Organizations call for IADB to include human rights and participatory development as focus for any regional development plans

June 14, 2017

A broad cross-section of human rights, faith-based, environmental, labor, immigrant, and refugee rights organizations, as well as indigenous peoples’ councils, sent an open letter to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) today criticizing its participation in this week’s Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America.

The IADB event, co-hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce in Miami, Florida, aims to define investment priorities in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and is part of the “re-launching” of the 2014 regional Alliance for Prosperity Plan. At that time, record numbers of unaccompanied child migrants and refugees were arriving at the US border from the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America, and the Plan was pitched as a way to address the root causes of this migration.

The plan has had little success. In today’s letter, over 40 local, national, and international entities, call on the bank to “recognize the complex root causes of this phenomenon and carefully analyze its own interventions,” as well as “create a viable space for meaningful and robust civil society leadership in any discussions regarding models for sustainable development.” This is in stark contrast to how Luis Moreno, President of the IADB, described the Bank’s approach as an attempt to “deliver ‘an investment shock’ to create jobs and prevent migration.”

Missing from the meeting’s agenda are human rights concerns, regional humanitarian needs, initiatives developed with civil society to improve quality of life and local sustainable livelihoods, and plans for public consultation, including with indigenous communities whose free, prior, and informed consent is required for any project that affects them.

The Bank’s “development” strategy ignores the relationship of migration to poverty, displacement, public institutions plagued by corruption and impunity, and some of the highest rates of violence in the world, including targeted attacks against women, environmental defenders, labor leaders, and indigenous activists.

“The bank’s attempt to solve the region’s challenges by unleashing a flurry of corporate investment shows ignorance of the region’s history and its most basic development needs,” says Kelsey Alford-Jones, Senior Campaigner at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “This is a recipe for increased poverty and insecurity, and will likely cause further forced displacement.”

IADB lending to the region has supported opaque border militarization initiatives and funded banks, such as Honduran Ficohsa, which have in turn financed companies linked to violent conflict and land-grabbing. Just last week, the Guatemalan military initiated forced evictions of communities within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, an area supported by IADB assistance to promote “sustainable forest management practices.” An estimated 700 displaced people have already sought refuge in Mexico and more evictions are planned today.

“Private investment and job creation must go hand-in-hand with human rights protections, which include respect for indigenous rights, enforcement of labor rights, support for vulnerable populations, environmental safeguards, and meaningful community participation,” the letter signers state.

Letter in English here.
Carta en español aquí.