“Don’t finance forced evictions”

By Joey Hasson

Top UN housing expert blows the whistle on the World Bank

A government demolition squad forcefully evicting thousands of people from their homes in Badia East community in Lagos, Nigeria, 23 February 2013. © Andrew W. Maki

Right now, over 1,000 people in Lagos, Nigeria, are under threat of being kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. One mass eviction has already happened, and more could happen any day.

People in this situation recently won unexpected support from the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik. She criticized her colleagues at the World Bank for failing to bring its safeguarding policies for loans to fund development projects in line with international human rights standards.

“As a gross violation of human rights, forced evictions should be explicitly prohibited in the [Bank’s] policy,” her report said. The World Bank should also make a clear commitment to “not finance or otherwise provide assistance to any project or programme that causes or contributes to forced evictions”.

People from the recently evicted community in Badia, Lagos, are supported by Amnesty’s local partner organization, The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). SERAC recently wrote to the World Bank: “Badia is one of nine communities selected for “urban upgrading” activities under the LMDGP [the $200m Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project]. Sadly, while accepting World Bank funding for such activities, the Lagos State Government continues to forcefully evict the very slum residents who are the Project’s intended beneficiaries.”

Today over a billion people live in informal settlements or slums without access to adequate housing, clean water, sanitation or enough living space. As an institution that claims to be fighting poverty and improving people’s lives, the World Bank must respect the human rights of people affected by the projects it funds.

The Special Rapporteur’s report provided a sad illustration of the Bank’s priorities, finding that: “The Bank’s staff performance is measured according to loan approval rates rather than the effectiveness of the project or compatibility with safeguards policies”.