What Are Lessons for Communities on Working with the CAO? - A Telling Example from Togo

Coastal communities in Togo are suffering lost homes and livelihoods from coastal erosion and unable to get the remedy they seek from the World Bank Group.

The International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector finance arm, states that it “improves the lives of people in developing countries by investing in private sector growth…to create real progress for the people and places that need it most”. In the case of the Lome Container Terminal (LCT) in Togo, IFC financed, along with at least three other multilateral and national development banks, a joint venture owned by Chinese and Italian-Swiss holding companies — IFC being the lead lender

When IFC is the lead lender, it has primary responsibility to induce clients to follow its Performance Standards. Indeed, other development banks rely on IFC to exercise due diligence and oversight, so that environmental and social issues are avoided or at least well-mitigated. The IFC failed to exercise proper due diligence to determine whether LCT was properly avoiding or mitigating harm that was likely to result from the terminal’s construction.

Fairly soon after construction of the terminal was completed in 2015, members of 13 coastal communities came together as the Collective of Victims of Coastal Erosion of Togo to file a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), IFC’s independent accountability mechanism. They complained that the project had accelerated erosion which resulted in the communities losing their homes, livelihoods, and cultural heritage (including religious sites and cemeteries). Compounding the harm is the fact that they were never consulted or even informed about the project or its possible impacts.

Nine years later, the communities have still not received any compensation or even satisfaction of their demands for information. BIC has facilitated the Collective’s engagement with both the CAO and IFC, including helping its leaders to meet with members of IFC’s Board, sadly without making any progress on providing remedy for the community. The IFC has even refused to release a coastal erosion study commissioned by LCT. This track record leads to the question of whether there is any value in this process. 

IFC’s Board should not accept that the most impoverished people are asked to bear the burden of environmental and social impacts of projects IFC has financed. If the prospective IFC remedy framework does not offer reasonable assurance that communities will be fairly compensated for the losses suffered, the Board should demand that it be re-designed so that there is such assurance, with a provision/allowance made for each loan or investment based on its risk.

Read more: Lome Container Terminal Project


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