Judgment on World Bank
From September 21-24, 2007, the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India, which was convened at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, heard testimony about the impact of the bank's policies and projects on communities in India. Presentations in the form of legal depositions were considered by 12 jury members, including retired Supreme and High Court judges, former government ministers, lawyers, academics, scientists, economists, religious leaders and activists. Gopal Krishna from the Ban Asbestos Network of India called the tribunal's attention to the continued trade and use of asbestos in India, a trade which is encouraged by the fact that many projects financed by the World Bank utilize asbestos-cement products. Krishna called on the bank to:
adopt a formal policy forbidding asbestos in all of its projects and require the use of safer substitute construction materials. Such substitution is feasible as shown by the bans in more than 40 countries. The World Bank should also adopt best practice guidelines for the minimization of asbestos exposures in projects where in-place asbestos materials are disturbed by renovation or demolition activities.
The World Bank should support the asbestos action program just started by the WHO.. and use its influence and leverage to press for the cessation of asbestos use all over the world.
In the Preliminary Findings issued by the Jury on September 24th, the World Bank was condemned for the increased and needless human suffering since 1991 among hundreds of millions of India's poorest and most disadvantaged in rural areas and in the cities. Jury members contrasted the economic boom being enjoyed by the middle and upper classes with the increased impoverishment and suffering of the poor. The Bank has, the jury found, continually failed to put environmental and social safeguards in place; the safeguards which exist do so in name only. The jury declared that the World Bank must be held accountable for policies and projects that in practice directly contradict its mandate of alleviating poverty of the poorest.1
September 27, 2007