UN rights expert expresses concern over World Bank abuses News
UN rights expert expresses concern over World Bank abuses

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights [official website] on Tuesday expressed deep concern [press release] over human rights abuses committed by the World Bank [official website], going as far as to call the World Bank a “human rights-free zone.” Special Rapporteur Phillip Alston accused the organization of not considering human rights while conducting its work and hiding behind outdated statutes to limit its responsibilities. The comments were made in a report that will be presented to the UN General Assembly [official website] next month. Alston pointed out that the World Bank takes advantage of one of their articles of agreement, which stipulates officers “shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member,” by maintaining an “anachronistic and inconsistent interpretation” of the article. Alston further noted:

In its operational policies, in particular, it treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations. … 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. … [T]hese Articles were written more than 70 years ago, when there was no international catalogue of human rights, no specific treaty obligations upon States, and not a single international institution addressing these issues.

The World Bank has been under scrutiny for human rights abuses for quite some time. In April 2013 a group of UN independent experts urged [JURIST report] the World Bank to adopt human rights standards that will protect vulnerable populations at the World Bank’s meeting on the organization’s social policies. The group of independent experts included the Special Rapporteurs on extreme poverty and human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, the right to food, and the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights. The experts called on the World Bank to expand the scope of areas under the organization’s human rights policies, as the organization concluded the first week of reviewing its social policies.