World Bank's mining agenda in Haiti draws criticism

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe (left) and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (right). The multilateral development bank is allegedly backing a controversial mining legislation in the Caribbean country. Photo by: Dominic Chavez / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

A coalition of Haitian community leaders and organizations have filed a complaint with the World Bank’s independent inspection panel alleging the bank is backing controversial mining legislation pushed by the country’s parliament.

The bill aims to increase foreign investment by expanding gold and mineral mining in the country.

The complaint also alleges that the bank did not consult with local communities — a requirement for all bank-funded projects — before beginning construction on several open-pit mines on rural, private property.

Human rights advocates also worry that the bank’s decision to operate through Haiti’s parliament will worsen political tensions in the country.

“The World Bank is backing a law to promote investment in mining at a time of growing political turmoil,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, a professor at the New York University School of Law and faculty director of the Center of Human Rights and Global Justice, which represents affected Haitian communities. “It would be irresponsible to open up the sector in the context of such governmental instability and without a full analysis of its impacts.”

Parliamentary elections in Haiti have been delayed continuously since May 2012, and the country’s prime minister resigned amid protests in December.

When asked for comment, a bank spokesperson told Devex, “We have no comment at this stage as we have not been notified by the inspection panel.”

How should foreign aid groups act when citizens in the countries in which they work have lost faith in their government?

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.