Human rights should be a priority, and not a casualty, of development. This is what Bank on Human Rights, a global coalition of social movements, civil society organizations and grassroots groups has been advocating for this past year. Too often the communities that are directly affected are excluded from participating in the design and implementation of development projects. To address these concerns, the Bank on Human Rights Coalition has been advocating for human rights standards to be respected and adopted by international financial institutions. IAP is proud to be a part of setting up and strengthening the Coalition. With a growing membership of 47 organizations, a meeting was organized between February 4–6 to map out the Coalition’s functioning and plans for the future.
The three day gathering held in Johannesburg, South Africa, attended by more than 35 participants from 25 countries, provided an opportunity to put a face to the work being done by organizations to support community resistance against human rights violations. To frame the deliberations, three objectives were set including strengthening members’ understanding of the Coalition, identifying five year objectives for its programs and discussing ways to improve how the Coalition operated.
To develop a broader understanding of the world of development finance, we undertook a mapping exercise to highlight the contribution of international financial institutions to development projects, especially in developing countries. I was amazed that the final resource map we produced challenged the widely held perception of investment as a sack of foreign currency on one hand and an impoverished group of people in dire need of redemption on the other. It is evident that although most development projects target Africa, Latin America and Asia, there is also a significant amount of resources from the same regions financing development projects elsewhere in the world.
This set the stage for exploring the Coalition’s three program areas, namely community engagement, national level advocacy and institutional level advocacy. Through group discussions, organizations aligned their work with particular program areas that they would like to contribute to in the next five years. During our presentations, it became clear that most organizations were already contributing to all areas of work. We realized that we had a unique opportunity to create a stronger collective voice to advance advocacy. Members of the International Accountability Project’s (IAP) Global Advocacy Team shared their communities’ struggles against forced evictions as a result of diamond mining in Marange, Zimbabwe and the construction of the Chan 75 hydro-power dam in Panama respectively. These experiences provided examples of how communities could mobilise and engage to claim their rights.
For the Coalition, this was the first opportunity for members to acquaint themselves with what each organisation does and to ensure that our advocacy has a greater impact. This was a great step forward as we seek to challenge the evils associated with development financing. As Kofi Annan remarked-
“Humanity will not enjoy security without development, it will not enjoy development without security, and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”