Oxfam calls for community rights improvements as IFC reviews standards

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC – As the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings commence in Washington, DC this week, international humanitarian organization Oxfam America calls for improved policies to protect the rights of communities affected by International Finance Corporation (IFC) funded oil, gas, and mining projects.
This year, the IFC is reviewing its 2006 Performance Standards and Sustainability Policy, which aims to minimize the impact of all investment projects on the environment and surrounding communities. Among other improvements, Oxfam is calling for a policy of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) for all project-affected populations.
“Large-scale oil, gas, and mining projects bring significant environmental, social, and economic changes to surrounding communities,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “These communities should have access to information at all project phases and meaningful decision-making power for all projects that will impact their lands and livelihoods. For indigenous peoples in particular, free, prior, and informed consent is a critical means of protecting lands and cultural identity.”
Oxfam and local partners have engaged with communities surrounding IFC-financed oil, gas, mining, and other large-scale projects over the last decade. In addition to community engagement through FPIC, Oxfam recommends improved transparency, which means publicly disclosing all oil, gas, and mining industry project contracts between countries and companies.
“It’s no secret that lack of transparency around these projects often leads to government corruption and internal conflict. With improved transparency standards, the IFC will foster accountability in nations where secrecy has undermined development, democracy, and human rights,” said Offenheiser.
Oxfam also recommends a comprehensive policy for publicly reporting positive and negative examples of how IFC-funded projects have contributed to development in surrounding communities. This type of reporting will demonstrate how the IFC is progressing toward its poverty reduction mandate, and is particularly important for oil, gas, and mining projects, which have significant negative impacts on communities and the environment.
In April 2010, the United States submitted comments on the IFC’s proposed changes to the Performance Standards and Sustainability Policy. Oxfam commends the US government for supporting comprehensive improvements that will benefit communities. However, these recommendations do not include FPIC.
“The US government must support the inclusion of FPIC in the IFC standards, particularly given that the State Department is currently reviewing the US position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Supporting FPIC in both arenas will demonstrate the United States’ commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable communities,” said Offenheiser.

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