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Success story: Policy engagement delivers for indigenous peoples

Thanks to Bankwatch's engagement with the EIB and the EBRD, both banks now require project promoters to ensure a free, prior and informed consent by affected people to any relocation.

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Imagine you are a herdsman in central Asia, living with your family next door to a site earmarked to become a large power station. A representative from a western energy company arrives to say that you will have to up roots within the next six months, as their company plans to start site construction shortly. With the energy company representative is an official from the European Investment Bank, that has been asked and has agreed to support the power plant project in question. That EIB official is now supposed to be obliged to take on board the views and rights of the locally affected population in a much more rigorous and responsible fashion.

Thanks to Bankwatch's engagement with the EIB during the review in 2008 of its Statement of Environmental and Social Principles and Standards (pdf), an historic breakthrough for Indigenous Peoples affected by EIB projects was achieved. The EIB now requires project promoters to:

    “prepare an acceptable Indigenous Peoples Development Plan. The plan must reflect the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent to any relocation.”

The word 'consent' - rather than simply 'consultation' - is long overdue language at all of the international financial institutions, and is now part of the EBRD's Environment and Social Policy, also finalised in 2008.

Bankwatch's engagement with Indigenous Peoples affected by major infrastructure projects has included our campaign efforts on the Sakhalin 2 oil and gas project, as well as our close involvement in the World Bank's Extractive Industries Review.

Due to the expanding roles of both the EIB and the EBRD in the Global South, we are increasingly collaborating with NGOs outside our native region of central and eastern Europe. In 2007 we helped to set up a flourishing NGO alliance, Counter Balance: Challenging the EIB, that works specifically to ensure that the EIB's multi-billion euro investments outside the European Union are deployed sustainably and for the benefit of people living in the developing world.