UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations has always remained one of the most vociferous and passionate advocates of human rights – exemplified in the creation in 2006 of a 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva to uphold its mandate.
But, in its own political yard, a member of its extended family, namely the World Bank, is apparently working at cross-purposes.
Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, has lambasted the World Bank for either marginalizing or ignoring human rights in its policies.
For most purposes, he said, “the World Bank is currently a human rights-free zone.”
In its operational policies, in particular, “it treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations,” says Alston in a new report published online.
The report, which will be officially presented to the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 23, points out that the biggest single obstacle to better integrate human rights into the work of the World Bank is “the anachronistic and inconsistent interpretation of the ‘political prohibition’ contained in the Bank’s Articles of Agreement.”
“They invoke the Articles of Agreement, which were adopted in 1945, and argue that this clause, not to interfere in States’ political affairs, effectively prohibits the Bank from engaging with issues of human rights,” Ashton says.
However, he stresses, “these Articles were written more than 70 years ago, when there was no international catalog of human rights, no specific treaty obligations upon States, and not a single international institution addressing these issues.”
Meanwhile, in a submission to the World Bank, which began its annual meeting in Peru Oct. 9, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Bank’s draft social and environmental safeguard policies fail to enforce the Bank’s responsibility to protect the human rights of vulnerable communities affected by projects it finances.
“Two words – ‘human rights’ – are missing from the safeguards’ requirements and should be a priority during this week’s meetings,” said Jessica Evans, senior advocate and researcher on international financial institutions at Human Rights Watch.
Click Here: Rugby league Jerseys
“It is astounding and disappointing that the Bank can put forward policies that purport to ‘safeguard’ poor and vulnerable communities without committing to respect their human rights,” she added.
Asked about the contradictory roles of the United Nations and the World Bank, Sarah Saadoun of Human Rights Watch told IPS the Bank has made a habit recently of responding to calls to ensure its projects respect human rights by saying that it is not a human rights tribunal.
But as an international organization and a specialized U.N. agency, it has a responsibility, derived not least from the U.N. Charter, to respect human rights, in addition to the human rights obligations flowing from its member states, she said.
In any event, Saadoun said, the World Bank, as part of the U.N. family, should be working to strengthen and promote the international human rights system. Instead, it scrupulously avoids reference to human rights standards in its existing and draft safeguard policies.
She also said the Bank has been trying to overcome its history of sometimes supporting projects with devastating impacts on poor and vulnerable communities, such as by adopting and now reforming its safeguard policies.
“But it still refuses to commit to respect human rights.”
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT