Despite its watchdog finding that it had breached its standards and failed in its duties to protect communities, the IFC’s response to a new Compliance Advisor Ombudsman investigation into its backing of a human rights disaster in Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala, is to wash its hands and offer no remedy to affected communities.
The CAO’s investigation vindicates the communities’ concerns: that they suffered violence, intimidation and repression after this project began, and that significant social impacts remain to this day. The audit shows the IFC failed in its duties and obligations to ensure that its investments did no harm especially in the context of poor and vulnerable communities in a high risk, post-conflict context.
In its response to the CAO audit, the IFC argues that there is nothing to connect the project and the company building the dam with the upsurge in repression and the state of siege declared by the Guatemalan government in May 2012. By denying this link, IFC can wash its hands of any responsibility for the suffering of local communities then and now – and therefore refuse to do anything about it in its Action Plan.
Community leader Cecilia Merida from the affected community of Santa Cruz Barrillas said, “We’ve been imprisoned, forced to flee our communities and some of us have lost our lives. We’ve waited five years to hear the result of our complaint. And for what? We are appalled by the IFC’s response. We want justice for our communities and justice for Andrés Francisco Miguel. This isn’t the end of the road for us”.
Recourse and Oxfam have today written to the World Bank’s Board of Directors urging them to demand the IFC issue a more appropriate response, and to send a mission to Barillas to offer communities the dignity of listening to them first hand and discuss jointly with them an appropriate solution and remedy to the harms suffered by local communities as a result of the IFC’s investment.