by David Pred and Natalie Bugalski
Washington, April 13, 2013 – At the start of the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty this week, World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim made some welcome remarks about the global land rights crisis. He did not respond directly to the withering criticism of the role the Bank has played in promoting land grabs. But he did say that the Bank shares the concerns about the risks of large-scale land acquisitions, and importantly he acknowledged that “additional efforts must be made to build capacity and safeguards related to land rights and to empower civil society to hold governments accountable.”
What caught people at the Conference pleasantly off guard was the Bank’s statement that its own social and environmental safeguard policies, now under review, would be informed by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forest and Fisheries.
Inclusive Development International and Oxfam put forward a concrete proposal at the Conference for the Bank to do just that. We presented a proposal for a new World Bank safeguard policy on tenure of land, housing and natural resources that draws extensively from the Voluntary Guidelines.
The proposal addresses major gaps in the Bank’s current policy framework that have left people affected by Bank operations unprotected from harmful impacts on their tenure rights. If adopted, these policy measures would ensure that the Bank upholds its responsibility to respect human rights by safeguarding against the weakening of tenure rights, the instigation of land conflict and the exacerbation of inequality in access to land and natural resources by Bank operations.