ICIJ’s World Bank probe draws global attention

Media outlets around the world have published the findings of the Evicted and Abandoned investigation, but the bank itself is yet to provide a full response.

World Bank president Jim Kim

News media around the world have been highlighting ICIJ’s reporting on the World Bank’s failures to protect people in the path of bank-financed development projects.

More than 50 articles and broadcasts from ICIJ’s partners and other media outlets from Nigeria to Britain to Peru have reported ICIJ’s findings since the April 16 release of the first installments in the series of the investigative reports.

The investigation was carried out by a team of more than 20 news organizations, including The Huffington Post, El Pais, the Guardian, Fusion, The Investigative Fund, the GroundTruth Project and Brazil’s Agência Pública. The reporting team found that the World Bank has repeatedly failed to enforce its “social safeguard” rules, with devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.

Oxfam, the anti-poverty advocacy group that’s critical of the bank’s human rights record, said the media coalition’s stories have revealed deep problems within the bank. 

“ICIJ’s exposure of immense human suffering around the world, linked to World Bank funding, should finally wake the Bank up to the reality of its failures,” the group said in a statement. “These cases are symptomatic of a fundamental malaise in the Bank’s ideology and processes.” 

The World Bank has not made a full public response to ICIJ’s reporting. 

In his opening remarks April 16 at the World Bank’s annual spring meetings, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim briefly noted the release of the investigative stories, asserting that they “are based on internal Bank documents that I ordered released.”

Kim did not note that the bank’s March 4 release of three disapproving internal reports came five days after ICIJ and The Huffington Post informed bank officials that the reporting team had found “systemic gaps” in the bank’s protections for people harmed by projects it supports – and that the reporting team had already obtained a leaked copy of the one of the confidential reports.

Along with leaks of internal bank documents and emails, the reporting team’s 11-month investigation relied on an extensive data analysis of thousands of publicly available World Bank records. The team's data experts sifted through the bank’s scattered and often incomplete reports on projects involving “involuntary resettlement” and other social impacts, producing an interactive database that illustrates the scope of physical and economic displacement caused by bank-financed initiatives. The team interviewed hundreds of people, including dozens of current and former World Bank employees, and did reporting on the ground in 14 countries, including Ethiopia, Peru, Honduras, Kenya and Uganda. 

In addition to the publication of dozens of stories by ICIJ’s partners, other news outlets in Armenia, Bangladesh, and Morocco have reported on local findings based on ICIJ’s data analysis. The interactive database provides a geographic snapshot of the estimated 3.4 million people displaced by World Bank-financed projects since 2004.

Other media notices about the investigation came from the data news site FiveThirtyEight, Reuters and the BBC.

Columbia Journalism Review wrote that ICIJ, with its global network of reporters, was “uniquely suited” to tackle the investigation of “a mammoth, global institution like the World Bank.”

Since the initial stories in the series were published, members of the reporting team have appeared on radio and news shows around the world, including National Public Radio’s Morning Edition in the U.S. and programs in Spain and Germany.

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