Leaked Report Says World Bank Violated Its Own Rules in Ethiopia
Sasha Chavkin, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
20 January 2015
This article was reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington DC-based global network of 185 reporters in 65 countries who collaborate on transnational investigations.
Internal watchdog finds link between World Bank financing and Ethiopian government`s mass resettlement of indigenous group
The World Bank repeatedly violated its own rules while funding a development initiative in Ethiopia that has been dogged by complaints that it sponsored forced evictions of thousands of indigenous people, according to a leaked report by a watchdog panel at the bank.
The report, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, examines a health and education initiative that was buoyed by nearly $2 billion in World Bank funding over the last decade. Members of the indigenous Anuak people in Ethiopia’s Gambella province charged that Ethiopian authorities used some of the bank’s money to support a massive forced relocation program and that soldiers beat, raped and killed Anuak who refused to abandon their homes. The bank continued funding the health and education initiative for years after the allegations emerged.
The report by the World Bank’s internal Inspection Panel found that there was an “operational link” between the World Bank-funded program and the Ethiopian government’s relocation push, which was known as “villagization.” By failing to acknowledge this link and take action to protect affected communities, the bank violated its own policies on project appraisal, risk assessment, financial analysis and protection of indigenous peoples, the panel’s report concludes.
“The bank has enabled the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands,” said David Pred, director of Inclusive Development International, a nonprofit that filed the complaint on behalf of 26 Anuak refugees.
The bank declined to answer ICIJ’s questions about the report.
“As is standard procedure, World Bank staff cannot comment on the results of the Inspection Panel’s investigation until the Executive Board of the World Bank Group has had the opportunity to review the Panel’s report over the coming weeks,” Phil Hay, the bank’s spokesman for Africa, said in a written response.
In previous responses to the complaint, bank management said there was no evidence of widespread abuses or evictions and that the Anuak “have not been, nor will they be, directly and adversely affected by a failure of the Bank to implement its policies and procedures.”
Because the panel’s report has not yet been published, some of the language may be revised before a final version is released, but its basic conclusions are not expected to change.
The report stops short of finding the bank responsible for the most serious abuses. The panel did not attempt to verify the widely reported allegations of forced evictions and human rights violations, finding that the question was beyond the scope of its investigation. The bank did not violate its policy on forced resettlement, the report says, because the relocations were conducted by the Ethiopian government and were not a “necessary” part of the health and education program.
Since 2006, the World Bank and other foreign donors have bankrolled the Promoting Basic Services program, which provides grants to local and regional governments for services such as health, education and clean water. The PBS program was designed to avoid funneling aid dollars directly to Ethiopia’s federal government, which had violently cracked down on its opposition after disputed 2005 elections.
By 2010, federal and provincial authorities had embarked on an effort to relocate nearly 2 million poor people in four provinces from isolated rural homes to village sites selected by the government. In these new villages, authorities promised to provide the relocated communities with health care, education and other basic services they had lacked.
The government relocated 37,883 households in Gambella, roughly 60 percent of all households in the province, according to Ethiopian government statistics cited by the Inspection Panel. The Ethiopian government has said that all resettlements were voluntary.
Many members of the Anuak, a mostly Christian indigenous group in Gambella, have said they didn’t want to move. Anuak and their advocates say that they were pushed off their fertile lands by soldiers and policemen, and that much of the abandoned land was then leased by the government to investors. The evictions were “accompanied by widespread human rights violations, including forced displacement, arbitrary arrest and detention, beatings, rape, and other sexual violence,” according to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch.
The Human Rights Watch report and Anuak refugees’ complaint to the Inspection Panel contended that the bank’s money was being used by local and regional authorities to support forced relocations. For example, they say, money from the PBS initiative was used to pay the salaries of government officials who helped carry out the evictions.
The bank continued to fund the PBS program throughout the villagization campaign. The bank approved new funding for PBS in 2011 and 2012, and its support for the program continues today. Since the nationwide health and education initiative launched, Ethiopia has reported strides in reducing child mortality and increasing primary school enrollment.
The villagization campaign ended in 2013, and is believed to have resettled substantially fewer than the nearly 2 million people anticipated by the government.
The Ethiopia case is one of several recent World Bank-financed projects that have drawn fire from activist groups for allegedly funding human rights violations. These projects include a loan to a palm oil producer in Honduras whose security guards have been accused by human rights advocates of killing dozens of peasants involved in a land rights dispute with the company, and a conservation program by the Kenyan government that members of the Sengwer people say was used as tool for pushing them out of their ancestral forests.
In the Ethiopia case, the Inspection Panel decided that the most severe allegations of forced evictions and violence were beyond its mandate, in part because bank rules limited its investigation to only the most recent funding installment of the PBS program.
During its investigation, the Inspection Panel asked Eisei Kurimoto, a professor at Osaka University in Japan and an expert on the Anuak people, to travel to Gambella and help review the Anuak’s complaint.
Kurimoto told ICIJ that Anuak he spoke with told him Ethiopian authorities used the threat of violence to force them to move.
Ethiopian officials who carried out the villagization program “always went with armed policemen and soldiers,” Kurimoto said. “It is very clear that the regional government thought that people would not move happily or willingly. So they had to show their power and the possibility of using force.”
Inclusive Development International’s Pred said it is now up to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to decide whether “justice will be served” for the Anuak. “Justice starts with the acceptance of responsibility for one’s faults—which the Inspection Panel found in abundance—and ends with the provision of meaningful redress,” he said.
Ethiopia: human rights groups criticise UK-funded development programme
Leaked World Bank report rejects claims from the Bank’s management that no link existed between their programme and villagisation
Harry Davies and James Ball
20 January 2015
A major UK- and World Bank-funded development programme in Ethiopia may have contributed to the violent resettlement of a minority ethnic group, a leaked report reveals.
The UK’s Department for International Development was the primary funder of a World Bank-run development project aimed at improving health, education and public services in Ethiopia, contributing more than £388m of UK taxpayer funds to the project.
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inadequate oversight, bad audit practices, and a failure to follow its own rules, the Bank has allowed operational links to form between its programme and the Ethiopian government’s controversial resettlement programme.
Multiple human rights groups operating in the region have criticised the Ethiopian government’s programme for violently driving tens of thousands of indigenous people, predominantly from the minority Anuak Christian ethnic group, from their homes in order to make way for commercial agriculture projects – allegations the Ethiopian government denies.
Many of those resettled remain in poor conditions lacking even basic facilities in refugee camps in South Sudan.
The leaked World Bank report, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and seen by The Guardian, rejected claims from the Bank’s management that no link existed between their programme and villagisation.
According to the report, weak audit controls meant bank funds-which included over £300m from the UK’s Department for International Development—could have been diverted to implement villagisation.
The report did not itself examine whether the resettlement programme had involved human rights abuses, saying such questions were outside its remit.
However, the watchdog highlighted a series of failures in the planning and implementation of the programme, including a major oversight in its failure to undertake full risk-assessments as required by bank protocol. Crucially for the Anuak people, the bank did not apply required safeguards to protect indigenous groups.
Anuradha Mittal, the founder of the Oakland Institute, a California-based development NGO which is active in the region, said DfID was an active participant in the programme, and should share responsibility for its failings.
“Along with the World Bank and other donors, DfID support constitutes not only financial support but a nod of approval for the Ethiopian regime to bring about ‘economic development’ for the few at the expense of basic human rights and livelihoods of its economically and politically most marginalised ethnic groups,” she said.
Mittal was also critical of the World Bank panel’s draft findings, falling short of directly implicating the World Bank and its fellow donors in the resettlement programme.
“It is quite stunning that the panel does not think that the World Bank is responsible for villagisation-related widespread abuses in Ethiopia resulting in destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement of Anuaks from their fertile lands and forests.”
Disclosure of the draft report’s findings come as the UK government faces increasing scrutiny over its involvement in villagisation.
DfID is the project’s largest donor and in March ministers will face a judicial review over whether the UK’s contributions indirectly funded the resettlement programme. The case has been brought by a farmer from the Gambela region who claims he was violently evicted from his land.
Responding to the report’s findings, David Pred of Inclusive Development International—the NGO which filed the original complaint on the Anuak group’s behalf—said: “The Bank has enabled the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands.
“The Bank today just doesn’t want to see human rights violations, much less accept that it bears some responsibility when it finances those violations.”
A World Bank spokesman declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the report.
“As is standard procedure, World Bank staff cannot comment on the results of the inspection panel’s investigation until the executive board of the World Bank Group has had the opportunity to review the panel’s report over the coming weeks.”
In previous statements the bank’s management said there was no evidence of widespread abuses or evictions.
Asked about the findings, a DfID spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked reports.
“Britain’s support to the Promotion of Basic Services Programme is specifically for the provision of essential services like healthcare, schooling and clean water, and we have no evidence that UK funds have been diverted for other purposes.”
Photo: A traditional homestead in Gambela, Ethiopia. Source: Ariadne Van Zandbergen/Alamy