Report and Recommendation on Request for Inspection, Re: Argentina - Special Structural Adjustment Loan 4405-AR (Pro-Huerta Case)
Request for investigation brought before the World Bank Inspection Panel, requiring the WB to instruct the Government of Argentina to review its budgetary allocations awarded to social programs within the framework of the Special Structural Adjustment Loan, No. 4405-AR (63991). Alleged violation of General Comment No. 12, and as recognized under Article 11 (right to food and to adequate nutrition/adequate standard of living).
In February 1990, the Executive Branch commissioned the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) to develop a food security program designed to help the poor maintain small vegetable gardens to produce food for their own consumption. On August 3, 1990, the INTA Board of Directors issued Resolution 239 approving the Pro-Huerta Program.
In the 1990s the World Bank granted Argentina a special structural adjustment loan that included a safeguard condition according to which the borrower's overall budget for certain social programs would be maintained intact; the Pro Huerta social program was listed among them. However, in 1999, the budget for the Pro-Huerta Program suffered a nearly 65 percent reduction which threatened the right to food of its beneficiaries.
In June 1999, with Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales as counsel, a group of 418 beneficiaries issued a complaint before the Sub-regional Office of the World Bank in Buenos Aires stating that the budget cut to the Pro-Huerta program constituted a serious violation of the terms and conditions on which the Bank approved the loan, as well as of the Bank's policies and legal procedures. Moreover, the claimants argued the breach violated General Comment No. 12 on the right to adequate food adopted by Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under Article 11. Due to the inaction of the World Bank's management, a claim was also presented before the Inspection Panel that blamed local officials of the Bank for failure to deal with the harm to the project that the budgetary reductions could cause and demanded that the Panel delay the pending loan payments to Argentina until the government restored adequate funding.
In December 1999 the Inspection Panel visited the country and released a report which affirmed its power to consider petitions tied to structural adjustment policies and recognized that beneficiaries had standing as affected persons.
Keywords: Report and Recommendation on Request for Inspection, Re: Argentina - Special Structural Adjustment Loan 4405-AR (Pro-Huerta Case), Adequate Standard of Living, Agricultural and Rural Issues, Food Rights, International Financial Institutions
The appeal before the Panel and the petition for the retention of payments unleashed strong pressure on the World Bank and Government of Argentina. Following this finding of the Panel, the Bank persuaded the Government to provide an additional US$3 million to the Pro Huerta program, nearly doubling its budget. In addition, the Ministry of Social Development had decided to allocate another US$1.5 million in lottery revenues to the Pro Huerta program. The Panel was informed by all concerned that the total funds allocated to Pro Huerta would be adequate to fund its operations for the fiscal year. Because the potential harm claimed by the claimants appeared to have been averted, both by their own actions in submitting the request and by the subsequent favorable reaction of both the Argentine authorities and Bank Management, the Panel did not recommend a formal investigation.
After the 2001 crisis, the Pro-Huerta Program continued being implemented in the poorest zones of the city. To this day, the program helps alleviate the needs of the country's indigent, while promoting civic participation and reinforcing ties within communities.
The Pro-Huerta case is an example of a somewhat unconventional strategy (Panel Request) that led to successful results in the protection of ESCR. The intervention of the Inspection Panel of the World Bank had a decisive impact on the national priorities, and prevented the Government from shirking its social commitments: as highlighted by CELS, "after the profound social crisis that Argentina went through especially since 2001, Pro Huerta helped to alleviate subsistence needs, promote participation and strengthen community ties." (CELS, La Lucha por el Derecho, 2008). It was also used as a model for a similar program in Haiti. (IICA. Program for Fresh Food Self-sufficiency in Haiti: Pro-Huerta 2005-2008)