Montreal, June 24, 1999: Canada's abstention during a controversial World Bank vote today disappointed non-governmental organizations who had been pushing for clear voice in opposition to the project from Ottawa. The vote, which took place in the presence of bank President James Wolfensohn, resulted in the approval of a project which includes the resettlement of non-Tibetans in traditionally Tibetan areas and which violates a number of Bank policies.
The United States and Germany voted against the project.
The terms of the approval provide a partial victory for those opposed to the project. Funds will not be disbursed until the Bank's board makes a decision on its Inspection Panel's review of a claim filed recently by NGOs. The Inspection Panel is the Bank's non-judicial complaint mechanism.
"This project which clearly violates Bank policies in a number of areas should never have gone to the Board, in the first place and should have been opposed when it got there. Both the Bank staff and and the Board have passed the buck to the Inspection Panel to find a way to salvage a bad project." said Pam Foster, coordinator of the Halifax Initiative, a Canadian coalition working for reform of the international financial institutions.
Canadian Tibetans and their supporters are equally discouraged. "The green light for this project will have serious repercussions for Tibetans in the region and their communities" said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "What message does a decision like this send to Tibetans who have always followed the path of non-violent struggle? It tells us that reason and truth are not good enough when we deal with international organisations. No one is interested in truth."
100 million dollars of this 160 million dollar loan will be granted on concessional terms -- terms which China will no longer be eligible for on June 30th. NGOs believe that this deadline pressured Bank staff to violate policies of disclosure, environmental assessment and resettlement and the Bank Board to approve the project.
Canadian NGOs support the funding of development and poverty relief projects in China when institutional procedures are followed and when human rights are respected. In the absence of these however, they suggest that badly designed projects adopted for political reasons will result in ongoing controversy and suffering for years to come.
For more information:
Pam Foster, Halifax Initiative, 613-789-4447
Thubten Samdup, Canada Tibet Committee, 514-867-6770