An Environmental and Social Framework: The World Bank’s New Human Rights Policy


The multilateral bank, through the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (WB), has played a very important role in the policies of developing and less developed countries. This occurs through the preparation of strategies, projects, and aid and by determining the focus to establish they type of projects to be financed, as well as classifying countries and regions according to their financial holdings.

The World Bank has a major financial presence in Latin America and, therefore, has an equally important influence on projects and megaprojects regionally. According to its last annual report (2019), the Bank’s total investment was 62.3 billion dollars in loans, donations, participation in share capital, and guarantees for associate countries and private companies. In Latin America and the Caribbean,1 the total 2019 investment was 10.7 billion dollars.2 In Colombia, up to 2019, the yearly WB commitments were for 565 million dollars.3 Currently, Colombia’s total debt with the World Bank is 27 billion dollars, with a total of 232 projects.

Throughout its history, the World Bank has been strongly criticized and has recognized the direct negative human rights impacts of the projects it has financed, to the point of pulling investments. Specifically, in August 2016, the WB pulled out of two well-known megaprojects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Uganda, called Inga 3 (DRC) and Bujagali (Uganda).5 These projects had received long-standing civil society criticism, focused on the non-fulfillment of the objectives agreed upon with the governments in the project countries. For example, in the case of Inga 3, the community reported that only one-fth of the energy produced by Inga 3 would be for the national public services company, while the rest would be exported to South Africa or would go to DRC mining companies.6 For Bujagali, in addition to the seven complaints led before the World Bank accountability mechanism, several compensation agreements were not fulfilled. Hence, the Bank announced that it would stop the loans allocated to both projects.

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An environmental and social framework