World Bank: Address Ethiopia Findings (HRW)

February 24th, 2015 Print Print Email Email

The World Bank should fully address serious human rights issues raised by the bank’s internal investigation into a project in Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the bank’s vice president for Africa. The bank’s response to the investigation findings attempts to distance the bank from the many problems confirmed by the investigation and should be revised. The World Bank board of directors is to consider the investigation report and management’s response, which includes an Action Plan, on February 26, 2015.

The Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, found that the bank violated its own policies in Ethiopia. The investigation was prompted by a formal complaint brought by refugees from Ethiopia’s Gambella region concerning the Promoting Basic Services (PBS) projects funded by the World Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the African Development Bank, and several other donors.

“The Inspection Panel’s report shows that the World Bank has largely ignored human rights risks evident in its projects in Ethiopia,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The bank has the opportunity and responsibility to adjust course on its Ethiopia programming and provide redress to those who were harmed. But management’s Action Plan achieves neither of these goals.”

The report, leaked to the media in January, determined that “there is an operational link” between the World Bank projects in Ethiopia and a government relocation program known as “villagization.” It concluded that the bank had violated its policy that is intended to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. It also found that the bank “did not carry out the required full risk analysis, nor were its mitigation measures adequate to manage the concurrent rollout of the villagisation programme.” These findings should prompt the World Bank and other donors to take all necessary measures to prevent and address links between its programs and abusive government initiatives, Human Rights Watch said.

Rather than taking on these important findings and applying lessons learned, World Bank management has drafted an Action Plan that merely reinforces its problematic current course, Human Rights Watch said. The Action Plan emphasizes the role of programs designed to mobilize communities to engage in local government’s decisions without addressing the significant risks people take in speaking critically.

The Inspection Panel also found that the bank did not take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk presented by Ethiopia’s 2009 law on civil society organizations. The law prohibits human rights organizations in Ethiopia from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources. As a result of the law, most independent Ethiopian civil society organizations working on human rights issues have had to discontinue their work.

The plan also pledges to enhance the capacity of local government staff to comply with the bank’s policies and to provide complaint resolution mechanisms without addressing the role of the local government in human rights abuses. This continues an approach of seeing the officials implicated in human rights abuses as a source of potential resolution, Human Rights Watch said. Management has also concluded, contrary to the Inspection Panel, that the World Bank is adequately complying with the bank’s policy to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Human Rights Watch research into the first year of the villagization program in the western Gambella region found that people were forced to move into the government’s new villages. Human Rights Watch found that the relocation was accompanied by serious abuses, including intimidation, assaults, and arbitrary arrests by security officials, and contributed to the loss of livelihoods for the people forced to move. While the Ethiopian government has officially finished its villagization program in Gambella, it is forcibly evicting communities in other regions, including indigenous people, ostensibly for development projects such as large-scale agriculture projects.

Donors to the Ethiopia Promoting Basic Services Program, including the World Bank and the UK, have repeatedly denied any link between their programs and problematic government programs like villagization.

Human Rights Watch has long raised concerns over inadequate monitoring and the risks of misuse of development assistance in Ethiopia. In 2010 Human Rights Watch documented the government’s use of donor-supported resources and aid to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Government officials discriminated on the basis of real and perceived political opinion in distributing resources, including access to donor-supported programs, salaries, and training opportunities. Donors have never systematically investigated these risks to their programming, much less addressed them.

The Inspection Panel report is the first donor mechanism that has investigated the donor’s approach to risk assessment in Ethiopia. Although the Inspection Panel adopted a narrow view of its mandate and decided explicitly to exclude human rights violations, its findings underscore the need for donors to considerably enhance and broaden their risk assessment processes in Ethiopia. These processes are crucial for ensuring that their programs advance the social and economic rights of the people they are intended to benefit, without violating their human rights. Management’s response misrepresents the panel’s view of its mandate, erroneously concurring “with the panel’s conclusion that the harm alleged in the Request cannot be attributed to the Project” – the Inspection Panel report makes no such sweeping conclusion.

“The bank directors should send management’s response and Action Plan back and insist on a plan that addresses the Inspection Panel’s findings and the concerns of the people who sought the inquiry,” Evans said. “A meaningful Action Plan should address the program in question, bank-lending in Ethiopia more broadly, and how to apply lessons from these mistakes to all bank programing in high-risk, repressive environments around the world.”

The Action Plan should include provisions for high-level dialogue between the bank and the Ethiopian government to address key human rights issues that are obstacles to effective development, Human Rights Watch said. These issues include forced evictions and development-related displacement, restrictions on civil society, including attacks on independent groups and journalists, discriminatory practices, and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.

The plan should include provisions for identifying and mitigating all human rights risks and adverse impacts at the project level, and for independent monitoring to make sure these concerns are fully addressed. The plan should also include provisions for people affected by projects to be involved in projects from their conception and remedies for people negatively affected by bank projects.

Given the climate of fear and repression in Ethiopia, Gambella residents who brought the complaint to the bank and have taken refuge in South Sudan and Kenya are unlikely to feel safe returning home. In light of this, the Action Plan should address their most urgent needs abroad, including education and livelihood opportunities, Human Rights Watch said.

The Inspection Panel’s findings also have wider implications for donor programming in Ethiopia. Donors’ current appraisal methods do not consider human rights and other risks from their programs. The panel highlighted particular problems with budget support or block grants that cannot be tracked at the local level.

“The Inspection Panel report illustrates the perils of unaccountable budget support in Ethiopia,” Evans said. “Donors should implement programs that ensure that Ethiopia’s neediest participate in and have access to the benefits of donor aid.”

  1. Dilwenberu
    | #1

    The organization calling itself the `Human Rights Watch` has lost all its credibility because it has become the mouthpiece of the toxic and vocal Amhara diaspora. But this coordinated and hostile propaganda by this organization and the Amhara diaspora will not have any bearing on our democratic and developmental government in Ethiopia. We know that HRW has also cooperation with Shabia and helping the latter to organize and train Amhara forces to destabilize Ethiopia.

  2. Ye Gonder Jegna
    | #2


    The problem is just like the rest of Africa and other non white countries world wide and we Ethiopians do not trust HUMAN RIGHT whatsoever. Human right is full of hidden agendas.
    Human right is selective institution and always carries hidden agendas behind all its actions and inactions. One must be foolish and irrational being to fully trust such organization.
    The direct colonialism may had ended in the 1960′s, but the indirect colonization still present through internationally organized white dominated organizations such as HUMAN RIGHT,WORLD BANK,JURNALIST WITH OUT BODRDER,BBC AND ETC…, most of these organizations always comes with hidden agendas to subjugate Africans and control Africans sociopolitical affairs in the name of status quo.

  3. Gebrekidan
    | #3

    The Human Rights Watch is doing a superb job and fulfilling its missions by exposing the egregious crimes of the fascist and racist regime of the TPLF in Ethiopia. Ethiopians are totally suppressed by the TPLF and remain voiceless. This organization is acting as the voice for the voicesless and carrying out its humanitarian duties. The most despicable crimes of the TPLF include land grab, the dispalcement of indigenous communities from their ancestral land, destruction of their environment, ethnic killings and ethnic cleanings targetting the Amharas. The TPLF regime also abuses humanitarian aid and excludes and punishes the communities it does not like. Ethiopians will get rid of the fascist and racist rule of the TPLF with With the active assistance of human rights organizations like the HRW and others.

  4. Observer
    | #4

    I agree with Yegnder jegna 100%,

    I do not think these white dominated institutions have any moral ground or any legitimate right to criticize and degrade African, Asians, Middle eastern or south American countries.

  5. papie
    | #5

    most Ethiopians knew who always is against HRW; it is obvious those are the TPLF thugs. You are blinded by TPLF propaganda because you are illiterate. U buy ur degrees from diploma mills or kiosks and try to deceive ppl. U are empty stone head. We all know u are bankrupt, u only want to fill ur belly, that is all u know. Very unsecured and suffer from inferiority complex. Your days are numbered, believe me; you TPLF dogs!!! You will be running around like a rat soon.
    victory to all Ethiopian patriots.

  6. Kelemu
    | #6


    Since1970′s, The Asian countries included Chaina had successfully rejected these hidden corrupted dirty agents called “human right ” or those foreign agents who operate their dirty missions in the name “journalism”, that is why today the entire ASIAN countries booming and becoming the economic power house.
    Who love AFRICANS more than AFRICANS themselves ? Human right ? Please, do not make me laugh, and do not insult our AFRICANS intellect.

  7. Ibsa
    | #7

    The Human Rights Watch is the real friend of the oppressed and marginalized peoples of Ethiopia and is documenting and exposing the heinous crimes of the TPLF fascists and racists.The TPLF rejects the equality of peoples in Ethiopia and promotes Tigrayan economic and political hegemony. The exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo and other peoples are leading to a dangerous situation in Ethiopia. The Tigrayan minority can no longer intimidate, harass, imprison, suppress and kill all the rest. Thanks ti the HRW, the whole world is becoming aware of the racist politics and rule of of the TPLF. The TPLF guys who accuse the HRW of racism can not cover the racism, diccrimination and marginalization of their own organization s (TPLF)leaders are committing.

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