Promoting respect for human rights in development finance

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ESCR-Net joined a meeting of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development in Washington, D.C., USA between October 7 and 10 of 2017, where approximately 70 representatives of 54 organizations gathered ahead of the World Bank Group’s Annual Meetings. The meeting was convened for the Coalition’s members to reflect on the past two years, share tools and resources and collectively establish priorities for the coming period.

ESCR-Net was represented in the gathering by several organizational members of the Economic Policy Working Group who have also been active in the Coalition since its inception, as well as by a staffperson from the Secretariat.

At the gathering, Coalition members reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that all development finance institutions respect human rights. With the conclusion of the World Bank Safeguard Review process, participants called attention to policy advocacy opportunities with other banks including the Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Bank and Chinese-led Banks. Coalition members agreed to strengthen engagement with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) New Development Bank, particularly with regards to the sustainable infrastructure agenda and gender policy. The Coalition looks forward to collaborating with more civil society groups in the countries comprising the BRICS, in pursuit of these shared aims.

In a new development, the Human Rights Due Diligence Project, will soon publish a toolkit designed for both human rights advocates and development practitioners to encourage governments and development finance institutions to adequately assess and address the human rights risks and opportunities associated with development projects.

During the meeting, ESCR-Net members were active in discussions regarding the ways in which the members connect and collaborate with affected communities. International Accountability Project shared information about their Early Warning System, while Inclusive Development International discussed their Follow the Money to Justice initiative. The Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact shared their evolving plans to document self-determined development initiatives among indigenous communities, like small-scale artisanal mining, which they propose are meaningful alternatives to large scale, unsustainable development projects. Meanwhile, Asociacion Interamericana para la Defensa de Ambiente (AIDA) urged fellow Coalition members to ensure that communities affected by development projects enjoy support, regardless of the banks involved. In recognition of the convening power of the Coalition to connect diverse civil society organizations, participants resolved to strengthen efforts to engage more grassroots groups as well as other rights-based movements like the Climate Justice movement and labor groups, in order to create stronger linkages and opportunities for collaboration.

The Coalition also discussed the Defenders in Development campaign which calls on development finance institutions to provide an enabling environment for public participation in development and to safeguard human rights defenders. Coalition members noted the shrinking civic space in many parts of the world which makes it difficult to consistently engage human rights and environmental defenders. In some places like for example the Philippines and Honduras, the violent repression of defenders emphasizes the need for such campaign.  Finally, growing interest in monitoring Chinese investment was underscored by groups from Latin America, where 80% of lending is derived from that source.

In addition to contributing to the above discussions, Fundar- Centro de Análisis e Investigación and several other ESCR-NetCoalition members were central to stressing also agreed on the need to collectively articulate elements of an alternative model of development to inform all the work of the Coalition and to integrate a stronger gender analysis in campaigns and advocacy initiative. ESCR-Net co-founded the Bank on Human Rights Campaign in 2014, working to ensure the participation of grassroots groups and allied civil society organizations from all regions, and supported the transition to the Coalition for Human Rights in Development in 2016, with multiple ESCR-Net Members taking leadership in the Coalition’s Steering Committee.

To learn more about the Coalition for Human Rights in Development please visit: