Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When aid pays for land-grabbing

A major UK- and World Bank-funded development programme in Ethiopia may have contributed to the violent resettlement of a minority ethnic group, a report reveals. The World Bank’s internal watchdog said that due to 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. Bank funds – which included over £300m from the UK’s Department for International Development, the project’s largest donor  – could have been diverted to implement villagisation. Crucially for the Anuak people, the bank did not apply required safeguards to protect indigenous groups.

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.”

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.”

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