanism processes; ensure that those communities likely to be affected by a project are aware of and feel safe in approaching accountability and grievance mechanisms; give accountability mechanisms the tools and power to address situations in which complainants experience retaliation after participating in or attempting to utilize an accountability mechanism process; and ensure that compliance investigations also examine any instances of retaliation for opposition to the project and/or participation in the mechanism process.
(1) Daniel Kaufmann, “Human Rights, Governance, and Development: An empirical perspective,” in World Bank Institute, Development Outreach, October 2006, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTSITETOOLS/Resources/KaufmannDevtOutreach.pdf, pp. 15- 20; Hans-Otto Sano, “Development and Human Rights: The Necessary, but Partial Integration of Human Rights and Development,” Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 22.3 (2000), pp. 734-52.
(2) Amnesty International, “The State of the World’s Human Rights 2015/2016,” 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2016/02/annual-report-201516/; Civicus, “Civil Society Watch Report,” June 2015, http://www.civicus.org/index.php/en/media-centre-129/news-and-resources-127/2245-new-civicus-report-civil-society-rights-violated-in-96-countries.
(3) Global Witness, “How Many More? 2014’s Deadly Environment: the killing and intimidation of environmental and land activists, with a spotlight on Honduras,” April 2015.
(4) Human Rights Watch, “At Your Own Risk: Reprisals Against Critics of World Bank Group Projects,” June 22, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/06/22/your-own-risk/reprisals-against-critics-world-bank-group-projects; Oxfam International, “The Suffering of Others: The human cost of the International Finance Corporation’s lending through financial intermediaries,” https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/ib-suffering-of-others-international-finance-corporation-020415-en.pdf.