Accountability Counsel has collaborated with the Papua New Guinea-based Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (“CELCOR”) to assist indigenous smallholders in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea in their efforts to gain a voice in the design of a World Bank-funded palm oil production project called the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (“SADP” or the “Project”). The stated goal of SADP is to alleviate poverty in Papua New Guinea by expanding palm oil production and improving road systems. The smallholders fear, however, that the Project will harm their environment and extract burdensome levies from palm oil growers without resulting in real benefits for local communities.
In November 2009, Accountability Counsel and CELCOR filed a complaint with the World Bank Inspection Panel on behalf of anonymous smallholders in Oro Province. The complaint asserted that SADP violates World Bank policy in a number of ways including the failure to consult with locally affected indigenous people or gain their consent before moving forward with the Project and the likelihood that the Project as planned will not reduce poverty in local communities. Of particular concern to the claimants was that the unsustainable payment plan devised for the Project’s planned road maintenance would enact burdensome and unsustainable levies on small oil palm growers, and that by promoting palm oil production without providing any alternatives for income generation, the Project would lead to a degradation of critical forests and grasslands on which local people depend.
The World Bank Inspection Panel conducted a full investigation into the Project in response to the communities’ complaint and released its Investigation Report in December 2011. The report documented numerous violations of World Bank policies, most significantly that the Project failed to incorporate basic elements required to decrease poverty among Project “beneficiaries” and was designed without consultation or study of indigenous landowners’ capacity to pay their proposed share of the road maintenance portion of the Project.
The World Bank’s Board of Directors approved an Action Plan in response to these findings, with specific steps for Bank Management to carry out to bring the Project into compliance. Accountability Counsel continues to assist affected communities by working with CELCOR to monitor the Bank’s implementation of the Action Plan.