Call On The World Bank to Respect Indigenous Peoples, Before It’s Too Late!

Call On The World Bank to Respect Indigenous Peoples, Before It’s Too Late!

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November 9, 2011

The World Bank is getting ready to steamroll ahead with a new funding program that would virtually eliminate 26 of the Bank’s safeguard policies, including those meant to protect Indigenous Peoples.

As the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC) explains in the action alert below, the proposed “Program for Results (P4R)”, if adopted, would let the World Bank fund new development projects and programs without having to place any safeguard restrictions on borrowers when it comes to, eg., Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Assessments, Physical and Cultural Resources, Forests, Natural Habitats, and Involuntary Resettlement. Instead, the ILRC says, “These binding safeguards would… be replaced with unenforceable guiding principles.”

At this point, the World Bank has not consulted any Indigenous Peoples about the proposed program – and it likely will not do so, unless the international community can pressure them into it.

Though it’s not explicitly tied to P4R, it’s worth noting that the World Bank also hasn’t consulted Indigenous Peoples over its ongoing Safeguard Policy Review. As the Center for World Indigenous Studies has noted, a group of 129 indigenous and non-governmental organizations have asked to the World Bank to bring Indigenous Peoples into the review process, and introduce four additional points t its 1982 Policy on Indigenous Peoples, including:

1. The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in accord with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
2. Recognition of pastoralism as a livelihood and a lifestyle.
3. Recognition and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation.
4. Effective and immediate resolution of the gaps and shortcomings in the Policy process.

The group of organizations gave the World Bank until December 2011 to draft the revised policy with the additional points.

However the World Bank responds to the formal request, the priority right now should be aimed at P4R. After all, it could essentially render that policy useless.

World Bank Program Threatens Indigenous Communities

November 7, 2011

Dear Indigenous leaders:

The purpose of this letter is to alert you to a disturbing new development at the World Bank, which has serious negative implications for indigenous peoples. The World Bank is proposing to introduce a new loan program that would do away with critical safeguards that protect indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This new “Program for Results (P4R)” is going forward with no consultation with indigenous peoples. If the current proposal is adopted, the World Bank could fund new development programs with virtually no protections for indigenous peoples and their environments, and no effective mechanism for communities to raise complaints.

One of the reasons the World Bank is pushing P4R is so that it can compete with lending institutions, such as the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), that currently have no protections for indigenous peoples or the environment. If World Bank safeguards are watered down through P4R, we’ll be entering a race-to-the-bottom where projects like Brazil’s devastating Belo Monte damn are the norm. P4R would not only make it possible for World Bank-sponsored projects to disregard indigenous rights, but it would also make it much more difficult to establish strong indigenous rights safeguards within other financial institutions including BNDES and the Inter-American Development Bank.

What is the Program for Results (P4R)?
Rather than funding specific projects, the proposed “Program for Results” would provide funding for programs initiated by borrower governments. So for instance, P4R funding could go to support development of a forestry or REDD+ program, or a new transportation or rural development program. But while projects financed by the World Bank currently have to comply with social and environmental safeguard policies, these new P4R program loans would rely on borrower nations’ own systems for environmental and social risk management and enforcement. This is a problem because many borrower countries don’t have sufficient protections for indigenous rights.

What’s at Stake with P4R?
P4R eliminates protections for indigenous peoples

Under the proposed policy, P4R lending would be exempt from the World Bank’s Indigenous Peoples Policy. This means that there would be no requirement that countries using P4R funds consult with indigenous peoples and gain broad community support for any projects or programs that affect them, and communities would have no access to information about the specific projects being funded under P4R. It also means that borrowers would no longer be prohibited from engaging in forced resettlement of indigenous peoples. In addition to the Indigenous Peoples Policy, P4R funding would be exempt from 24 other safeguard policies critical to indigenous peoples, such as Bank policies on Environmental Assessment, Physical and Cultural Resources, Forests, Natural Habitats, and Involuntary Resettlement. These binding safeguards would instead be replaced with unenforceable guiding principles.

P4R has no effective complaint mechanism for indigenous communities
Under Bank policy, communities that are negatively impacted by Bank projects can lodge a complaint with the Inspection Panel. Currently, if the Panel finds that the Bank violated its safeguard policies, it can request measures to change a project or remedy harms that a community has suffered. However, because P4R funding would be exempt from the safeguard policies, the Inspection Panel won’t have any standards to judge the Bank by, and harmed communities won’t have access to remedies.

No Consultation with Indigenous Peoples
Lastly, this radical policy change is going forward with extremely limited consultation with civil society organizations and no direct consultation with indigenous peoples. During the last public consultation period, for instance, the full draft proposal was not made available in any language other than English. There is also no indication that the latest version of the draft policy will be made public before it goes to the Executive Board for a vote.

What is the status of the P4R proposal?
The P4R proposal was scheduled for a mid-November vote by the World Bank Executive Directors. It now appears that the vote has been postponed, though the new date has not been announced.

What are we asking for?
All World Bank lending must respect the rights of indigenous peoples as recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Any new P4R lending must be subject to the Indigenous Peoples Policy and other safeguards relevant for the protection of indigenous peoples.

Any P4R lending must contain an effective complaint mechanism for impacted communities.

There should be no vote on P4R and no change in the Bank’s policies toward indigenous peoples without a full, informed consultation of indigenous peoples.

What can you do?

The Bank is claiming that this policy is responding to the needs of developing countries for more flexible and streamlined lending. Because this policy has moved so quickly, with little consultation or transparency, many countries are unaware of what it really entails. It is critical that indigenous peoples and advocates make their concerns known to Bank and national government officials before any vote takes place. Here are some things you can do:

Where can you get more information?

For more information, including comments filed by the Indian Law Resource Center (attached) and other civil society organizations, visit the Center’s website and .

Please contact Lorena Vaca, Program Assistant, at if we can be of any assistance.

Armstrong Wiggins
Director, Washington D.C. Office
Indian Law Resource Center


  1. World Bank Contacts –
  2. Comments and Recommendations on the World Bank’s Draft, OP/BP 9.00 Program-for-Results Financing –

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