Following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court in Jam v. International Finance Corporation (IFC) [LINK], stripping the World Bank Group of absolute immunity, the IFC’s head released a statement [LINK] today expressing his commitment to “bolster accountability in my own organization.” In Jam, EarthRights International represents communities from India seeking to hold the IFC – the private lending arm of the World Bank Group – accountable for upending their lives and destroying their livelihoods by financing a disastrous coal-fired power plant.
The statement, from IFC CEO Philippe Le Houerou, arrives in the midst of the 2019 World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings, the first major gathering of the international development financiers since the February decision in Jam that the IFC and other international organizations are not immune from lawsuits related to their commercial activities.
Marco Simons, General Counsel for EarthRights International, made the following statement:
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision shined a spotlight on the crisis of accountability at the IFC. We welcome Mr. Le Houerou’s acknowledgement of this problem and his calls for his management team to be more proactive in responding to the concerns of local communities. We sincerely hope that his words are followed by actions. The bank faces a long road to becoming truly responsive to the concerns of people whose lives are upended by its investments. But this is a necessary step if the IFC is to fulfill its mandate to fight poverty.”
“The Jam case provides a case study of breakdowns in the IFC’s internal accountability processes. Before the power plant was built, the IFC’s staff members foresaw the environmental harm that the project would bring, but the IFC’s management chose to ignore its own experts. After the harm occurred, the communities tried to raise their concerns directly to the IFC, but the IFC’s management failed to listen. As a last resort, the communities filed this lawsuit with legal support from EarthRights International. To date, the IFC has still not compensated these communities for the damage it has caused.”
“Today’s statement is welcome, but the real test is whether the IFC will actually provide appropriate remedies to affected communities – including those in the Jam case – rather than resisting legal accountability at all costs.”
More information about this case is available at: https://earthrights.org/case/budha-ismail-jam-et-al-v-ifc