WORLD BANK REPUTATION ON THE LINE OVER TIBET PROJECT
Activists look to Canada for leadership to uphold Bank policies and protect Tibetans
July 5, 2000: The World Bank Board of Directors may decide tomorrow to proceed with a controversial World Bank project in the Tibetan province of Amdo (Qinghai), despite an Inspection Panel report citing gross policy violations on the part of the Bank staff.
The World Bank Inspection Panel, an independent complaint mechanism, headed by Canadian Jim MacNeill, was authorized by the Board last year to investigate possible violations of Bank policy in the development of a component of the Western China Poverty Reduction Project. The controversial component aims to resettle 67,000 Chinese farmers in Tibet. The Inspection panel report was leaked to the press last week and reveals that Bank staff violated numerous environmental and social policies. The report also documents "a climate of fear" in the project area. The Panel also accused the Bank of applying a double standard in China, requiring
less rigourous application of standards and safeguards.
"The Tibetan people do not object to development", said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "But we do object to cultural genocide in the name of development. Tibetan voices are silenced by the 'climate of fear' in which they live and that's why we are fighting this project."
While Tibetans are calling for cancellation of the project, World Bank President James Wolfensohn and Bank management are expected to recommend that the Executive Directors accept a "fix" to the project's shortcomings. In a letter addressed to the Directors, Wolfensohn accused those who advocate against the project of being politically motivated and impossible to satisfy.
But Canadian activists accuse the Bank of playing politics when it violates its own policies in order to please its biggest client - China. The Canadian campaign to stop the project has been led by the Halifax Initiative, a coalition of non-governmental organizations which advocates reform of the World Bank. The coalition is calling for Canada to take a principled position when its Executive Director, Ms. Terrie O'Leary, presents Canada's position to the Directors on Thursday.
"The Inspection Panel report reveals a startling amount of policy illiteracy on the part of the Bank staff. If Canada believes in more World and less Bank, it will cancel support for the Qinghai component" said Pam Foster, Coordinator of the Halifax Initiative. "The Board must send a strong signal tomorrow that policy violations will not be tolerated".
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Thubten Samdup, Canada Tibet Committee: 514-487-0665
Pam Foster, Halifax Initiative, 613-789-4447