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Investors face growing pressure to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of their investments. In trying to do so they are confronted with the question of how to interact with governments in the countries where they invest.

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The Open Government Partnership (OGP)—which held its most recent summit about three weeks ago—has made tremendous progress in its two years of existence. The OGP, a voluntary partnership between governments and civil society, aims to make governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Discussions at the summit made it clear that the partnership is already demonstrating impact. Sixty-two governments have now joined OGP, making 1,115 commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

The Summit provided a real sense that there’s a growing community who really “gets” the importance of open government to meeting development goals. Yet there was still a gap in the discourse in one particular area—the environment.

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Increased industrialization in Asia has created countless hurdles for communities to protect themselves from pollution. Important government information—such as the amount of pollutants being discharged by nearby factories or results from local air and water quality monitoring—still isn’t readily accessible in user-friendly formats. This practice often leaves the public entirely out of decision-making processes on issues like regulating pollution or expanding industrial factories. In many cases, the public lack the information they need to understand and shield themselves from harmful environmental, social, and health impacts.

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I spent the recent U.N. climate negotiations in Doha trying to reconcile two injustices. The first is captured by Nicholas Stern’s “brutal arithmetic.” This is the simple, unavoidable fact that bold greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be needed from all countries to hold global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, thus preventing climate change’s most dangerous impacts. Developing nations, many of which are battling crippling poverty and inequality at home, are being told that the traditional, high-carbon pathway to prosperity is off-limits, and that they, too, will need to embrace aggressive mitigation actions. This is a glaring injustice – the product of two decades of missed opportunities in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), inadequate domestic action in industrialized countries, and substantial geopolitical changes in major emerging economies.

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Purpose of this Report

This report argues that human rights are an integral part of effective and sustainable development, and thus should be explicitly considered in all World Bank Group (WBG) investment decisions. We examine the WBG’s integration of human rights standards

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Voice and Choice represents the culmination of several years of research, experimentation, and reform by governments, civil society organizations, and industry in implementing access to information, public participation, and access to justice in decisions that affect the environment.

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