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    Posted April 13, 2014 by

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    U.S. Urged to Push World Bank on Human Rights Safeguards

    WASHINGTON, Apr 10 (IPS) - Rights advocates and community leaders, together with some U.S. lawmakers, are urging the United States to take a more robust role in pushing the World Bank to explicitly incorporate human rights into policies that dictate how and when the bank can engage in project lending and technical assistance.

    The World Bank has been a pioneer in working to ensure that its assistance does not lead to or exacerbate certain forms of discrimination or environmental degradation.3

    Yet the Washington-based institution has long been criticised for refusing to institutionalise a specific focus on human rights, and is currently involved in a major review of these policies.

    "I recognise that constructing sustainable relationships between development priorities and human rights can be a challenging endeavour for the World Bank, but it is a crucial endeavour to undertake," James P. McGovern, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Wednesday at a hearing he chaired on the subject.

    "Human rights due diligence and assessments would ensure that each project is properly vetted and that possible violations of human rights are acknowledged beforehand and can be prevented. This not only protects the integrity of individuals but also ensures the sustainability of a project, which means more people will benefit from the World Bank's investment long term."

    The World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, are currently meeting in Washington for a semi-annual summit.

    McGovern warned that important bank policies on rights, the environment and indigenous peoples are often treated as "little more than one box that needed to be checked" by project managers. Further, he said, "No one at the bank was encouraged, rewarded or promoted for stopping a project because of human rights concerns."

    The World Bank has long been barred by its membership from engaging in overtly political issues. Yet many say rights issues need not be considered political, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently received plaudits for halting a planned loan to Uganda after that country passed onerous anti-gay legislation.

    Kim "responded very well" to the Uganda issue, Barney Frank, a former member of Congress, told the hearing Wednesday. But he warned that "it's not good when things are done ad hoc."

    "Some of the countries can complain they weren't warned," Frank said.

    "That's why it's important to have a framework in place, so any country contemplating brutal actions in the future will be on notice … I think it's reasonable to say, ‘If we're going to punish you, we should let you know in advance what the rules are.'"
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