On March 9, 2017 a group of peasant farmers from Honduras launched a suit in US federal court against the World Bank (WB) Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). The suit alleges the IFC and WB are “knowingly profiting from the financing of murder.” The lawsuit is over the IFC’s financing of the Dinant Corporation, a company that owns palm oil plantations in the Bajo Aguán valley of northern Honduras. In 2009 the IFC provided $15 million directly to Dinant. In 2011 the IFC channeled $70 million to a Honduran bank that was one of Dinant’s largest financiers. The farmers are seeking compensation for violence allegedly carried out by Dinant’s private security forces, including alleged attacks and killings that occurred when the farmers tried to block expansion of Dinant’s plantations. In recent years, approximately 133 killings have been linked to land conflicts in the Bajo Aguán valley.
This is the second lawsuit of its kind filed against the IFC in US courts. In 2015 a case was filed against the IFC over the financing of a coal-fired power plant in India that allegedly destroyed the livelihoods of local fishermen. The lawsuit was rejected based on the 1945 International Organizations Immunities Act, a US federal statute that grants international organization’s immunity privileges similar to those of foreign governments.
The WB and IFC have been accused of numerous human rights offences, not just in Honduras but also around the world. In April 2015 an investigative project by the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) found that, between 2004 and 2013, an estimated 3.4 million people around the world were “forced from their homes, deprived of their land or had their livelihoods damaged because they lived in the path of a World Bank project.” This is in contrast to the WB’s goals to “reduce poverty and support development.”
Overall, this issue has not been covered by corporate media. There were articles in the Huffington Post and Financial Times about the specific court case concerning Honduras, but the findings of the ICIJ investigation into the World Bank’s global abuses have only been reported on by the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post article was written by Katie Redford, the co-founder and director of EarthRights International, the NGO that filed the suit on behalf of the Honduran farmers.
Sasha Chavkin, “Lawsuit: World Bank Arm Aided Firm that Hired ‘Death Squads,’” International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), March 8, 2017, https://www.icij.org/blog/2017/03/lawsuit-world-bank-arm-aided-firm-hired-death-squads.
Claire Provost, “Farmers Sue World Bank Lending Arm over Alleged Violence in Honduras,” Guardian, March 8, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/08/farmers-sue-world-bank-lending-arm-ifc-over-alleged-violence-in-honduras.
Student Researcher: Janelle Blakely (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)