World Bank broke own rules as coalmine left Kosovo village 'in limbo'

The Guardian
November 14th, 2016
By: Jeta Xharra

The World Bank broke its own rules and contributed to the suffering of hundreds of Kosovans who were forced from their homes to make way for a coalmine, a leaked report reveals.

The giant state-owned Sibovc mine has swallowed communities as it expanded. It would supply the only coal power plant on earth the World Bank is considering backing.

The report, finalised in September by the bank’s Inspection Panel and seen by Prishtina Insight and Climate Home, investigated two waves of bungled, incomplete resettlement in the village of Hade in 2004-5 and 2012.

More than a decade after the appropriations began, the fragmented community continues to be insecure and frustrated, the report said. While the World Bank was not the primary agent, the panel found failings on the part of the bank contributed to “real and often severe harm” over a “prolonged period”.

Their report has been passed to the World Bank board, which will meet to discuss it in December. Marco Mantovanelli, the bank’s country manager for Kosovo, said he could not comment until the report was made public, to “preserve the integrity of the Panel’s processes”.

Just a fragment of the original village of Hade remains, perched on the lip of the state-owned Sibovc mine. Coal often spontaneously combusts in the mine below, sending dust and smoke billowing through gardens and homes. The noise of the constant digging grates on the nerves, according to families still living there.

Ragip Grajcevci is one of those waiting for the day they are cleared out. Since 2004, he has watched his village disintegrate around him. He helped to organise the complaint that precipitated the visit of the inspection panel.

“The World Bank and the Kosovo government have repeatedly lied to us when they promised they will improve our livelihoods by moving villages,” said Grajcevci. “We have become poorer as a result of the lack of care from these institutions who claim to be doing all this ‘economic development’ in the name of fighting poverty.”

Land in Kosovo has been dearly bought. In 1999, the 51-year-old was a guerrilla fighter in the Kosovo Liberation Army. He lost an eye and a finger.

The panel investigators visited Grajcevci in Hade in early 2016. “The lives of these people are in limbo which is, without doubt, taking a heavy toll,” said their report. “In addition many of them suffer environmental consequences from the mine, such as dust and noise.

In a July response to the complaint made by Hade’s villagers, the bank rejected the allegation that it had failed to follow procedure or contributed to their grievances. But it did recognise the problems faced by the community and committed to addressing them in future development plans. The finding of the panel will pile pressure on the bank to make good on that promise.

Prishtina Insight and Climate Home reviewed two leaked documents – the executive summary and full report.

Overall, the panel was at pains to point out the bank was working in an “extraordinarily challenging” environment in Kosovo. The nascent post-war institutions have been highlighted by numerous international agencies as corrupt and dysfunctional. Much of the harm was found to be the responsibility of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (Unmik) and the government of Kosovo.

But its report did identify specific instances in which the bank had contributed to the suffering. The panel concluded:

The bank had no role or responsibility for the forced relocation of 664 people from Hade in 2004. That decision was made by Unmik. But the panel noted that bank officials were aware of the ongoing failure of the government to provide suitable new homes. The panel said that the bank, with its expertise, “could have done more to help”.
A special economic zone which has frozen development for thousands of households since 2004 was far too large and “not in line with international practice”. While ultimate responsibility for this lay with Unmik, the bank again neglected an opportunity to influence the situation for the better.
The bank had been directly involved in the 2012 resettlement of 320 residents from Shala, a neighborhood of Hade. It had financed and overseen the planning.

In the latter case, the panel found that the bank had failed to test the resettlement process against its own guidelines. As a result, the panel said, the Shala resettlement was deficient in the following ways: the community was excluded from the planning and not kept informed; the plan did not estimate of the size of the population affected; nor did it value the assets of the people of Shala; no arrangements were made for civil works, funding or contingency measures; and there was no timeline beyond the start date.

This “contributed to significant delays experienced during resettlement. Community members remained in temporary housing for a prolonged period which caused harm by creating uncertainty about their future and disruption in their lives”.

Rob Doherty, a spokesman for the panel, said that until then he could not comment on the contents of the leaked report.

“It remains confidential until the Board has had the opportunity to formally consider it,” he said.

Mantovanelli said: “The World Bank Group has internationally recognized social and environmental protections, and we take very seriously reports from people who feel they have been negatively affected under a project we have financed…

“We have an independent panel to assess complaints on compliance with our high standards and the panel makes recommendations on how to fix problems and ensure people maintain their quality of life – including the ability to earn a living and enjoy a healthy environment.”

Read more at The Guardian.