News and Update: Bangladesh government works on leasing out state-owned jute mills

September 30, 2007

Khawaza Main Uddin, NewAge, September 30, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The government, fixated on the free market philosophy that business in public sector is not feasible, is going to lease out all the state-owned jute mills in phases to stop spending on them, jute ministry sources said.

The ministry has initiated a move to strike management outsourcing contracts with interested private parties based on production sharing to efficiently run the eight jute mills, instead of disinvestment.

‘It is no longer possible to run the jute mills in a cost-effective manner. The government cannot keep counting losses for years. We had better lease them out, rather than privatising or closing them,’’ a high jute ministry official told New Age.

The ministry is also working out a profit-sharing formula with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority through a committee to hand over about 300-acre compound of the now-defunct Adamjee Jute Mills for use by export-oriented industrial units, said the sources.

The public sector jute units under the lease-out process include four closed mills — People’s Jute Mills, Karnaphuli Jute Mills, Forat-Karnaphuli Carpet Factory and Qoumi Jute Mills. Four others are Alim Jute Mills, where a lay-off has been announced, Dhaka-Baghdad Jute Mills, RR Jute Mills and MM Jute Mills.

‘We would like enter into five-year production sharing contracts with private entrepreneurs with the eight mills as we cannot guarantee the operation of the mills after their privatisation. It is something new by way which we can avoid counting losses, but can keep the industrial units in operation and earn some money as well,’ the jute ministry official said.

The government earlier closed four jute mills, bringing down the number of mills under the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation to 18. Until the beginning of the privatisation of jute mills in 1983, the number of jute mills under the state ownership was 77.

On July 18, the jute and textiles and industries adviser, Geeteara Safiya Chowdhury, expressed her determination to run the remaining jute mills efficiently and declared a ‘jihad’ (crusade) for jute sector revival.

The government accordingly allocated Tk 150 crore to buy raw jute, but the finance ministry tagged a condition of ‘getting rid of four more jute mills’ to the release of the fund in line with lenders’ prescription to reduce the number of loss-making public sector entities, sources in the two ministries said.

In the past week, the Jute Mills Corporation, which incurred a loss of Tk 320 crore in the financial year 2005–06, announced a lay-off at the Alim Jute Mills on cash crunch that had paralysed its operation. The Dhaka-Baghdad Jute Mills, RR Jute Mills and MM Jute Mills are also facing crisis of working capital.

Asked why lay-off was announced at another jute mill, a high jute ministry official said the government found it unaffordable to either count losses from the operation of the overburdened mills or close them down while privatisation was also not a viable option. The jute ministry also revoked its earlier plan to constitute a national commission to map out an effective jute sector revival strategy.

Civic forums and rights organisations are campaigning for the revitalisation of the sector and criticising the government policy of reducing the number of such mills that harms the interest of workers, employees and jute growers.

A citizens’ body, Public Commission on Jute and Jute Industries, is now working on a report in this regard.

Further Resources:

Editoral by NewAge, April 23, 2007: Repression on jute mill workers

A state-owned conspiracy, By Tanim Ahmed and Tapos Kanti Das

Photo Essay on the jute factory workers at the Khalishpur industrial belt in Khulna: The Tragic Fibre, Photo: Andrew Biraj, Text: Tanim Ahmed

Advertisements

News and Update: No surprise, Strauss-Kahn takes the helm of the IMF

September 29, 2007

mastheadinsidelogo.gif

Update from Bank Information Center (BIC)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today announced that Dominique Straus-Kahn will take over as managing director of the IMF beginning November 1, 2007.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) named France’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn its new managing director this afternoon. The announcement followed a two-stage vote by the IMF’s Executive Board, which included a secret straw poll followed by a formal vote and resulted in a consensus vote for Strauss-Kahn. He will succeed outgoing managing director Rodrigo de Rato beginning November 1, for a five-year term. Given the fact that he had the unanimous backing of the 27-nation European Union and the United States, Strauss-Kahn’s victory was “virtually assured.” Strauss-Kahn pledged to be a “consensus-builder” between developed and developing country representatives in the Fund’s governing bodies, in order to address the IMF’s legitimacy, relevancy, and financial crises.

While the IMF’s leadership announcement has been illustrated by the media as an event that will “help restore credibility lost in recent years,” it is important to re-emphasize that the process of the Fund’s leadership selection was not conducted in a manner that is merit-based, transparent, and democratic. Although Russia nominated Czech national Josef Tosovsky, which marked a break from the decades-long tradition of the IMF chief being picked by Europeans and approved by the U.S., the process was not adequately competitive, and there were no proposals by or for developing country representatives.

In the last one week, the two candidates have been interviewed by the Fund’s Executive Board at its Washington, D.C. headquarters, where both candidates presented statements. Josef Tosovsky stated that the quota, voice, and vote reforms undertaken a year ago during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Singapore were merely a “down payment” on the governance changes necessary in the Bank. According to Tosovsky, surveillance is the “bread-and-butter work of the Fund,” and is central to its medium-term strategy because “only the Fund” can integrate bilateral, regional, and global surveillance. Tosovsky also noted that it is premature to think that IMF lending is irrelevant, but admitted that the Fund should regularly re-examine whether its facilities continue to meet the needs of its members in the fast-paced changes of the global economy.

Strauss-Kahn stated that the task of the next IMF leader is clearly to rebuild the credibility and efficiency of the Fund. Surveillance activities need to strengthen its focus on “financial sector stability,” while lending instruments need to be “modernized.” Conditionality, according to Strauss-Kahn, should be “reconsidered” with regards to the most relevant aspects for any particular program. He reaffirmed that the Fund should remain involved and committed in low-income countries by working closely with other partners, particularly the World Bank. He also stressed that the Fund’s legitimacy goes well beyond quota reforms in its governance structure, and highlighted his endorsement of a double majority voting system, where votes are measured by both quotas and chairs. Strauss-Kahn also noted that the IMF’s staff needs to adapt to a changing world, among other things by hiring those from regions underrepresented in the staff. He admitted that it was “ironic that both candidates today are Europeans,” and stated that he did not want to be “the candidate from the North against the South or from the wealthy against the poor.”

Resources:

Follow the IMF leadership selection process on the IMFleadership blog (IFIWatchnet website)

Strauss-Kahn named to head IMF, IMF Survey Magazine, September 28, 2007 (IMF website)

Statement by Dominique Strauss-Kahn to IMF Executive Board, September 20, 2007 (IMF website)

Statement by Josef Tošovský to IMF Executive Board, September 19, 2007 (IMF website)

Transcript of press conference by Masood Ahmed, Director of the External Affairs Department, IMF, September 20, 2007 (IMF website)


Preliminary Findings by the Jury of the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India

September 27, 2007

untitled1.png

Tribunal website.

Contact Tribunal Secretariat: secretariat@worldbanktribunal.org

24th September, 2007

We, the twelve jury members, have listened to four days of testimony and depositions from affected people, experts and academics from some 60 grass roots, civil society groups and communities from all over India. The presentations covered 26 different sectors of economic and social development, ranging in scope from the macro-economic impact of wide ranging economic policies to testimony from representatives of communities said to have been harmed and impoverished by specific World Bank financed projects. Our members include former justices of the Indian Supreme Court and High Courts, lawyers, writers, scientists, economists, religious leaders, and former Indian government officials. We note that the World Bank Delhi office received an invitation to attend the Tribunal two weeks in advance, but did not wish to participate in the proceedings.

First and foremost, the evidence and depositions we have witnessed presents a disturbing and shocking picture of increased and needless human suffering since 1991 among hundreds of millions of India’s poorest and most disadvantaged in rural areas and in the cities. It is clear to us that a significant number of Indian government policies and projects financed and influenced by the World Bank have contributed directly and/or indirectly to this increased impoverishment and suffering. All this has taken place while a minority of India’s population that constitutes the middle class and rich has enjoyed the fruits of an economic boom.

The most disturbing leading indicator for this suffering is the alarming increase in farmer suicides since the 1990s. From 2001 to 2007 alone, according to the Indian Minister of Agriculture, 137,000 poor farmers have killed themselves. These deaths are not random events; the evidence we heard points to increasing financial pressures on farmers all over India as a result of some or all of the following policies, such as: reduced subsidies from the Center and states, higher prices for poor farmers for irrigation water, electric power, and seeds; reduced subsidies for agricultural inputs, reduced access to low interest loans for the poor, and opening up of the Indian economy to an uneven playing field in international trade in agricultural commodities. India’s farmers must now compete with imports from the heavily subsidized farms of the European Union and North America, at the same time when even the most meager state assistance for the poorest farmers is reduced. India was once self-sufficient in food production; its food security is now dependent on imports. It is clear to us that major World Bank Economic Restructuring, Structural Adjustment, and Sector Loans have directly promoted and helped to finance these economic policy changes which are a disaster for much of India’s more than 700 million rural inhabitants, and most disastrous of all for poor farmers.

Other World Bank loans have promoted the institution of user fees in the health and education sectors, as well as partial privatization in these sectors. Whatever the justification for these policies, we heard how in practice, they have further disadvantaged the poor. The Bank is promoting legal and regulatory changes the main focus of which appears to lessen the social and environmental compliance burdens for industry and investors, rather than protect the vulnerable livelihoods and environments of India’s poor majority. The net effect of many Bank prescribed policy “reforms” appears to be the reorientation of the Indian State priorities from striving to secure a safety net for the poor and vulnerable to providing a safety net for large domestic and international corporations and investors.

We heard witnesses from the poorest Dalit and Adivasi communities describe the deterioration for their communities from poverty to destitution because of forced displacement caused by World Bank financed projects. A number of these projects are notorious and communities have sought redress for years: the Bank’s massive loans for thermal power development in Singrauli in the 1980s displaced many tens of thousands of poor, who have sought economic rehabilitation and improvement of toxic environmental conditions, with no redress from the Bank or its Indian government borrower, NTPC. We heard of the plight of hundreds of families impoverished by displacement in the Bank financed Coal Sector Rehabilitation Project, despite the claims of a separate Bank Coal Sector Environmental and Social Mitigation Project. Although the Bank’s own Independent Inspection Panel found in 2002 that Bank management violated its own environmental and resettlement policies on 37 counts, Bank management has taken no effective measures to ameliorate the condition of these families. These examples are only a small sample of a massive pattern of forcible displacement of India’s poorest and most vulnerable populations for large scale natural resources extraction, infrastructure and urban projects, a number of which have been directly financed by the Bank. The Bank has announced its intention to increase its financing of large scale projects while at the same time there is disturbing evidence of its widespread failure to implement its environmental and social safeguards, as well as indications of intentions to even dilute the effective rigor of these safeguards.

One of the disturbing impressions we gathered from the presentations is that the bank seems to have developed the art of making policies whose safeguards are only on paper. It has developed a language game in which words like empowerment actually mean disempowerment, sustainable means unsustainable, public-private partnership means using the public to promote the interests of the private.

It is impossible to do justice in our short preliminary statement to the volume, scope and intensity of the scores of depositions, expert presentations, and eye-witness accounts we have heard over the past four days. The Tribunal will be publishing more detailed accounts, and we will submit a more detailed set of findings and recommendations in future weeks. What emerges is a picture of an institution whose influence on the economic and social policies of the Indian government is much greater than the amount of its lending might indicate. The Indian Government, of course, shares at the very least equal responsibility for all of the abuses we have witnessed, indeed a significant number of officials in key ministries such as finance and planning have either worked at the Bank or IMF, or share their assumptions and biases. Together all bear considerable responsibility for wide reaching policies and specific investments which in the name of growth and development have had the cruelest impact on the most vulnerable groups in our society.

We hold the Indian government accountable and call for changes in these policies. India and the international community must join to hold the World Bank accountable for policies and projects that in practice directly contradict its mandate of alleviating poverty for the poorest.


World’s Water Supply at Risk: Conversation with Maude Barlow

September 26, 2007

By Kevin Danaher and Shannon Biggs and Jason Mark, PoliPoint Press

Republished from AlterNet, September 26, 2007

The following conversation with Maude Barlow is an excerpt from the new book Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots (PoliPointPress, 2007) by Kevin Danaher, Shannon Biggs, and Jason Mark. You can read more about the book here.

1175863599_cc9ff4ba31.jpg

Maude Barlow is possibly the world’s leading expert on water struggles. She is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, that country’s largest citizen’s advocacy group, with members and chapters across Canada. She is a director with the International Forum on Globalization, a San Francisco research and education institution opposed to corporate globalization. In 2005, she received the prestigious “Right Livelihood Award,” given by the Swedish Parliament and widely referred to as “The Alternative Nobel.” She has received honorary doctorates from six universities and has authored or co-authored 15 books, including Too Close For Comfort: Canada’s Future Within Fortress North America; and Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water (with Tony Clarke). Her most recent book is Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water.

Q: What are the greatest threats to local water supplies?

Maude Barlow: First of all, we are creating an ecological crisis by not taking care of our water supplies. Surface waters are being polluted, and we are mining our groundwater at unsustainable rates. At the very time when corporations are privatizing everything, our governments are allowing corporations to move in and take over the ownership of essential resources like water.

So we have a double whammy: Our governments are allowing corporations to pollute our water, and then they are signing contracts with corporations to bring in clean-up technology and make billions of dollars cleaning it up. The very sector of society that is polluting our water is turning around and selling our water back to us. And this is going to be more and more of an issue in the future. We’ll be increasingly drinking water that has been polluted by corporations, then cleaned up by corporations, then bottled and sold to us by corporations.

Q: What are some success stories of people protecting their water?

MB: The people of Uruguay held a plebiscite and got enough votes for a referendum in the national election in October 2004 in which they called for a constitutional amendment saying that water is a human right, and they won. The government was forced to change its constitution, and Uruguay became the first country in the world to vote on whether people have a human right to water, and the private companies were forced out.

There have been quite a few successful fight-backs across North America. The city of Atlanta allowed a private company to come in to run its water system, and the city kicked them out two and a half years into a 20-year contract. They said, “Get out. You lied. The water coming out of the taps is brown, and you raised the price. Get out.” We kept private water companies from taking over the water systems in Toronto and Vancouver. There’s a big movement in the heart of France, led by Danielle Mitterand, the widow of the former French president, Francois Mitterand. She is leading this fight to bring water under public control, and many city mayors of some good-sized towns and cities — not yet Paris — are backing her. So even in the belly of the beast, there are some exciting movements.

Q: What about the struggle against Coca-Cola in India?

MB: When you dig deep into Coca-Cola’s practices, you see it’s really a bad company. They are using military satellite imagery to find clean sources of groundwater and then going in — often in poor tribal communities — and setting up a plant and just helping themselves to the water until the water is gone. I call it water mining. We’re working with folks in the state of Kerala, India, who have taken the Coca-Cola company all the way to their Supreme Court to fight the way Coke comes in and sucks up massive amounts of groundwater, pollutes it with sweeteners and chemical additives, and then makes huge profits selling this nonnutritious drink to the public. The Supreme Court of India has ruled largely in the people’s favor. Yet Coke is still fighting; they refuse to give up. But these grassroots activists don’t give up, either. It’s been a real successful fight-back against Coca-Cola.

Q: Does it seem to you that the United States and Canada are more, or less, water-conscious than people in other nations?

MB: Individually, we are terrible water-guzzlers. We use a great deal of water per capita through our industrial practices, agriculture, mining, and, in my country, through oil extraction from tar sands. We take a little better care of our groundwater than many Third World countries because we citizens have a little more control; the corporations tend to be from our countries, and we can exert greater influence on them. There is serious pollution — I’m not suggesting there isn’t — but we don’t see the kind of blatant pollution you see in many poor countries. In some countries, the water is foul due to the combination of absolutely no sanitation systems, people using river systems as toilets, to bathe in, to cook in, their garbage dumps, their sewage dumps, everything goes into those open waterways where there’s no purification or any kind of water reclamation. As industrial growth and the industrial model moves into the Third World, it’s bringing massive pollution.

Also, people are being driven off the land. They are moving into urban slums where there’s no water, and they create more of a problem because they are adding to the numbers in the cities that are not treating their sewage. About 90 percent of the sewage in the countries of the global south goes untreated back into waterways, rivers, and oceans. It’s a cyclical problem that intensifies as we move from rural sustainable living to urban unsustainable living.

We’re creating massive water pollution problems. It’s lower in the U.S. and Canada because we’ve got more money for clean-up and slightly better laws for industry. But water pollution is happening just about everywhere. The only societies where water is still treated sacredly are in ancient tribal societies. Many rural communities in India, China, Africa, and Latin America are still living the way that their ancestors did centuries ago; they aren’t creating significant levels of pollution.

Q: Who’s using the bulk of the water here in North America?

MB: Most of the water is used by industry and agribusiness, which is also an industry. The industrial food production system uses nitrates, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, which contaminate a lot of water. Intensive livestock operations create horrible pollution. So one of the most important things we can do is to create a more sustainable agricultural system.

Q: Are there any really tough issues that the movement needs to face that you feel we’re not confronting adequately?

MB: That’s the part of my new book that surprised me the most: the technological takeover of our planet’s water system. We have been following very closely the big utility companies like Suez and Vivendi, who run water systems on a for-profit basis. And we have been following the bottled water companies, and those have been the kind of two big ones.

And then we have been worried about major movement of water through pipelines, but we have not been keeping our eye on the whole issue of technology to clean up dirty water, whether that’s desalination, water purification, nanotechnology purification. It’s going to be the “great white hope,” and it’s all unregulated and very corporate controlled, and it doesn’t surprise me that when you look at the United Nations’ millennium development goals on water, nobody is talking about cleaning up polluted water. Because, hey, there’s gold in those hills. The more our water becomes polluted, the more precious it becomes. The more desperate people are, the more they will pay for their water, and the more money there is to be made from cleaning it up.

The fastest-growing sector of the private water industry is this high technology water clean-up section of this industry, and we must get a better handle on the whole thing. I think that what we are seeing is a cartel of water that is being created like the cartel that has been created for energy. For a long time now, when there was a find of a new field of oil or gas, some large corporation owned it even before it was out of the ground. I see them doing this now with water, and I call them water hunters. These water hunters move in with one goal: to monopolize control over a precious resource in order to make money.

Q: Are you noticing a greater receptivity to your message about the coming water crisis?

MB: Most definitely. I was in down in Lubbock, Texas, on a local radio station, and this guy called in and said, “I’m a right-wing, diehard, Republican, red meat, conservative businessman. And I think the little lady’s right. Water is different. You can’t have anyone monopolize it.” It was fascinating; he totally had my argument. We didn’t agree on anything else, but we agreed on the importance of retaining public control over this vital resource. So that is hopeful.

Further Resources:

Life and Times of Maude Barlow

Joint Declaration of the Movements in Defense of Water, Mexico City, March 19, 2006


Debt and trade activists: No to aid for unfair trade!

September 26, 2007

817fbd51d7.jpg

Joint Press Release, Manila: September 19, 2007

Debt and trade activists staged a picket at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Manila office Wednesday and stressed that the “Aid for Trade” being pushed by World Trade Organization (WTO), international financial institutions (IFIs) especially ADB, and the powerful G-8 nations is “nothing but a bribe” or a “dangling rotten carrot” in front of developing countries. The protest coincided with the two-day regional review meeting sponsored by the WTO, ADB and the Philippine government, in Manila. Dubbed “Mobilizing Aid for Trade: Focus Asia and the Pacific,” the meeting aims to discuss “how to empower less developed economies and small states to benefit from global trade.” DB President Haruhiko Kuroda and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy kicked-off the conference on September 19.

Carrying placards that say “No to Aid for Unfair Trade,” various progressive organizations exposed that it is through the nexus of debt domination and exploitative trade that IFIs, rich governments and global corporations continue to condemn the poor countries to poverty and deprivation.

“ADB and WTO are acting like philanthropic institutions when they talk of ‘Aid for Trade.’ But this initiative is more about aiding unjust trade rather than helping poor countries build their capacity to develop. It’s a win-win solution for WTO chief Lamy and ADB President Kuroda. They get to promote their ambitious trade liberalization agenda and project themselves as pro-poor philanthropists!” stressed Joseph Purugganan of Stop the New Round! (SNR) Coalition.

“With the world already burdened by odious and illegitimate debt mechanisms, bribes are being used to break the deadlock of the stalled WTO negotiations in Hong Kong – called ‘Aid for Trade’ – with the United States, European Union, and Japan offering such a carrot. By dangling his rotten carrot in front of developing countries, the rich and powerful nations hope to slam open the closing doors to profits from their goods and services from the poor people of the world,” said Jubilee South – Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD). Meanwhile, Josua Mata of the Alliance for Progressive Labor echoed that the ‘Aid for Trade’ is nothing but a grand plan to bribe the Global South to accept the lopsided Doha development round.

“We don’t need more ‘aid’ or loans, we need fairer trade. Instead of aid, we need the flexibility of using trade for development, not the one-size-fits-all formula peddled by WTO,” he said.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition stressed that the people are not deceived by this ‘Aid for Trade’ initiative. “The reality is majority of the aid comes not in the form of grants, but loans—loans that would only put the people of the South deeper in debt and abject poverty,” said Francis Isaac of FDC, also a member of NGO Forum on the ADB.

“The loans sharks, masquerading as donor agencies, use aid and loans or debts as leverage to further the privatization,” said Bukluran ng
Manggagawang Pilipino.

ODA Watch explained that ‘Aid for Trade’ is a ‘tied aid.’ The privatization-enabling conditionalities are attached to aid-supported projects such as the construction of big dams and hydropower facilities which have displaced entire communities, dislocated livelihoods, devastated indigenous peoples and cultures, and irreversibly destroyed the environment.
Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), in a statement, recalled the ADB’s Grain Sector Development Program (GSDP) loan to the Philippine government in 2000, adding that it was tied on the condition that the government will privatize the National Food Authority (NFA) and will remove its intervention in palay trading and marketing and lift the Quantitative Restriction on rice importation.

Aid for trade intends to encourage the beneficiary countries to make trade a greater priority and to encourage aid donors to scale up trade
related official development assistance.

“The government may have terminated the second and third tranches of the GDSP loan due to the farmers’ unrelenting protest. However, the loan ayment is already included in the country’s debt servicing budget,” said Jessica Reyes-Cantos of R1.

Organizations that joined the protest:

Stop the New Round! (SNR) Coalition – Philippines, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Rice Watch and Action Network (R-1), Jubilee South – Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP),Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Kilusang Mangingisda (KM), NGO Forum on the ADB, and Trade and Advocacy Group (TAG).


United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

September 26, 2007

Viewpoint from World Rainforest Movement (WRM): Indigenous Peoples on the road to justice

Indigenous Peoples have achieved a major victory at the United Nations level. After more than 20 years of negotiations, on September 13 the United Nations General Assembly finally adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The vote won with an overwhelming majority of 143, and it is important to name –and shame- the governments of the only four countries that voted against: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. These governments, that pretend to be promoting human rights worldwide, have thereby shown that they are unwilling to even acknowledge those of indigenous peoples in their own countries.

Although not a legally-binding instrument, the Declaration constitutes a very important step forward, that sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples –numbering some 370 million people- as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

There are of course major obstacles for the implementation of this instrument and, as UN General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa herself warned “even with this progress, indigenous peoples still face marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations.”

Which brings us to the second victory that we would like to share: that of the indigenous Tupinikim and Guarani peoples against giant pulp producer Aracruz Cellulose in Brazil. For over 40 years, their lands had been in the hands of Aracruz –a Norwegian-Brazilian company- that destroyed their villages, evicted them from their territories, cut down the forest and converted the land to eucalyptus plantations. After decades of struggle, on August 27 the Minister of Justice finally recognized these lands (14,277 hectares) as belonging to the indigenous peoples.

It is important to underscore that Aracruz’s occupation of those lands had been illegal and in violation of the Brazilian Constitution regarding indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories. However, the economic and political power of the company managed for years to make the state ignore this. Only the long struggle of the Tupinikim and Guarani, supported by a large number of organizations in Brazil and abroad finally forced the state to comply with its own legislation.

The details of their struggle are summarized in the articles below, as a means of sharing their experience with the many other peoples fighting for their rights. A the same time, it is useful to highlight -in the context of the recently approved UN Declaration- that even the most legally-binding instrument –the National Constitution- was in this case only adhered to as a result of the peoples’ struggle.

This means that Indigenous Peoples still face enormous challenges to ensure that their rights are fully respected and that governments comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But these two victories –one at the international and the other at the local level- prove that victory is possible. It is time for celebrating!

Full text of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


News and Update: World Bank Officials Refuse to be Held Accountable

September 26, 2007

Press Release: Independent Peoples Tribunal on The World bank Group in India

25 September 2007, New Delhi, India

Tribunal Charges Bank with Serious Violations of Democracy, Human Rights and Sovereignty

New Delhi: The four day Independent Peoples Tribunal (IPT) on the World Bank in India concluded here today hearing numerous depositions indicting the Bank’s policy and project interventions in India. Over six hundred people from communities, social movements, research institutes, NGOs and universities attended the proceedings. The Tribunal, supported by the Jawaharlal University’s Teachers Association and Students’ Union was held in the university premises.

The IPT invited the World Bank two weeks ago and while they did agree to make a presentation responding to some of the evidence, they failed to show up despite provision of adequate space and time by the organisers. They stated on their website that they had taken this decision because they are not accountable to the Tribunal process. We must record our shock at their blatant disregard of any need to be accountable to civil society and to a Jury comprising retired justices of the Supreme and High Courts as well as leading writers, academics, religious leaders and activists.

In its preliminary findings, the IPT observed the Bank had an undue and disturbingly negative influence in shaping India’s national policies disproportionate to its contribution, financial or otherwise.

While India is the world’s largest single cumulative recipient of World Bank assistance, with lending totaling about $60 billion (Rs. 2,40,000 crores) since 1944, current annual borrowing amounts to less than 1% of the country’s GDP. The loans, however, have been used as leverage to bring about important policy changes and impose conditionalities in areas such as governance reform, health, education, electricity, water and environment- many of these with obvious political and social consequences. The loans also legitimize substantial additional funding from a diversity of bilateral and multilateral donors such as the Asian Development Bank and Department for International Development (DFID-UK). The Bank’s loans have caused extensive social and environmental harm from mass displacement in the Narmada valley to loss of livelihoods of traditional fishworkers in places such as Barwani.

It was noted that such overbearing influence on India’s policy making was in violation of the World Bank’s own Rules of Association, which mandate it to be an apolitical institution that should not interfere in political processes of any member country. Further, the IPT depositions stated that the presence of former Bank officials in senior government positions was unacceptable and involved conflicts of interest.

Undermining Democracy:

Vice Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board Professor Prabhat Patnaik in his deposition cited the example of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM), which is a World Bank designed project. In the Kerala NURM project, the state government, he said, was being forced to accept a conditionality to reduce stamp duties to 5% from the earlier 15-17%. To avail a loan of about 1000 crores, Kerala would lose up to Rs.7000 crores of government revenue.

Vinay Baindur of the Bangalore based Collaborative for the Advancement of Studies in Urbanism (CASUMM) showed evidence of how the Karnataka Economic Restructuring Loan (KERL) resulted in the conversion of a state government and its economy into a corporatised entity meant to generate funds for “private sector and enterprise development”. ‘The $250 million loan resulted in far reaching changes; the closure/privatisation of the public sector, nearly two lakh permanent employees were forced to take Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) payments.

Further, the restructuring process led to a steep rise in farmer suicides; many of those who committed suicide did so because they were unable to pay the arrears in power costs that were suddenly slapped on them on account of power tariff hikes. “The withdrawal of subsidies for agriculture led to a sharp rise in the costs of cultivation”, argued Baindur in his deposition.

Jury member and scientist Meher Engineer said that he found the depositions on how the Bank forced inappropriate technology on India such as incinerators especially damning. ‘Given the well researched evidence that I have heard it is hard to imagine any role for the World Bank in the environment sector, he said. ‘The Bank is pro-rich, pro-urban and anti-environment’, he concluded.

The IPT was organized by an inclusive platform consisting of over 60 national and local groups (see list below). Activists, academicians, policy analysts and project affected communities presented evidence against the World Bank in over 26 sectors from 21-24 September. Jury members included historian Romila Thapar, writer Arundhati Roy, activist Aruna Roy, former Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant, former Finance Secretary S P Shukla, former Water Secretary Ramaswamy Iyer, scientist Meher Engineer, economist Amit Bhaduri, Thai spiritual leader Sulak Sivaraksa and Mexican economist Alejandro Nadal amongst others.

World Bank and Government of India Missing in Action:

But in response to the depositions the Bank posted a Q&A document on its India home page. In the document, the Bank makes the outrageous claim that, “The World Bank definitely has not recommended the privatization of water supply services in India”. It is particularly worrisome that the Bank has to repeat a series of untruths and not own responsibility for the extensive harms they have caused.

In a sign of convergence with the Bank, the Government of India also failed to send even a single representative to the event, despite personal invitations, emails and faxes being sent 2 weeks in advance to several Government officials at all ministries that borrow money from the World Bank.

Pushing for Electricity Privatisation:

In the 1990s, 20-30% of World Bank loans in India went to the energy sector. Orissa had the dubious distinction of being the first state to receive World Bank loans for restructuring the sector. Sreekumar N, from the Pune based Prayas Energy Group argued that based on World Bank advice, Orissa spent upto Rs.306 crores for foreign consultants, ignoring local expertise. The consultants recommended the privatisation of distribution and the American firm AES that took over distribution in the central zone behaved in a high handed manner and ultimately exited the state in 2001.

Banks Toxic Colonialism:

Nityanand Jayaraman of the Chennai based Corporate Accountability Desk in his desposition before the jury said, ‘The Bank is perpetrating toxic colonialism by funding discredited and polluting technology interventions’. As evidence he presented cases where the Bank has promoted the setting up of more than 88 Common Effluent Treatment Plants, more than 90 percent of which were shown to have failed to meet environmental norms by the Central Pollution Control Board.

Just the Begining:

Wilfred D’ Costa, General Secretary of the Indian Social Action Forum(INSAF) one of the convening groups of the IPT said, ‘The tribunal has been useful since it has seen a convergence of social movements, unions, academicians, researchers and struggle groups from across the country. Our next steps would be to use this platform to create a broad based political struggle against neo-liberalism and work towards an India without institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank’.

For more information and findings of the Tribunal contact the IPT secretariat at secretariat@worldbanktribunal.org and +91-9820039557

Visit the IPT website and blog.

Convenors and Advisors:

All India Bank Employees Association o All India Trade Union Congress o Alternatives o Alternative Law Forum o Prof. Arun Kumar o Arunachal Citizen’s Rights o Asia Pacific Movement for Debt & Development o Banwari Lal Sharma o Biraj Patnaik o C Rammanohar Reddy o Centre for Education and Communication o Chhotanagpur Adivasi Seva Samiti o Collaborative for the Advancement of Studies in Urbanism through Mixed Media o Corporate Accountability Desk o DICE o Prof. Deepak Nayyar o E.A.S Sharma o Equations o Food First Information and Action Network [FIAN] o Focus on the Global South o Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security o Human Rights Law Network o Indian Social Action Forum[INSAF] o Intercultural Resources o Jawed Naqvi o Jan Swasthya Abhiyan o Jharkhand Mines Area Co-ordination Committee o Jubilee South o K.G. Kannabiran o Kalpana Kannabiran o Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group o Kalyani Menon Sen o Karen Coelho o Kavaljit Singh o Kavita Srivastava o Kisan Sangarsh Samiti o Leo Saldanha o Lokayan o Lok Shakti Abhiyan o Lok Sangharsh Morcha o M Vijayabhaskar o Manthan Adhyayan Kendra o Michael Goldman o Mihir Desai o Dr. N Raghuram o Narasimha Reddy o Narmada Bachao Andolan o National Alliance of People’s Movements o National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights o National Campaign for People’s Right to Information o National Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources o National Conference of Dalit Organisations o National Confederation of Officers Association o National Hawkers’ Federation o Neil Tangri o PEACE o Parivartan o People’s Campaign for a Common School System o Plachimada Solidarity Committee o Praful Bidwaio Prashant Bhushan o Prayas o Sanjay Parikho Sathi-CEHAT o Satya Sagar o Shalmali Guttal o Shetkari Sangathana o South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People o Subrata o Sudhir Patnaik o Urban Research Centre o Vikas Adhyayan Kendra o Vijay Paranjype o Vinay Baindur

In Collaboration With Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association [JNUTA] and Jawaharlal Nehru University Student’s Union [JNUSU]