Eye on Ottawa The Better Aid Bill – Has it Changed Anything?

In an effort to ensure that Canada’s foreign aid will be well spent, the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Accountability Act was introduced to Parliament in May 2006. In 2008 it passed the third reading and became law, but John MacKay, the Liberal MP who introduced the bill, is not convinced it is being implemented eff ectively. “The government has made it clear that it is going to pay lip service to this bill. T is puts the government in confrontation with the unanimous will of parliament,” he said. The Act lays out three criteria for ODA: that it contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of the poor, and be consistent with Canada’s human rights obligations.

10% of ODA goes directly to the World Bank, and there are questions about whether this funding meets the human rights obligations of the new law. The World Bank has no formal human rights standards, and has been criticized for not taking potential rights abuse into account in project planning.  These offenses include:

– a state-led massacre of indigenous residents in rural Guatemala who refused to abandon their land to allow for the construction of a World-Bank funded dam in 1978;

– the funding of a pipeline project in Chad and Cameroon in 1997 and 1998 where governments routinely violated human rights; and most recently, and

– the funding of Glamis Gold’s Marlin Mine in Guatemala in 2002, which local groups say harmed the community through lack of consultation, sparking conflict and violence.

The World Bank says it informally supports human rights, but that rights are political issues beyond its economic mandate. To ensure its projects comply with the Bank’s standards, the Bank created an Inspection Panel in 1994 to provide a forum for people who believe they will be or are currently being aversely affected by a Bank project. Some people have used it to address human rights issues but it has been critiqued by NGOs for lacking authority, as it can only make recommendations to Bank management.

There have been cases in the past where an Inspection Panel recommendation has resulted in the cancellation of a project. T is occurred at the Arun III Hydroelectric Project in Nepal in 1994 over concerns of environmental degradation and resettlement of local residents.

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