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Panel Takes Part in World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

The Inspection Panel on March 20 took part in the opening day of the 18th annual World Bank’s Conference on Land and Poverty. Panel Chairman Gonzalo Castro de la Mata was one of the speakers on a panel titled, “Strengthening Governance and Community Rights for Indigenous Peoples: Lessons Learned from Inspection Panel Cases and the Forest Investment Program-Dedicated Grant Mechanism.” Chairman Castro de la Mata discussed one of the lessons identified in thePanel’s recent publication on its cases involving indigenous peoples (IPs) – respecting customary rights and securing culturally compatible benefits ensures the long-term well-being of IPs – and focused his remarks on a2005 Panel case from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). That case involved a complaint from indigenous Pygmy organizations about the World Bank’s Transitional Support for Economy Recovery Credit and Emergency Economic and Social Reunification Support Project. The complaints alleged, among other things, that the project violated “their rights to occupy ancestral lands, (and) manage forests andresources according to traditional knowledge and practices.” While recognizing the importance of the World Bank’s engagement in the DRC’s forest sector, the Panel found that the Bank failed to comply with its policies on environmental assessment and indigenous peoples. Chairman Castro de la Mata noted several positive outcomes from the case, including recognition by the Bank and the DRC government of the Pygmies as indigenous peoples and the integration of indigenous peoples as a cross-cutting theme in Bank activities in the DRC. The case and the subsequent partnership established between the World Bank and indigenous peoples in the DRC will be the subject of a Panel-funded book written by some of the complainants that will be published later this year.