4 May 2010, Berlin

Infrastructure and Human Rights

4 May 2010, 12:00 am

Infrastructure projects such as Dams provide opportunities for regional economic development but they pose significant risks to local populations. Development in regions with an inadequate democratic authority can lead to forced displacement, the destruction of natural resources and cultural repatriation without adequate compensation, and consequently, grave human rights violations. Countries that host economic development projects, as well as exporting companies, their investors and national export and business policy are all relevant players in human rights abuses.

Our upcoming event "Infrastructure and Human Rights" will focus on three case studies, and addresses the legal and political roles and responsibilities of European corporations, banks and governments that participate in projects that violate human rights abroad.

First, the Merowe Dam which was funded by the government of Sudan on the Nile and built by German engineering company Lahmeyer International, responsible for construction management, implementation and monitoring for the project. In this case, a breach of the reservoir led to surprise flooding of villages, and locals had to flee their homes.

The construction of the Illisu Dam in the Kurdish regions of Turkey robbed nearly 80,000 people of their livelihood, destroyed significant cultural treasures, damaged a valuable ecosystem and had far-reaching political consequences for Iraq. The federal government has established numerous restrictions on the export credit guarantees, with which they secured the participation of Stuttgart and the construction company Züblin DekaBank. But the government scaled back restrictions in reaction to ongoing protests that the regulations were being ignored by the Turkish project governing bodies. Unfortunately, a systematic investigation into human rights abuses committed with the participation of the federal government has been hereto unsuccessful.

Despite allegations of corruption and unresolved doubts about cost and compensation issues, the controversial Bujagali Dam in Uganda received loans from both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB). In reaction to this decision, in November 2009 several NGOs submitted a formal complaint against the EIB.

Additional ongoing case investigations will be presented at the event and accompanied by a discussion of how best to protect the interests of local populations and enforce appropriate compensation.


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