Washington, DC, April 22, 2005 — The International Finance Corporation (IFC) Safeguard Policy Review is the winner of the 2005 ‘Award for the Most Flawed Consultation Process’ within the World Bank Group, civil society organisations announced today.

Press Release
CEE Bankwatch Network – Friends of the Earth International

The award was presented to the World Bank during a meeting at the institution’s Washington D.C. headquarters today.

“While we have seen over and over that the World Bank Group does not take input from civil society seriously, they really outdid themselves with the Safeguards Policy Review,” said Janneke Bruil from Friends of the Earth International.

The IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is revising its environmental and social policies, as well as its technical pollution standards and information disclosure requirements.

Once finalized and adopted, these standards, which civil society organizations fear are in danger of being drastically weaker than existing IFC lending safeguards, will become the new benchmarks for international financial lending practices for other private commercial banks, like the so-called “Equator” Banks, as well as export credit agencies and other international financial institutions.

“The World Bank needs to carefully listen to the voices of people around the world who are supposed to benefit from the institution’s investments,” said Petr Hlobil of CEE Bankwatch Network. “However, consultation has been problematic all throughout the World Bank’s existence. We hope this award will be a strong reminder of the need to improve the way the Bank interacts with civil society,” he added.

The IFC’s Safeguard Policy Review is a highly contentious consultation process underway since August 2004 that was described by Rio Tinto as “rushed” and lacking credibility. [1]

In a vote organised by the Coalition for Global Rights, Rules and Responsibilities, civil society organisations judged the IFC’s Performance Standards Consultation to be the winner for the following reasons:
The whole consultation process was designed with speed as the top priority, with insufficient time given to a variety of stakeholders for comments.
The draft text that was supposed to form the basis of the consultation at Regional Consultation Workshops was incomplete.
IFC staff ignored NGO demands for the self-selection of NGO representatives at the regional workshops. The IFC refused to provide information about the participating NGOs before the workshops, thus denying other organisations the opportunity to raise issues through those participants.
Translations of the draft text into languages other than English were provided at the last minute before the workshops; some additional key documents are still only available in English.
Other WBG processes that scored highly in this contest were the Consultation on the Operational Policy on Indigenous Peoples, Expanding the Use of Country Systems in Bank-Supported Operations, and the Extractive Industries Review.

The prize was awarded by groups from the Coalition for Global Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities.

For more information about the IFC Performance Standards see www.grrr-now.org

For more information contact:

In the US:
Michelle Medeiros: Friends of the Earth-U.S. +1 202 222-0717

In Europe:
Janneke Bruil, Friends of the Earth International +31 6 52 118 998
Petr Hlobil, CEE Bankwatch Network: + 420-2-7481 65 71 (mobile) or
+420-603-154 349

NOTES                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          [1] Comments from Andrew Vickerman, Rio Tinto’s head of sustainable development, quoted in “Man bites dog as Rio Tinto sides with NGOs”, Environmental Finance, Nov 12, 2004