Along with many others, Protection International has signed the letter below asking international financial institutions to make meaningful investments, take accountability, and foster an environment for freedom of expression, assembly and association. A PDF version is also available in English, Spanish, and French.


Responsibility of International Financial Institutions to ensure Meaningful and Effective Participation and Accountability within their Investments, and to Foster an Enabling Environment for Freedoms of Expression, Assembly, and Association

In recent years, international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other regional development and investment banks, have increasingly emphasized the importance of participation, good governance, and accountability for development. As both human rights and development experts have noted, respect for human rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association is crucial for achieving participatory, sustainable, and accountable development. (1)

In many countries where international financial institutions (IFIs) are investing, these rights are under attack, from violent crackdowns on protests and criminalization of speech, to arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs). (2) In 2014, Global Witness identified 116 killings of land and environmental defenders in 17 countries – on average more than two assassinations per week. (3) This environment of violence, intimidation, and closing civil society space renders meaningful public participation in development virtually impossible. It also significantly increases the risk that IFI-financed activities will contribute to or exacerbate human rights violations. (4)

In all their activities, IFIs should do everything within their powers to support an enabling environment for public participation, in which people are empowered to engage in crafting their own development agendas and in holding their governments, donors, businesses, and other actors to account. IFIs should also ensure that their activities do not cause or contribute to human rights violations, including taking necessary measures to identify and address human rights risks in all of their activities.

We, the undersigned, call on all international financial institutions to ensure that the activities they finance respect human rights and that there are spaces for people to participate in the development of IFI projects and hold IFIs to account without risking their security. We call on IFIs to actively support the realization of rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and related human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), in all their activities.

We also urge shareholder governments to actively support these reforms at each international financial institution of which they are a member.

We call on international financial institutions to:

1. As part of country-level and project-level engagement, systematically analyze the environment for freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and the realization of other human rights critical for development and the implications for development effectiveness and project outcomes. Build this analysis into country development strategies and project design, including by identifying the actions and measures which will be taken by the IFI and the client to address any risks.

2. Develop and institutionalize creative methods to enable people, including marginalized and discriminated against groups, to freely participate in proposed IFI-financed development initiatives that may affect them or that should benefit them, without risk of reprisals.

3. Systematically analyze and take measures to mitigate project-related risks relating to freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and other human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.

4. Establish policies to ensure that information and communication technology investments are not used to limit freedom of expression or infringe international obligations on privacy rights.

5. From the earliest stages of project development until following project completion, take all necessary measures to mitigate risks of all forms of threats, attacks, or reprisals to community members, workers, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations for participating in project development, for criticizing or opposing a project or otherwise speaking out (or being perceived to have spoken out) against a project. Such measures should include: incorporating clauses preventing reprisals in loan agreements and developing an urgent response system to address threats to project critics.

6. Consistently highlight the importance of the rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association for participatory, sustainable, and accountable development in dialogue with all levels of government and in relevant IFI publications. In the face of proposals that would roll back protections of these rights, emphasize to governments the adverse impact such proposals would have on development effectiveness and the IFI’s activities in the country.

7. Concerning compliance/accountability mechanisms: develop measures to protect people’s right to remedy, including the right to freely approach and fully participate in the IFI accountability mechanism processes; ensure that those communities likely to be affected by a project are aware of and feel safe in approaching accountability and grievance mechanisms; give accountability mechanisms the tools and power to address situations in which complainants experience retaliation after participating in or attempting to utilize an accountability mechanism process; and ensure that compliance investigations also examine any instances of retaliation for opposition to the project and/or participation in the mechanism process.


Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda
Social Justice Connection, Canada
OT Watch, Mongolia
Uganda Land Alliance, Uganda
Amnesty International, International
Human Rights Watch, International
CEE Bankwatch, Czech Republic
Citizens for Justice, Malawi
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Germany
FUNDEPS, Argentina
Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme, Cameroon
Institut de Recherche en Droits Humains (IRDH), Democratic Republic of Congo
Lumière Synergie pour le développement, Senegal
Just Associates (JASS), International
L’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale, Democratic Republic of Congo
Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG), Ghana
Center for International Environmental Law, International
Narasha Community Development Group, Kenya
Accountability Counsel, United States
Actions pour les Droits, l`Environnement et la Vie, Democratic Republic of Congo
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), Nigeria
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines
Phenix Center Jordan, Jordan
Bank Information Center, United States
International Accountability Project, International
Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom
Protection International, Belgium
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
Jewish World Watch, United States
Sawit Watch, Indonesia
Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
African Resources Watch (AFREWATCH), Democratic Republic of Congo
Responsible Sourcing Network, United States
Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix, Democratic Republic of Congo
Maison de Mines du Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay, Philippines
NGO Forum on ADB, Philippines
11.11.11. – Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, Belgium
Conseil régional des organisations non gouvernementales de développement, Democratic Republic of Congo
Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth, Nigeria
l’Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale République Démocratique du Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Ong hadassa, Gabon
Ong croissance saine environnement, Gabon
Governance and Social Accountability Tunisia, Tunisia
Assembly of AL-Inbithaq for Development & Economic Development, Iraq
Center for Studies and Economic Media, Yemen
Khpal Kore organization(KKO), Pakistan
Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Myanmar
Anticorruption Business Council of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyz Republic
Seeds – India, India
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP, Myanmar
Inspirator Muda Nusantara, Indonesia
Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Nagaland / India
Empower India, India
Business and Welfare Initiatives Ltd., Bangladesh
Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, Thailand
Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India
Greater Active Reconstruction & Justice Action Network-Nepal, Nepal
KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Philippines
Participatory Research Action Network, Bangladesh
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Egypt
African Law Foundation (AFRILAW), Nigeria
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Regional
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, United States
Egyptian Center of Civil and Legislative Reform, Egypt
The Gate of Culture and Development, Morocco
Arabic Water Forum, Morocco
Friends of the Earth U.S., United States
Fundacion MaderaVerde, Honduras
Press Freedom Advocacy Association, Iraq
ActionAid USA, United States
Commercial Media Center, Iraq
Tunisian Association of Transparency in Energy and Mines (ATTEM), Tunisia
Krityan and UNESCO Club Jamshedpur, India
Zo Indigenous Forum Mizoram, India
Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations – SOMO, Netherlands
Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development, Egypt
Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente, Peru
Greenpeace, International
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, United States
Al-Noor Universal Foundation, Iraq
Gender Action, United States
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team, International
Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand
Indigenous Women League Nepal, Nepal
Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Nepal, Nepal
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Regional
American Jewish World Service, United States
Guatemala Human Rights Commission, United States
Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital, Mexico
Article 19, United Kingdom
Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Regional
Inclusive Development International, United States
Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Public Union, Azerbaijan
Urgewald, Germany
EcoLur Informational NGO, Armenia
Bankwatch Romania, Romania
Habi Center for Environmental Rights, Egypt
Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Argentina
BankTrack, Netherlands
A Toda Voz, A.C., Mexico
Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme, International
European Center for Not-for-Profit-Law, Hungary

(1) Daniel Kaufmann, “Human Rights, Governance, and Development: An empirical perspective,” in World Bank Institute, Development Outreach, October 2006, pp. 15- 20; Hans-Otto Sano, “Development and Human Rights: The Necessary, but Partial Integration of Human Rights and Development,” Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 22.3 (2000), pp. 734-52.
(2) Amnesty International, “The State of the World’s Human Rights 2015/2016,” 2016; Civicus, “Civil Society Watch Report,” June 2015.
(3) Global Witness, “How Many More? 2014’s Deadly Environment: the killing and intimidation of environmental and land activists, with a spotlight on Honduras,” April 2015.
(4) Human Rights Watch, “At Your Own Risk: Reprisals Against Critics of World Bank Group Projects,” June 22, 2015; Oxfam International, “The Suffering of Others: The human cost of the International Finance Corporation’s lending through financial intermediaries”