NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 9: In a significant development, the World Bank Group entity has agreed to a settlement with plaintiffs, including family members of 7 murdered farmers in Central American country Honduras.
In 2019, India’s Supreme Court also ruled against the World Bank group entity as it funded the Tata-Mundra project which harmed the coastal community. The World Bank group entity engaged in lending hundreds of projects across the globe which caused large-scale environmental destruction and human rights violations. Moreover, these institutions enjoy immunity in local courts and laws.
It is the first time that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private corporate lending arm of the World Bank Group, was accused of abetment of killings and violating of the rights of farmers who protested the Palm oil company’s violent land-grabbing campaign in Honduras.
“Many more such cases need to be filed for institutions like IMF and World Bank as they are responsible for mass suffering around the world by financing those projects causing havoc to environment and community”, says Ashish Kothari, a well-known environmentalist and member of Kalpvriksh.
EarthRights International, an American non-profit human rights and environmental organization brought the case, Juana Doe v. International Finance Corporation, in 2017 on behalf of deceased farmers’ families in the Bajo Aguán Valley of Honduras.
The plaintiff alleges that they were victimized by armed agents of Corporación Dinant, which terrorized local communities to expand its profitable palm oil operations.
They also allege that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which financed Dinant’s expansion, knew or should have known that its money was abetting murder and other serious abuses.
IFC’s support to Dinant included direct loans and financing channelled through the IFC Asset Management Company, an IFC subsidiary that is also a defendant in the lawsuit. That support continued from 2008 through at least 2014, even as Dinant’s security forces plunged the Bajo Aguán Valley into violence.
“Our clients took IFC to court in the United States because IFC gave them no other option”, said Marissa Vahlsing, a senior EarthRights Attorney who represents the Plaintiffs. “Despite internal IFC findings of wrongdoing, IFC refused to provide them with a meaningful remedy. The IFC maintains that it is above the law, but it is not. This case shows that, unless and until the IFC provides meaningful remedies to the communities it harms, they will have no choice but to sue the IFC, as our clients bravely and tirelessly did here.”
Some of Dinant’s land-grabbing has been reversed in recent years by Honduran courts and other processes. However, the Bajo Aguán Valley remains a dangerous place for those advocating for campesino rights and fighting land-grabbing.
India’s Supreme Court in 2019 ruled in favour of the community in a case where the IFC-funded Tata-Mundra coal-fired power plant harmed the fishing and farming community in Gujarat.
The historic judgment set a precedent that international lending firms cannot enjoy immunity to violation of human rights and environmental destruction.
The community through EarthRights’ International sued the IFC for lending such projects that harm the community. The community harmed by Tata Mundra is still waiting for the IFC to provide a remedy.
It is time to stop such funding and wreaking havoc through neo-liberal policy prescriptions, says Madhuresh Kumar, an activist working for the rights of communities.