The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Human Rights

The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Human Rights

Developing Standards of Transparency, Participation and Accountability

Sanae Fujita

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are two of the world’s major institutions conducting development projects. Both banks recognize the importance of transparency, participation and accountability. Responding to criticisms and calls for reform, they have developed policies that are designed to protect these values for people affected by their projects. This original and timely book examines these policies, including those recently revised, through the prism of human rights, and makes suggestions for further improvement. It also analyzes the development of the Banks’ stance to human rights in general.

Chapter 3: Human rights critique of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank’s participation policy

Sanae Fujita

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, development studies, law and development, law - academic, asian law, human rights, law and development, private international law, politics and public policy, human rights


As was seen in the ADB case regarding the Pakistan project (Box 2.1 in Chapter 2), a lack of a participatory approach can cause serious problems to the lives of those affected. The importance of participation has been both recognised and emphasised by development agencies. Currently, “participatory development” is one of the key concepts used by development agencies in recognition of the failure of the top-down development model. However, the classic meaning of the right to participation in international human rights law is narrower than the concept of participation in development activities. While human rights discourse has yet to develop the concept of participation, development agencies have under- taken significant research on participation in a practical sense. For instance, the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor initiative, which will be discussed later, created awareness about the reality of the situation facing the poor and contributed to improving the Bank’s understanding of poverty. Such work may also be useful for developing a theoretical concept of the right to participation. When examining participation, it is important to keep in mind the absence of a commonly understood definition, as has been pointed out by Samuel Paul: The definition of “participation” is a matter on which there is considerable disagreement among development scholars and practitioners. Some use the term to mean active participation in political decision making. For certain activist groups, participation has no meaning unless the people involved have significant control over the decisions concerning the organization to which they belong.

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