• 16 May 2018

    The World Bank Should Stop Dodging Accountability

    By Human Rights Watch
    In another case from India, tea workers alleged labor rights abuses, in violation of international law and the IFC’s own rules, on IFC-funded tea plantations. Tea workers also appealed to the CAO, which found numerous shortcomings in IFC’s assessment of risks associated with child labor, fair compensation, and freedom of association. They also found IFC wasn’t providing a way out of poverty for workers, contrary to its goal of alleviating poverty. But local civil society say that little has changed for tea workers in the nine years since IFC invested in the tea plantations.
  • 10 May 2018

    Do No Harm: Accountability for impact investing

    By Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Accountability Counsel
    Impact Investment can be hard to get right and easy to get wrong. How can they avoid the unintended consequences for their investments? Impact investors seek social change and sustainability. Yet for investments in areas with weak rule of law, local conflicts can undermine both financial and impact returns and unintended consequences can harm the very people and environments that investors are trying to help. What tools do investors have to understand the local context and address conflicts? New and emerging tools are needed. Accountability Counsel, a global legal advocacy nonprofit, partnered with Stanford Law School’s Law and Policy Lab to investigate these tools and develop guidelines for adoption. This interview with Accountability Counsel founder and Executive Director Natalie Bridgeman Fields describes the tools needed for effective philanthropy.
  • 4 May 2018

    Tea garden deaths on the rise in World Bank-funded plantations, claim local NGOs

    By The Indian Express
    The first complaint about the conditions in the APPL-run plantations to the CAO was filed in February 2013. In November, 2016, the CAO released its findings — and in response, the IFC formulated an action plan based on its 2014 audit by independent NGO Solidaridad. As part of this plan called Project Unnati, the body has set certain goals to improve the living and working conditions of the workers by 2017. The complainants, however, feel that none of the promises have been met. “The World Bank has utterly failed to exercise its leverage to address the CAO’s damning findings,” said Anirudha Nagar, South Asia Director of Accountability Counsel, a supporting organisation. “While APPL management lines their pockets, the Bank should be providing funding and ensuring budgets are appropriately directed towards the health and safety of workers in the face of preventable deaths. The Bank is not being the honest, neutral broker it holds itself out to be.”
  • 2 May 2018

    Rights Denied In The Name Of Development: The ‘World Bank Approach’ In Assam Tea Gardens

    By Youth Ki Awaaz
    The tea gardens under scanner are those of the Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) which is the second largest producer and supplier of tea in India, with 25 plantations spread across the states of Assam and West Bengal and employing around 30,000 workers. APPL is owned by Tata Global Beverages, Tata Investment Corporation, tea workers, and the International Finance Corporation( IFC, private sector side of the World Bank Group). A new submission to the World Bank’s accountability office by community-based civil society organizations, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA) and People’s Action for Development (PAD), with the assistance of US-based human rights advocacy group Accountability Counsel, underlines the continuing neglect of workers’ rights by the international body.
  • 30 April 2018

    Opinion: The IFC’s worker shareholder failure

    By Anirudha Nagar, Accountability Counsel
    Almost exactly nine years ago, on 27 April 2009, the World Bank’s private sector arm—the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—invested in Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd (APPL), which has 25 tea plantations in Assam and West Bengal. The IFC owns 16% of APPL, while tea workers themselves, some 16,500 of them, own 9% equity. The Tata Group retains a majority 66% stake through Tata Global Beverages and Tata Investment Corp. Ltd. The IFC predicted that the worker share ownership programme would “empower employees by making them stronger stakeholders”. The hope was that the IFC’s social and labour standards would help improve labour conditions, and the investment would support over 155,000 people that live and work on the plantations.
  • 27 April 2018

    Indian workers dying on World Bank-backed tea plantations, say campaigners

    By Thomson Reuters Foundation
    The IFC and Tata Global Beverages in 2009 set up Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), which is partly owned by workers and was intended to end labor abuses on plantations previously run by Tata in the northeastern state of Assam. “Nine years on, we hear of tea workers who have died following work-related accidents, prolonged exposure to hazardous pesticides and lack of adequate medical care,” said Wilfred Topno of People’s Action for Development. After the 2016 investigation, the IFC said it was working with APPL to improve conditions. But in their complaint to the CAO, the advocacy groups said not enough has been done. “The World Bank has utterly failed to exercise its leverage to address the CAO’s damning findings,” said Anirudha Nagar, of the Accountability Counsel.
  • 13 April 2018

    Impact investors must set up ‘accountability tools,’ experts say

    By Devex
    The impact investing community needs to create innovative accountability tools to deal with high-risk environments and ensure their investments are delivering positive social and environmental impacts. This was the message delivered by Natalie Bridgeman Fields, founder and executive director of Accountability Counsel, and Gayle Peterson, director of social finance and impact investing programs at Saïd Business School, during a side event held as part of the Skoll World Forum in Oxford on Thursday.
  • 11 April 2018

    Spring Meetings 2018 Preamble: Despite favourable growth trends, World Bank and IMF’s attempts to tackle debt and inequality remain elusive

    By Bretton Woods Project
    The potential perils of privileging the private sector were highlighted by a recent UK National Audit Office report on public-private partnerships (PPPs), which probed the fiscal cost of PPPs, and a December report by Belgium-based CSO Counter Balance, which stressed the social and environmental risks of the Bank’s push for mega-infrastructure projects. Indeed, Natalie Bridgeman Fields of US-based CSO Accountability Counsel argued in a February Devex op-ed that the Bank’s private-sector promotion, “will be a setup that harms the poor and vulnerable and widens the wealth and equity gap.”
  • 9 April 2018

    Community watches over creek’s turtles

    By Mexico News Daily
    In 2010, Grupo Comexhidro wanted to build a small hydroelectric power plant on Sal creek, and cleared a one-kilometer stretch of shoreline to do so. But according to residents of Santa Úrsula the company did not consult with them and little information regarding the project was made public. With the support of several non-governmental organizations, including the international Accountability Counsel, residents halted the project.
  • 9 March 2018

    Opinion: What a new U.S. development finance institution needs to succeed

    By Kindra Mohr & Brian McWalters, Accountability Counsel
    Last week, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives introduced the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, which, if enacted, would create a new agency called the United States International Development Finance Corporation. The IDFC would absorb the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — the U.S. development finance institution that encourages American businesses to invest in developing countries by providing businesses with loans or insurance — as well as several functions currently performed by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The bill could likely receive White House support as the administration similarly called for a new DFI in its 2019 budget proposal.
  • 1 March 2018

    Support for new US development finance bill, even as some details are questioned

    By Devex
    The bipartisan bill introduced Tuesday proposing the creation of a new United States development finance corporation could be a landmark piece of legislation, altering the U.S. development landscape for years or decades to come. The new DFC needs strong environmental and social policies and a strong accountability mechanism, said Stephanie Amoako, a policy associate at Accountability Counsel. The legislation should make clear whether OPIC’s office of accountability will continue as the mechanism for registering grievances or whether a new independent accountability mechanism will be created according to international best practices, she said.
  • 27 February 2018

    Why Build Kenya’s First Coal Plant? Hint: Think China

    By The New York Times
    Across a narrow channel from this historic port town, where baobabs tower over the forest and tiny crabs skitter in and out of the mangroves, Kenya could soon get its first coal-fired power plant, courtesy of China. The plan’s champions, including senior Kenyan officials, say the plant will help meet the country’s fast-growing demand for electricity and draw investment. Its critics worry that it will damage the area’s fragile marine ecosystem, threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities and pollute the air.
  • 21 February 2018

    World Bank refinancing of Uganda’s Bujagali hydropower scheme under the spotlight

    By Devex
    “The request for refinancing presents an important opportunity to finally achieve resolution on a number of these outstanding issues … we urge the World Bank Group to take this important opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to accountability and ensure access to remedy for project-affected peoples,” said a letter sent to World Bank chiefs earlier this month which was signed by more than 20 local and international NGOs, including the Accountability Counsel, Bank Information Center, Bretton Woods Project, Friends of the Earth US, and International Rivers.
  • 20 February 2018

    Opinion: Jim Kim’s World Bank is a setup for the poor

    By Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Accountability Counsel
    Addressing harm caused by bank projects, promoting inclusion of vulnerable groups, and ensuring accountability should be Kim’s most urgent priority. Once these fundamental problems are addressed, the bank can better meet its own objectives and deliver value to the private sector as it too looks to create impact.
  • 3 February 2018

    China Moves Toward Accountability for Overseas Financing

    By Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Accountability Counsel
    As the U.S. government retreats from leadership on climate, the Chinese are stepping up, both with new “green” policies and a leading role in finance, at home and abroad. This shift has notable implications for the millions of people affected by Chinese overseas investment in dams, mines, and pipelines.
  • 1 February 2018

    The Human Rights Ripple Effect

    By New Media Advocacy Project (N-Map)
    Human rights successes are hard-won, require the coordinated efforts of many people working in solidarity — often across backgrounds, sectors, and even international borders—and are often overlooked by mainstream media, which focuses on the disastrous here, now, and clickable.
  • 26 January 2018

    Lamu coal plant to cost power users Sh37bn yearly

    By Business Daily Africa
    Electricity consumers will pay a fixed charge of Sh37 billion per year through their bills towards Lamu coal-fired power plant, irrespective of whether it generates power or not. The Treasury’s latest budget policy statement indicates that $360 million (Sh37 billion) will be paid yearly to the developers, Amu Power Company, as “annual fixed capacity payments”. The planned payout is Sh5 billion more than what it cost to build the 50km Thika superhighway. Homes and businesses will pay the hefty bill for the 1,050-megawatt plant through their monthly bills to cover the developers’ fixed expenses on the project, regardless of whether they generate electricity or not.
  • 22 January 2018

    Disappointing dialogue in Sindhuli provides lessons for community participation in Nepal’s development

    By Shankar Limbu, Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), & Siddharth Akali, Accountability Counsel
    Democracy and development had a landmark year in Nepal in 2017. Nepal held local, provincial and national parliamentary elections, which were celebrated for being the first conducted under the new federal constitution which, however, is criticized for being regressive and discriminatory towards Indigenous Peoples and Madhesis.
  • 4 January 2018

    Opinion: A critical look at the IFC’s new incentives framework

    By Emily Gabor, Accountability Counsel
    To help staff make better decisions, the International Finance Corporation is introducing a new incentives framework, which will reward achievements in development outcomes. The new framework may be a welcome step, but the World Bank Group, which includes the IFC, has said incentives will reward staff on their ability to mobilize private sector funding. It’s critical that the IFC include in their rewards scheme recognition of staff that respect human rights.
  • 29 November 2017

    Nimble Fingers, Stifled Voices

    By Guneet Kaur, Accountability Counsel
    Is a World Bank funded project stifling agency and voices of its female employees? As diplomats, civil society organizations, governments and businesses gather in Geneva to talk about the role of business to respect and protect human rights, a company – backed by the World Bank – is failing at both. Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest producer and supplier of tea in India, is a joint venture of the Tata Group and the World Bank’s private sector side, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).