February 7, 2001

Ms. Meg Taylor
Compliance Advisor Ombudsman
International Finance Corporation, CAO 
2121 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 
Washington, DC 20433 USA

Dear Ms. Taylor:

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its Committee for Human Rights was pleased to receive reports that your office will be addressing the unresolved problems described in the Sotomayor-Raquelme complaint (Pangue project) filed by Claudio Gonzalez-Parra this past summer. The AAA has had a long standing interest in this case as evidenced in our report "The Pehuenche: Human Rights, the Environment, and Hydrodevelopment on the Biobio River, Chile" and subsequent communications between then AAA President Jane Hill and World Bank President James Wohlfensohn.  

It is also our understanding that the World Commission on Dams, an independent body established to review the performance of large dams and make recommendations for future planning of water and energy projects, reviewed material relating to hydroelectric dam development on Chile's BioBio River this past July 2000, expressing concern for the range of unresolved mitigation issues. The WCD's final report released on November 16, 2000 includes findings and recommendations that are particularly relevant to this case.

As I am sure you are aware, the WCD found that large dams have had unacceptable social and environmental impacts and have failed to produce as much electricity, provide as much water, or control as much flood damage as their sponsors claim. The WCD recommends a new framework for decision-making that recognizes the rights of all stakeholders in negotiating development choices and outlines a set of practical criteria and guidelines governing water and energy resources development in the future.

The WCD states that "both the multilateral and bilateral development banks played a significant facilitating role in getting Asia, Africa and Latin America started in the dam business. Although the proportion of investment in dams directly financed by bilaterals and multilaterals was perhaps less than 15%, these institutions played a key strategic role globally in spreading the technology, lending legitimacy to emerging dam projects, training future engineers and government agencies, and leading financing arrangements."

The WCD recommends that multilateral development banks "review internal processes and operational policies in relation to the Commission's recommendations to determine changes needed in the selection of projects for lending portfolios; the appraisal process; and implementation, monitoring and evaluation." The WCD also recommends that MDBs "Review the portfolio of past projects to identify those that may have under-performed or present unresolved issues and share in addressing the financial burden of such projects for borrower countries."

In light of these findings, as well as our long-standing concern for the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples, the American Anthropological Association adds its name to the 150 nongovernmental organizations from 39 countries who endorse the WCD report and call for the World Bank and other public financial institutions and agencies involved in dam building to:

1. Immediately and comprehensively integrate the WCD's recommendations into their policies;

2. Establish an independent, open and participatory review of all planned and ongoing dam projects using the WCD recommendations as a guide;

3. Pay reparations to all communities who have suffered harm as a result of past projects; and,

4. Place a moratorium on all new projects until the above measures have been implemented.

We strongly endorse the World Commission on Dams findings that the World Bank, and its International Finance Corporation, has a special responsibility to adopt WCD guidelines and provide reparations to affected communities, given its role in establishing the WCD, and its history of supporting the largest and most controversial dam projects in the world. 

The Sotomayor-Raquelme family experience is one example of the many unresolved issues pertaining to World Bank-funded dam projects. The IFC Office of the Ombudsman can play an important role in the reparations and remediation process. We are encouraged by your communications to Claudio Gonzalez indicating that IFC management has decided to resolve this matter.  It is our hope that your actions in the Sotomayor-Raquelme case represent an important first step in the broader process of acknowledging unmet obligations and fashioning meaningful remedies to the problems faced by all the communities who have suffered harm as a result of past dam development projects.

To protect their health and welfare, I encourage you to promptly honor IFC's previous commitments.

Pleased keep us informed.


Louise Lamphere, President
American Anthropological Association

cc: James D. Wolfensohn, President
The World Bank Group

Professor Kader Asmal, Chair
World Commission on Dams

Barbara Rose Johnston, Chair
AAA Committee for Human Rights

Claudio Gonzalez-Parra
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Concepción

Manuel Elias Sotomayor

Pehuenche Briefing Documents
The World Commission on Dams
Letters Responding to Human Rights Cases
Committee for Human Rights Documents
Committee for Human Rights
AAAGovernment Affairs

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