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August 11, 2011
Oxfam Commends IFC for Revised Sustainability Framework
    by Robert Kropp

The IFC now says that its investments in private sector enterprises in developing countries will require Free Prior and Informed Consent and payments to host governments by companies in the extractive industries.

Last week, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) responded to criticism of its lending policies by announcing that it had updated its Sustainability Framework.

According to a press release from Oxfam America, "The IFC has failed to properly measure the risks of oil and mining projects, such as the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, before providing loans to companies operating in countries with serious human rights problems and weak institutions."

Recently published studies by Oil Change International and the Bank Information Center (BIC) also detail numerous loans made by the IFC for fossil fuel projects, none of which, according to Oil Change International, "directly targets the poor or ensures that energy benefits are reaching the poor."

The revised performance standards of the IFC's Sustainability Framework address many of the social and environmental concerns of the critics of the former policy.

Oxfam singled out for particular commendation IFC's revision of its policy on Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). According to Oxfam, FPIC "ensures communities receive adequate and timely information about oil, mining, and other development projects affecting them and their lands. It also ensures that communities have the opportunity to approve or reject projects."

The IFC's revised Framework requires its clients to secure the FPIC "of indigenous communities prior to launching development activities expected to generate adverse impacts on their lands and natural resources," Oxfam stated.

"Additionally," Oxfam continued, "The new Framework requires IFC-funded oil, gas and mining companies to publicly disclose their contracts with host governments, providing the public with information it can use to hold their governments accountable."

Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, stated, "Although we would have liked to see stronger human rights language in the policies, we hope that the IFC's new requirements on community consent and transparency will raise the bar for better social and environmental performance and set a precedent for international financial institutions, export credit agencies, companies, and governments to follow."


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