The World Bank - Safeguard for Public Participation in Environmental Decision-Making?
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AbstractPublic participation in environmental decision-making has been increasingly recognised in national, regional and international law in the last decades. In parallel, the World Bank - an inter-state development bank and international organisation - has developed a set of safeguard policies including provisions on public participation in environmental decision-making. Public participation is about re-thinking who is taking the decisions and how they are taken, and therefore public participation targets the fundamental concept around which the World Bank as well as international law traditionally has been organised, namely state sovereignty. This master thesis analyses the status of the norm of public participation in environmental decision-making - how well it is safeguarded - in different laws (chapter 2) and policies (chapter 3), and how they cohere (chapter 4). On the one hand it presents some developments of the norm in international and regional law and national law in developing countries as well as in World Bank activities and policies. On the other hand it addresses what &#39;&#39;public&#39;&#39;, &#39;&#39;participation&#39;&#39; and &#39;&#39;decision-making&#39;&#39; are according to these different legal norms. The master thesis concludes that compared to international legal instruments the World Bank policies have rather detailed provisions on public participation in environmental decision-making. The policies are slowly improving their provisions on public participation and they have global outreach. To this end and considering the fact that the World Bank gives loans of 18 billion US-dollars a year, it is argued that the World Bank has a potential to promote safeguarding the implementation of the norm in developing countries. However, the essay underlines, advancements are needed. The safeguard policies are as of yet no guarantee for safeguarding public participation in Bank activities. For example, the policies (e.g. on Environmental Impact Assessment and Indigenous Peoples) are often unclear on who is to be considered as &#39;&#39;the public&#39;&#39;, their focus is mostly on &#39;&#39;consultation&#39;&#39; instead of &#39;&#39;participation&#39;&#39; and the public is not let in often enough during the decision-making process. Moreover, the mechanism of policy enforcement, the Inspection Panel, has limited possibilities to have an impact as it focuses only on Bank staff performance and not on the policy compliance of the Borrower. This has to be compensated by improved contractual means between the World Bank and the Borrower as well as capacity building. The problems of policy compliance are illustrated in two case studies. Today all sectors of the international society, including the World Bank, are required to work towards sustainable development, and public participation is an indispensable element of this concept. Therefore it is argued that the World Bank now has a clearer mandate than ever to improve policy provisions on public participation and put pressure on policy compliance of the Borrower. Development is the core activity of the Bank and it is best achieved by empowering people.