The World Bank creates programs to allow international companies to invest in developing countries’ agriculture, health, and water as well as promote local enterprise — giving locals the assistance they need. Sound too good to be true? It probably is.
Coming in with their guns, breaking down people’s doors, throwing my blankets and pans into the road and pulling my roof down, that’s what is happening here. They want us gone. Those were the words of Abdellahi, an Ethiopian farmer who was forcibly driven from his land by soldiers to make way for a World Bank $2 billion program that will hand over his farming land to companies like the international Karuturi Global Ltd (KARG).
The Western world has often been criticized for the lack of political will to provide developing countries with aid. In the past, the U.S. and the European Union have had a policy of giving financial bank loan aid to developing countries, who will struggle to make payments on just the interest of their loan, and then are often forced to refinance the loan with the World Bank annually.
After a huge public outcry, the World Bank now creates programs that will allow international companies to socially invest in developing countries’ agriculture, health, and water as well as promote local enterprise — giving locals the assistance they need.
Sound too good to be true?
Over the last 10 years, the World Bank has been heavily investing money into developing countries to provide much needed aid and improve the education, health, water and sanitation of some of the most vulnerable communities across the globe. But as reported recently by Human Rights Watch and other relief organizations, the reality is that the World Bank is funding a program that allows the practice of “villagization,” which relocates whole communities to areas where they have no means of supporting themselves.
The term “villagization” is a government initiative used by ruling powers in Ethiopia, China, Vietnam, Sudan, Somalia and many other South Asian and African states to relocate indigenous communities to allow international companies to use the land for their own agricultural industry and contribute to developing their own countries’ employment and GDP.
In reality, the World Bank program has received fierce criticism, as it seems to harm the same people it’s designed to help. So far, there are estimates of over 1.5 million indigenous and other marginalized people who have been forcibly moved to new villages or new towns for a “better way of life.” But for many, the truth is that the government’s promise of a better way of living is fiction.
Abdellahi, an Ethiopian farmer speaking through a translator from Oxfam tells MintPress, “I was moved from my farm land into the city. On my farm I used to be able to feed my family, we had food, we had water and had a home and community, now I live on the streets. Every day my family are on the streets looking for food. I have nothing now. How is this helping me?”
Several organizations have reported that the practice of villagization has been marred by violence. A 20-year-old man who escaped to south Sudan told Human Rights Watch, “Soldiers came and asked me why I refused to be relocated… They started beating me until my hands were broken… I ran to tell [my father] what had happened, but the soldiers followed me. My father and I ran away… I heard the sound of gunfire.
“Forced to separate from my father, I kept running and hid from the soldiers in nearby bushes. When I returned the next day, I found out that my father had been killed.”
Human Rights Watch produced a 59-page report that examines the practice of villagization and the human rights violations of forcibly removing populations from their homes to make way for international business.
Talking to MintPress, Jessica Evans, Senior Researcher/Advocate for International Financial Institutions for Human Rights Watch said, “Had it (World Bank) taken such steps with projects it is implementing in regions where the Ethiopian government was carrying out villagization, for example, the bank would have been aware of the risks of arbitrary arrests and detention, forced evictions, beatings, torture and killings. It would also have identified the potential for reduced and inadequate access to food, health care and water in the places where the villagers were being moved. The bank could have built measures to avoid these risks into its project design.
“Human rights due diligence is not about naming and shaming governments in need of development funds,” Evans said. “It is the process of looking at the effect of the World Bank’s lending or other support on human rights, and figuring out how to avoid or mitigate human rights risks.” But the World Bank policy of bringing in international company investments to aid programs is just one part of their aid program under question. HIV and Aids assistance to developing countries is another program that has come under the spotlight of human rights groups that may sound like it’s doing a good thing, but in reality is creating situations more dire than before.
HIV and Aids
Despite the falling figures for Aids-related deaths, Aids remains a huge killer of adults and babies across the world. In 2011 there were 1.7 million Aids-related deaths alone, which is still lower than the 2.3 million deaths in 2005. Aids has plagued vast regions of Asia and Africa but has continued to fall to new low levels in the U.S. and Europe. As the drug treatments have improved the life quality of Aids and HIV victims in the U.S. and Europe, developing countries are struggling to keep up with the cost of medicine.
As a part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank loans, developing countries like Sudan, Angola and Kenya are required to adopt austerity programs known as structural adjustment. These countries are forced into cost-cutting measures in health care, education, road infrastructure and other social programs.
Many relief agencies are concerned about the care HIV and Aids victims receive and whether they can afford to continue to pay for drug treatments that can span a lifetime. This year Kenya’s government slashed its health budget to meet IMF loan payments putting HIV and Aids programs under threat, and the use of an STD clinic has dropped to alarmingly low levels.
Many relief organizations and agencies such as Medicin San Frontiere are concerned that there will be more new cases HIV and Aids that will go undetected as communities cannot afford the cost of treatment or drugs.
Many organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have argued that the World Bank and IMF needs to be reformed to consider the social impact of their aid.
“By adopting a human-rights-conscious approach, the World Bank can minimize avoidable suffering, especially among marginalized, excluded, and vulnerable groups, by making its development efforts more sustainable. By supporting governments in meeting their human rights obligations, the bank can advance consistency in government policy. Reducing human rights risks also can help to mitigate legal and financial risks, and potential harm to the bank’s reputation.” said Jessica Evans of Human Rights Watch.
Feature photo | A man holds a sign against the International Monetary Fund (IMF)and President Lenin Moreno which appears in the form of a vulture during an anti-government march in Quito, Ecuador, July 16, 2020. Dolores Ochoa | AP