HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Letter to International Financial Institutions to ensure Effective Participation & Accountability within their Investments

30 May 2016

Along with many others, Protection International has signed the letter below asking international financial institutions to make meaningful investments, take accountability, and foster an environment for freedom of expression, assembly, and association. A PDF version is also available in EnglishSpanish, and French.

Responsibility of International Financial Institutions to ensure Meaningful and Effective Participation and Accountability within their Investments, and to Foster an Enabling Environment for Freedoms of Expression, Assembly, and Association

In recent years, international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other regional development and investment banks, have increasingly emphasized the importance of participation, good governance, and accountability for development. As both human rights and development experts have noted, respect for human rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association is crucial for achieving participatory, sustainable, and accountable development. (1)

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 that 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 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.


  • Uganda: Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda Land Alliance
  • Canada: Social Justice Connection
  • Mongolia: OT Watch
  • International: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Center for International Environmental Law, Just Associates (JASS), Accountability Counsel, International Accountability Project, Bretton Woods Project, Protection International, Equitable Cambodia, Jewish World Watch, Sawit Watch, Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Responsible Sourcing Network, NGO Forum on ADB, 11.11.11. – Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, ActionAid USA, Friends of the Earth U.S., Greenpeace, American Jewish World Service, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Article 19, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Inclusive Development International
  • Czech Republic: CEE Bankwatch
  • Malawi: Citizens for Justice
  • Germany: Heinrich Böll Stiftung
  • Argentina: FUNDEPS
  • Cameroon: Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Institut de Recherche en Droits Humains (IRDH), L’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale, Actions pour les Droits, l`Environnement et la Vie, Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix, Maison de Mines du Kivu, l’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale République Démocratique du Congo, Ong hadassa, Ong croissance saine environnement, Anticorruption Business Council of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Senegal: Lumière Synergie pour le développement
  • Ghana: Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG)
  • Kenya: Natasha Community Development Group, Jamaa Resource Initiatives
  • Philippines: Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay
  • Jordan: Phenix Center Jordan
  • United States: Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), Jewish World Watch, ActionAid USA, Friends of the Earth U.S.
  • Nigeria: Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth, African Law Foundation (AFRILAW)
  • Tunisia: Governance and Social Accountability Tunisia, Tunisian Association of Transparency in Energy and Mines (ATTEM)
  • Iraq: Assembly of AL-Inbithaq for Development & Economic Development, Press Freedom Advocacy Association, Al-Noor Universal Foundation
  • Yemen: Center for Studies and Economic Media
  • Pakistan: Khpal Kore organization(KKO)
  • Myanmar: Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP, Inspirator Muda Nusantara
  • Bangladesh: Business and Welfare Initiatives Ltd., Participatory Research Action Network
  • Egypt: Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Egyptian Center of Civil and Legislative Reform, The Gate of Culture and Development, Arabic Water Forum
  • India: Seeds – India, Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, Empower India, Krityan and UNESCO Club Jamshedpur, Zo Indigenous Forum Mizoram
  • Morocco: The Gate of Culture and Development, Arabic Water Forum
  • Peru: Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente
  • Honduras: Fundacion MaderaVerde
  • Nepal: Greater Active Reconstruction & Justice Action Network-Nepal, KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Indigenous Women League Nepal, Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Nepal
  • Regional: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER)
  • Other: Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (United States), Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Argentina), A Toda Voz, A.C. (Mexico), Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (International), European Center for Not-for-Profit-Law (Hungary)


(1) Daniel Kaufmann, “Human Rights, Governance, and Development: An empirical perspective,” in World Bank Institute, Development Outreach, October 2006, 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; Civicus, “Civil Society Watch Report,” June 2015.

(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; Oxfam International, “The Suffering of Others: The human cost of the International Finance Corporation’s lending through financial intermediaries”