For Human Rights Beyond Borders

Human Rights have been locked up behind domestic bars to prevent their universal application to globalization and its much needed regulation. Extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) unlock human rights.

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UN experts urge World Bank to include human rights in its safeguard policies

In a recent joint letter to the World Bank president, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, 28 UN human rights experts, most of them Special Rapporteurs, criticized the retrogressive measures taken by the World Bank in the context of its environmental and social policies, also known as Safeguard policies, review.

The experts noted with concern that the draft policies, which were released for public consultation in July, went out of their way ‘to avoid any meaningful reference to human rights and international human rights law’. The policies merely stated, without providing any further explanation, that the Bank’s operations were ‘supportive’ of human rights and that it would respect human rights in line with its ‘Articles of Agreement’. These Articles, so the experts, had in the past been interpreted in a way that prevented human rights from being taken into account for being political.

The UN experts reiterated that the Member States of the World Bank remained bound by their human rights obligations, including their extraterritorial ones, when acting through international organisations such as the World Bank. Moreover, the Bank itself - as an international organisation with international legal personality and as a UN specialized agency - was bound by the human rights obligations arising under general international law and the UN Charter.

In the annex to the letter, the human rights experts highlighted specific concerns with regard to the proposed Safeguards policies, such as the move away from a system based on requirements to one based on aspirations. They noted that the proposed policies fail to meet international human rights law standards in areas such as labour rights, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples, and that many vulnerable groups remain virtually unprotected.

Read the letter by the UN experts in our library