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, 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 which 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 in 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.


Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda

Social Justice Connection, Canada

OT Watch, Mongolia

Uganda Land Alliance, Uganda

Amnesty International, International

Human Rights Watch, International

CEE Bankwatch, Czech Republic

Citizens for Justice, Malawi

Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Germany

FUNDEPS, Argentina

Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme, Cameroon

Institut de Recherche en Droits Humains (IRDH), Democratic Republic of Congo

Lumière Synergie pour le développement, Senegal

Just Associates (JASS), International

L’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale, Democratic Republic of Congo

Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG), Ghana

Center for International Environmental Law, International

Narasha Community Development Group, Kenya

Accountability Counsel, United States

Actions pour les Droits, l`Environnement et la Vie, Democratic Republic of Congo

Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), Nigeria

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines

Phenix Center Jordan, Jordan

Bank Information Center, United States

International Accountability Project, International

Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom

Protection International, Belgium

Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia

Jewish World Watch, United States

Sawit Watch, Indonesia

Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya

African Resources Watch (AFREWATCH), Democratic Republic of Congo

Responsible Sourcing Network, United States

Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix, Democratic Republic of Congo

Maison de Mines du Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay, Philippines

NGO Forum on ADB, Philippines

11.11.11. – Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, Belgium

Conseil régional des organisations non gouvernementales de développement, Democratic Republic of Congo

Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth, Nigeria

l’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale République Démocratique du Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo

Ong hadassa, Gabon

Ong croissance saine environnement, Gabon

Governance and Social Accountability Tunisia, Tunisia

Assembly of AL-Inbithaq for Development & Economic Development, Iraq

Center for Studies and Economic Media, Yemen

Khpal Kore organization(KKO), Pakistan

Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Myanmar

Anticorruption Business Council of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyz Republic

Seeds – India, India

Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP, Myanmar

Inspirator Muda Nusantara, Indonesia

Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Nagaland / India

Empower India, India

Business and Welfare Initiatives Ltd., Bangladesh

Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, Thailand

Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India

Greater Active Reconstruction & Justice Action Network-Nepal, Nepal

KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Philippines

Participatory Research Action Network, Bangladesh

Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Egypt

African Law Foundation (AFRILAW), Nigeria

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Regional

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, United States

Egyptian Center of Civil and Legislative Reform, Egypt

The Gate of Culture and Development, Morocco

Arabic Water Forum, Morocco

Friends of the Earth U.S., United States

Fundacion MaderaVerde, Honduras

Press Freedom Advocacy Association, Iraq

ActionAid USA, United States

Commercial Media Center, Iraq

Tunisian Association of Transparency in Energy and Mines (ATTEM), Tunisia

Krityan and UNESCO Club Jamshedpur, India

Zo Indigenous Forum Mizoram, India

Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations – SOMO, Netherlands

Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development, Egypt

Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente, Peru

Greenpeace, International

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, United States

Al-Noor Universal Foundation, Iraq

Gender Action, United States

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team, International

Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand

Indigenous Women League Nepal, Nepal

Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Nepal, Nepal

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Regional

American Jewish World Service, United States

Guatemala Human Rights Commission, United States

Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital, Mexico

Article 19, United Kingdom

Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Regional

Inclusive Development International, United States

Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Public Union, Azerbaijan

Urgewald, Germany

EcoLur Informational NGO, Armenia

Bankwatch Romania, Romania

Habi Center for Environmental Rights, Egypt

Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Argentina

BankTrack, Netherlands

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”