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Indigenous peoples' concerns on World Bank Safeguards Policies reiterated in New Delhi consultation

6 Nov 2015: The World Bank on Thursday organised Phase 3 Consultation on the Review and Update of the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Safeguard Policies at Vivanta by Taj – Ambassador Hotel, Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi.

Around 45 representatives of civil society organisation attended the consultation. Mr Onno Ruhl, Country Director of World Bank welcomed the participants and Dr NC Saxena moderated the consultation process.

Participants welcomed the World Bank move to hold third phase of consultation and commended that the text of the draft ESS was improving in each phase.

Most of the participants spoke about the Safeguard policy involuntary resettlement and the process of consultation and the grievances mechanism and focus on urban projects. Interestingly about two participants raised the issues of the indigenous peoples.

Speaking at the consultation, C. Lalremruata, Director of Zo Indigenous Forum (AIPP member organization) stated that the Environmental and Social Standard 7 (ESS7) on Indigenous Peoples should be the main reference of the Bank and the Borrowers for projects affecting the Indigenous Peoples. He reiterated that ESS 7 should be aligned with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous (UNDRIP), particularly on the rights of the indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources, development, Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and cultural heritage among others.

Commenting on the draft, he stated that in ESS 7 Para 9 and 10, the participation of the affected indigenous peoples, including indigenous experts, should begin in the determination of project impacts - direct and indirect economic, social, cultural (including intangible cultural heritage), environmental and social impacts assessment) and not just during project design and implementation.

On Para 9, it was stressed that it should not solely be the the Bank or the Borrower to determine whether indigenous peoples are present in or have collective attachment to the project areas. It should involve indigenous experts and indigenous representative from the proposed area or at the subnational/national level.

Regarding FPIC, Para 19 has been reframed to capture in other words alternative approach of Para 9 from the earlier draft of second phase consultation - he opined. He stressed that there can be no alternative approach, when FPIC of the indigenous peoples is not obtained, the project should not proceed at all.

He also requested Government of India to withdraw its reservation against inclusion of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

The World Bank representatives responded that they took note of the importance of participation of indigenous peoples but did not replied to the comments on alternative approach and FPIC.

As per a senior World Bank official, they are planning to organise a consultation specifically for indigenous Peoples in Africa in the coming year. There are no other regional level consultations planned for indigenous peoples. Lalremruata suggested the official to hold another thematic consultation with indigenous peoples in the coming phase of consultation.
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