Revision of the World Bank’s land policies

press release

17th of April, 2003 – International Day of Peasant Struggles

To pay tribute to 19 landless rural workers who were killed by the Military Police on April 17th 1996in Eldorado dos Carajás/Brazil, La Via Campesina declared this day International Day of Peasant Struggles. As part of the world wide activities for this day, the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform makes public its statement on the land policy review process that the World Bank is currently conducting.

We welcome that…

in the current revision of its land policy the World Bank finally accepts some of the critics that we had made for several years.

But …

the way in which the World Bank is redefining its policies is still worrisome. Organizations of farmers and landless people, of women and the indigenous societies have not taken part in this process. In addition, the lack of clarity on the objectives and the consequences of this report continue to be in the centre of our concerns. How is this report going to be applied to specific operations? Who shall reassure that the application of those policies reflect the accorded principles? And how? To these questions there are only vague answers.

We emphasize that…

the report acknowledges the failure of the programs of market-based land reforms in Colombia and South Africa. In the Colombian case the report acknowledges that none of the established farms is able to pay its debts, whereas in the case of South Africa the report admits that during the first three years of the program just a minimum amount of land was transferred.

But …

the recognition of the failure is limited to only two cases, although the situation is similar in other countries. The report does not make a self-critical analysis of the reasons why these programs have failed. It does not mention that it was the World Bank itself that designed and promoted the policies responsible for the failure. The consequences of the recognition of this failure for the future operations of the Bank are uncertain. It seems likely that the Bank will continue financing the model of redistribution through the market.

We appreciate that…

the report recognizes that little attention was paid to the application of integrated agrarian reforms with respect to access to credits, to the markets, to technical attendance and to infrastructure.

But …

the report touches the subject without treating it thoroughly: it does not emphasis the fact that it has been the policy of structural adjustment in the agricultural sector that disabled the accomplishment of integrated agrarian reforms. The World Bank has vehemently promoted the privatization of rural extension services and market liberalization and has dismantled the policies which protected and supported small producers. These policies have benefited the great producers and at the same time have excluded and/or dispossessed the marginalized groups from access to productive resources.

We welcome that …

the report tries to move beyond merely economic aspects and emphasizes the relation between deprivation of land rights and social conflicts.

But …

unfortunately the report considers the perspective of human rights neither for the treatment of the land conflicts in particular, nor for the treatment of the land politics in general. This way, the report does not consider existing legal norms like the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that are binding for the activities of the both the World Bank and the national governments.

On the other hand the report ignores a fact that has been the key in the recent processes of the agrarian reform: independent social movements in rural areas with its high capacity of mobilization.

We state that …

the report proposes to implement national policies on land frame that allow the governments to intervene in the sector and to translate these policies into concrete programs within specific contexts.

But …

this proposal would only be interesting if it really gave back the responsibility to the national authorities. Nevertheless, in the last decades exactly the opposite happened: the World Bank has imposed its policies as panacea. In many cases the interventions of the World Bank have gravely harmed the movements of farmers entailing violations of the rural communities’ human rights. Taking this proposal seriously would imply such radical changes in the form in which the Bank operates that serious doubts remain whether the World Bank will be able to reform itself.

We will mobilize our members and supporters in order to demand of the national governments and the governments responsible for the World Bank’s policies the complete suspension of credits for market-led land reform programs. Furthermore, we demand a new national and international debate on land and rural development policies that addressed key issues as:

How are rural communities going to be included in the formulation of policies and programs nationally and internationally?

Who will monitor the application of those policies according to the agreed principles? And how?

What mechanisms will reassure the right to claim reparation for the rural communities in case they consider that these policies and their application are harmful for the enjoyment of their rights?

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