Bretton Woods Project addresses inconsistency in application of Indigenous Peoples Policy by World Bank in Kenya

ESCR-Net member Bretton Woods Project published an article in the Bretton Woods Observer called Lessons from Kenya: Why the World Bank must apply the Indigenous Peoples Policy consistently. Drawing on the work by another ESCR-Net member, the Narasha Community Development Group, the article addresses the denial of human rights of members of the Maasai community in Kenya, including the right of representation, decision making and land ownership.

In 2010, the World Bank approved a $330 million loan for the Kenya Electricity Expansion Program, directly displacing 1,000 – mostly indigenous Maasai – people and indirectly affecting 2,000 people. In response to a resettlement process beset by problems, members of this Maasai community filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel (IPN) about the total size, agricultural use and entitlement of the land assigned for relocation. The IPN found in its investigation report that despite the fact that the Maasai communities fit the requirements necessary to trigger essential protections under the World Bank’s Indigenous Peoples Policy, the Bank did not apply this policy. Because of this, the community was not involved and their free, prior, and informed consent was not obtained. The resettlement, concluded the IPN, was culturally incompatible and the livelihoods of the resettled persons were not restored.

The implications of this case are not only relevant to Kenya. As the World Bank is finalizing its new Environmental and Social Framework, which will replace current indigenous peoples and resettlement safeguards, many ESCR-Net members have joined the Bretton Woods Project in arguing that it is crucial that the new framework upholds the rights of indigenous communities like the Maasai. They further argue that concerns expressed by indigenous communities regarding World Bank projects must be addressed and that the Indigenous Peoples Policy must be applied in this project. Without recognition of the Maasai’s existence as indigenous peoples, their rights and way of life will continue to be undermined.