Press Release - Thursday, February 12, 2004


Nobel Laureates, Hundreds of NGOs, urge the World Bank to reform policies on oil, coal and mining

Ottawa – February 12, 2004. Archbishop Desmond Tutu today joined five other Nobel Peace Prize winners and over 300 organizations from around the world in calling on World Bank President James Wolfensohn to adopt the recommendations of an external review on extractive industries that he commissioned. A draft copy of World Bank management’s response, leaked last week, indicates that the Bank continues to argue that changes are unnecessary to ensure poverty alleviation and to ensure that local communities benefit from the World Bank Group’s investments.

“War, poverty, climate change, greed, corruption, and ongoing violations of human rights – all of these scourges are all too often linked to the oil and mining industries.” wrote Tutu and the other Laureates in their letter to Wolfensohn. “Your efforts to create a world without poverty need not exacerbate these problems. The Review provides you an extraordinary opportunity to direct the resources of the World Bank Group in a way that is truly oriented towards a better future for all humanity.”

The Extractive Industries Review (EIR) was initiated at the World Bank Annual Meetings in Prague in 2000 by Bank President James Wolfensohn, who pledged to evaluate how much extractive industries contribute to poverty alleviation – if they do so at all. 

The EIR concluded that if the World Bank Group intends to pursue its mandate of poverty alleviation, then it should not support extractive industries unless the broad set of conditions outlined in the Report's recommendations are in place first. 

Furthermore, the EIR found that support for coal and oil, as well as support for projects in critical natural habitats and areas of conflict, does not represent the best use of public World Bank money to promote and support sustainable development. It found that the World Bank Group should phase-out its financing for these types of projects and reallocate its funds towards renewable energy. Even the Bank’s own data shows that countries that rely on oil as their primary export are more than 40 times more likely than other nations to be involved in civil war.[1]

“This process clearly concluded that World Bank support for the oil and mining industries does not result in benefits for the poor, respect the basic rights of communities, or protect the environment. Will the World Bank Group keep its commitment to own up to this failure and make the necessary changes? We hope that the answer is yes, and that Mr. Wolfensohn delivers on the good faith that he showed by initiating this process,” said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams released the letter, which was also signed by Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Sir Joseph Rotblat, Betty Williams, and Mairead Maguire. The letter to Bank President Wolfensohn from Nobel Laureates can be viewed on-line at The letter from civil society organizations is posted at

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For more information:

Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada, 613-761-2273

Pamela Foster, Halifax Initiative Coalition, 613-266-8100

[1] Collier, Paul, and Anke Hoeffler, Greed and Grievance in Civil War. Policy Research Working Paper 2355, Development Research Group, World Bank, May 2000