• 9 March 2015

    OPIC is No Model Investor

    By Kindra Mohr, Accountability Counsel, in HuffPost
    On a scorching day back in April 2013, among the ruins of a failed U.S.-backed development project, Liberian women gathered to tell their stories of sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of Buchanan Renewables bosses. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved $217 million in “development” financing for Buchanan Renewables to carry out an energy project in Liberia, which was a spectacular failure and led to the abuses that these women suffered. By failing to take appropriate precautions to protect the vulnerable communities in Liberia and heed warnings of abuse and major project defects, OPIC failed its development mandate and perpetuated livelihood destruction, severe worker injuries, harm to indigenous peoples, water contamination, forest degradation, and human rights abuses.
  • 5 March 2015

    World Bank Admits It Ignored Its Own Rules Designed to Protect Poor

    By HuffPost
    The World Bank, created to fight poverty, has admitted that it’s failed to follow its own rules for protecting the poor people swept aside by dams, roads and other big projects it bankrolls. This conclusion, announced by the bank on Wednesday, amounts to a reversal of its previous efforts to…
  • 30 January 2015

    US-backed Mexico dam project triggered protest, rare defeat

    By Peter Orsi & Ronnie Greene, Associated Press
    SANTA URSULA, Mexico (AP) — People in the hamlet of Santa Ursula began to worry when the logging started. In a few short weeks, more than a mile of densely forested riverbank was stripped from the Arroyo Sal to make way for heavy dredging equipment. Work was just beginning in late 2010 on an ambitious, three-year, $30 million project to build a 15-megawatt hydroelectric plant directly adjacent to the Cerro de Oro dam, with support from a U.S. government agency in Washington.
  • 29 January 2015

    New push on Capitol Hill for more oversight of US aid agency

    By the Associated Press
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Key U.S. senators said they want more oversight of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the federal government’s development finance agency that was the subject of an Associated Press investigation earlier this week into a failed $217 million energy project in western Africa marked by insider connections and questionable due diligence. The AP’s review put renewed attention on oversight of the federal agency. Last year, legislation that would have created the position of an inspector general inside OPIC, part of larger legislation known as the Energize Africa Act, failed to pass Congress. Bill co-author Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continues to support the measure. A committee aide said the effort carries broad support.
  • 27 January 2015

    US loans fueled insider deal, failed power plan in Liberia

    By Ronnie Greene & Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Associated Press
    “There was just an utter failure of the due diligence process that OPIC is supposed to follow,” said Natalie Bridgeman Fields, executive director of the Accountability Counsel, a San Francisco legal organization representing laborers in Liberia. “There are a lot of deep issues of that society that would require a high level of due diligence.”
  • 13 January 2015

    As Haiti’s Parliament Dissolves, Oversight of Billions in Gold Mining Could Be Axed

    By Claire Ward, Vice News
    The World Bank, the Haitian government, and international mining company representatives walk into a hotel lobby to discuss the future of mining in Haiti. Guess who isn’t invited? Everyone else in Haiti. This isn’t a joke, but the premise of a crucial consultation offered to the public of an impoverished country that is poised to receive major foreign investment in a sector not known for its commitment to environmental or human rights standards.
  • 13 January 2015

    Haitians Worry World Bank-Assisted Mining Law Could Result in “Looting”

    By Carey L. Biron, Inter Press Service
    WASHINGTON, Jan 13 2015 (IPS) – With Haiti’s Parliament having dissolved on Tuesday, civil society groups are worried that the Haitian president may move to unilaterally put in place a contentious revision to the country’s decades-old mining law. Starting in 2013, that draft was written with technical assistance from the World Bank. Last week, a half-dozen Haitian groups filed a formal appeal with the bank’s complaints office, expressing concern that the legislation had been crafted without the public consultation often required under the Washington-based development funder’s own policies.
  • 8 January 2015

    World Bank’s mining agenda in Haiti draws criticism

    By Molly Anders, Devex
    A coalition of Haitian community leaders and organizations have filed a complaint with the World Bank’s independent inspection panel alleging the bank is backing controversial mining legislation pushed by the country’s parliament. The bill aims to increase foreign investment by expanding gold and mineral mining in the country.
  • 31 December 2014

    Winter 2014 SEERS Fellows Bios: Natalie Bridgeman Fields

    By Stanford, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
    The Program on Social Entrepreneurship is a joint program of the Haas Center for Public Service and Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). Each year the Haas Center welcomes a group of Social Entrepreneurs in Residence at Stanford (SEERS) Fellows, individuals working to advance social good in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Accountability Counsel’s director and founder Natalie Bridgeman Fields was awarded a SEERS Fellowship in Winter 2014. The program allowed her to spend a 10-week academic quarter in residence at Stanford to reflect on her own work, pursue research projects, broaden her professional networks, and co-teach a course on social entrepreneurship.
  • 30 September 2014

    Massive Mongolian mine endangers nomads’ water, way of life

    By Rachael Bale, Reveal News
    KHANBOGD, Mongolia – Ichinkhorloo Buya scooped fresh water into the camels’ trough and waited for them to return. The whooshing water always beckoned the animals, with their sharp sense of hearing, home. But this time, they were nowhere to be found. Her children raced off across the bumpy moonscape of the Gobi Desert on motorbikes in a frantic search. They eventually found the camels huddled around an old rusty well. There was no reason the camels should congregate there. But they heard something the men didn’t – an underground flow of fresh, cold water. That sound meant something had gone awfully wrong: The precious underground water that sustains the herders’ fragile existence was flowing down into the brackish aquifer controlled by a booming copper and gold mine that’s rapidly changing daily life in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.
  • 9 September 2014

    Is Mongolia’s mining boom causing Ulan Bator to run out of water?

    By Gabriel Domínguez, Deutsche Welle
    Water is already scarce in Ulan Bator. But with the mining industry competing with energy facilities, agriculture and urban residents for water resources, the problem will intensify, as analyst Qingfeng Zhang tells DW.
  • 18 August 2014

    World Bank accused of transferring safeguards responsibility to borrowers

    By Mint Press News
    WASHINGTON — A bitter dispute has broken out in recent weeks following the release of proposed changes to World Bank policies aimed at safeguarding local communities and environments. A draft of the proposed reforms, released at the end of July, follows a half-year of consultations in some 40 countries. Yet civil society groups around the world have responded with concern and even indignation at many of the proposed changes, warning that the new proposal includes multiple loopholes that could hollow out what have long been seen as pioneering policies.
  • 21 July 2014

    Do communities affected by internationally financed projects have access to remedies?

    By the Harvard Law and International Development Society
    Traditional justice is expensive and difficult to attain. The cost of litigation in time and money, judicial corruption, fear of retribution, and other barriers push the most marginalized out of the sphere of national courts. Among the most marginalized are those harmed by internationally financed projects. From herders in Mongolia to farmers in Liberia, communities affected by projects financed by international financial institutions have little judicial recourse for violations of their environmental and human rights by large corporations; however, that does not necessarily mean that they have no recourse.
  • 20 June 2014

    World Bank funded mines threatening livelihoods

    By Bretton Woods Project
    The IFC is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in huge mining projects despite their long track record of negative social and environment impact. In Mongolia, the giant Oyu Tolgoi mining project still causes controversy. In April civil society groups, including Mongolia-based Oyu Tolgoi Watch, wrote to the Bank’s board to express concerns that the “local herding community is now worse off in many ways” as a result of the Oyu Tolgoi mine causing “serious air pollution, pasture loss and loss of access to clean water, forcing herders to abandon their traditional livelihoods.”
  • 31 March 2014

    Disempowered development: Violating rights in Nepal for energy transmission

    By Komala Ramachandra, Accountability Counsel, & Shankar Limbu, LAHURNIP, in the Bretton Woods Observer
    Nepal’s highest capacity electricity transmission line, a 220 kV line extending 75 kilometres between Khimti and Dhalkebar substations, has faced numerous setbacks since the project commenced in 2002.
  • 5 March 2014

    European Bank for Reconstruction and Development: Draft Environment and Social Policy Retreats on Human Rights

    By Accountability Counsel, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, CEE Bankwatch Network, Center for International Environmental Law, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), & Human Rights Watch
    The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s new draft Environment and Social Policy weakens the Bank’s existing safeguards on human rights, according to a group of civil society organisations. The Bank and its member States must reconsider this backward step. They should use this opportunity to put in place policies and systems to ensure that the Bank takes all necessary steps to prevent it from causing, contributing to or exacerbating human rights violations.
  • 28 February 2014

    Mongolia’s water scarcity could threaten its economic boom

    By Oliver Balch, The Guardian
    The sight of foreign faces in Ulan Bator used to turn heads. Now they are two-a-penny as the once remote Mongolian capital fast becomes a hotspot for international investors. The main draw is the country’s rich mineral deposits, which, if successfully exploited, could see the national economy more than double over the next two decades. Impinging on that rosy picture, however, is the tricky question of water availability. The central Asian country suffers from extremes in seasonal runoff, local water stress and chronic deficits.
  • 27 February 2014

    IFC’s bitter tea: Investment in Assam receives global condemnation

    By Komala Ramachandra, Accountability Counsel, & Francesca Feruglio, Nazdeek, in the Bretton Woods Bulletin
    In February 2013, three grassroots organisations: Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA), People’s Action for Development and the Diocesan Board of Social Services filed a complaint on behalf of tea plantation workers in Assam to the World Bank’s accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), alleging numerous violations of human and labour rights on three tea plantations owned by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL). Assam, a state in northeast India, is the source of more than half of India’s and one sixth of the world’s tea. Such large-scale production and profit rely on thousands of workers belonging to adivasi (indigenous) communities, forcibly brought to Assam’s tea plantations from central India 150 years ago. Today their living and working conditions remain shockingly poor, with the plantations lacking adequate essential services, such as healthcare, education, and food, and workers paid only rupees 90 ($1.5) per day, far below the state’s minimum wage of rupees 169.
  • 13 February 2014

    Inquiry into Tata Tea Over Labor Issues

    By Vibhuti Agarwal, Wall Street Journal
    Nearly a year after human-rights groups complained about working and living conditions on tea plantations run by Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd., the World Bank has ordered an inquiry. APPL, a joint venture of Tata Global Beverages and the International Finance Corp., the private-sector lending arm of the bank, employs around 30,000 people on 20 plantations in the northeastern state of Assam.
  • 12 February 2014

    ‘Abused workers toil for Tetley tea’

    By Dean Nelson, The Telegraph
    Indian tea plantation workers employed by a company that owns Tetley are paid less than £2 per day and live in inhumane conditions surrounded by cesspools, according to a report released Wednesday. The workers live in the north-east state of Assam on 24 plantations owned by a company controlled by Tata, the Indian conglomerate that also owns Jaguar Land Rover, and backed by the World Bank.