The World Bank, extreme poverty and human rights: Report

August 2015
Issued by:
The Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty
To the General Assembly at its 70th session, 4 August 2015


The Special Rapporteur presented this thematic report on the World Bank and its relation to extreme poverty to the GA in August 2015.


This report begins with an analysis of the confusing approaches to human rights taken by the World Bank in its legal policy, public relations, policy analysis, operations and safeguards. The Special Rapporteur then seeks to explain why the Bank has historically been averse to acknowledging and taking account of human rights, argues that the Bank needs a new approach and explores what differences that might make.

The Special Rapporteur concludes that the existing approach taken by the Bank to human rights is incoherent, counterproductive and unsustainable. For most purposes, the World Bank is a human rights-free zone. In its operational policies, in particular, it treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations.

The Special Rapporteur argues that what is needed is a transparent dialogue designed to generate an informed and nuanced policy that will avoid undoubted perils, while enabling the Bank and its members to make constructive and productive use of the universally accepted human rights framework. Whether the Bank ultimately maintains, adjusts or changes its existing policy, it is essential that the policy should be principled, compelling and transparent. The recommendations that follow provide some indication as to what a World Bank human rights policy might look like in practice.