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New investigation reveals 3.4m displaced by World Bank

Journalists reporting from more than 20 countries expose flaws in loan programs around the world.

The World Bank regularly fails to enforce its own rules protecting people in the path of the projects it bankrolls, with devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Huffington Post and more than 20 other media partners have found.

Dams, power plants and other projects sponsored by the World Bank have pushed millions of people out of their homes or off their lands or threatened their livelihoods, the investigation found.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Huffington Post will co-publish all of their stories on a microsite hosted by the Huffington Post. The site will feature stories, photography and videos from displaced communities across the planet. 

The first story in the series, which begins April 16, tells the story of indigenous peoples in western Kenya who claim they’re being forced from their ancestral forests by a World Bank conservation program.

Other stories published April 16 by The Huffington Post and ICIJ include an overview detailing the reporting team’s main findings, a look at mass evictions in Ethiopia tied to a World Bank project and an examination of a Peruvian gold mine backed by the bank’s private-sector investment arm. 

Anuak children from Ethiopia.The investigation’s key findings include:

  • Over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods.
  • The World Bank has regularly failed to live up to its own policies for protecting people harmed by projects it finances.
  • The World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp., have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases the lenders have continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.
  • Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.
  • From 2009 to 2013, World Bank Group lenders pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for “irreversible or unprecedented” social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.

A team of more than 50 journalists from 21 countries spent 11 months documenting the bank’s failure to protect people moved aside in the name of progress.

The global media team led by ICIJ includes more than 20 news organizations – including The Huffington Post, The Guardian, El Pais, Fusion, the GroundTruth Project, the Investigative Fund, Brazil’s Agência Pública, and others.

The reporting partners analyzed thousands of World Bank records, interviewed hundreds of people and reported on the ground in 14 countries – Albania, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, South Sudan and Uganda.

ICIJ and its partners will publish more stories in the coming weeks based on reporting from India, Honduras, Kosovo and other countries.

The reporting team’s work has made waves even before publication.

Days after ICIJ informed the World Bank that the team’s investigation had found “systemic gaps” in the bank’s enforcement of its “social safeguard” rules, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim acknowledged “major problems” with the bank’s resettlement policies and vowed to seek reforms.

The April 16 release of the first stories in the series comes as World Bank Group is holding its annual spring meetings in Washington, D.C., bringing together officials, experts, indigenous leaders and protesters from all over the planet.

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