Development banks should respect human rights in their investments around the world and ensure their activities are not putting human rights defenders at risk, the Coalition for Human Rights in Development said today in a joint petition signed by over 150 development, human rights, and environment groups. Along with these groups Protection International has signed a letter to International Financial Institutions demanding effective participation and accountability.
Major development banks have long touted the importance of public participation for effective development, the organizations said. But a growing number of governments have been shrinking the space for safe and effective participation in development processes through criminalizing activities by land, environment, and human rights activists and adopting restrictions on non-governmental groups.
“I hope that civil society will have the opportunity to contribute towards sustainable development,” said Abhijeet, an Indigenous community member in Nepal who does not want his identity disclosed for security concerns. “Unfortunately, the fundamental human rights of many peoples are being systemically violated as a result of development projects. And when we help communities defend their rights we are met with threats and violent attacks.”
The petition is directed to international financial institutions (IFIs), including the World Bank, African, Asian, European, and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as the newest institutions, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and BRICS New Development Bank.
In March 2016, Berta Cáceres, a renowned indigenous land rights and environmental defender in Honduras, was killed in the middle of the night as she slept in her bed. Two of those facing charges for Cáceres’ murder were employees of a company involved in the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, a project that Cáceres and her organization, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), have long opposed and campaigned against. The murder sparked a high-profile movement to demand accountability of the Dutch, Finnish, and Central American banks financing Agua Zarca for failure to ensure their investments weren’t fueling human rights abuses.