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Is the World Bank really helping to end poverty?
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The World Bank's mission is to end poverty. A new investigative report shows its projects might leave the impoverished worse off. - photo by Lane Anderson
The mission of the World Bank is to end extreme poverty, but a new investigative report says that in some cases, it might be harming the world's poor more than helping.

The World Bank lends money and gives grants to governments and corporations in developing countries for projects like preserving land, building dams and roads and health care programs. But according to an investigative report by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, these well-intentioned projects can go awry.

Over the past 10 years, an estimated 3.4 million people have been displaced or lost their livelihood due to bank-funded projects, according to Michael Hudson, senior editor of ICIJ, report author.

"The World Bank has promised 'do no harm,' but our reporting has found that the World Bank has broken this promise," the report said.

The World Bank has rules that are intended to "safeguard" families that might get displaced for construction projects that it funds, like power plants or dams, but the scope of "involuntary resettlement," as the bank calls it, is "vast," according to the report.

One such case is that of Bimbo Omowole Osobe, whose home in the shanty town of Badia East in Lagos, Nigeria, was infiltrated one afternoon by 100 armed police who shouted for residents to flee for their lives.

Osobe and her neighbors grabbed what they could and fled as a line of excavators moved in to crush their homes. Resettlements under the World Bank aren't supposed to happen like this, but with shoddy oversight, they have been happening by the thousands, according to the report.

"The World Bank often neglects to properly review projects ahead of time to make sure communities are protected, and frequently has no idea what happens to people after they are removed," the report states. "In many cases, it has continued to do business with governments that have abused their citizens, sending a signal that borrowers have little to fear if they violate the banks rules, according to current and former bank employees."

A team of more than 50 journalists spent almost a year analyzing thousands of World Bank records, and they interviewed hundreds of people in places like Ethiopia, Brazil, Honduras, Serbia, Ghana and Uganda to create the report.

There was often no intent on the part of the governments to comply and there was often no intent on the part of the banks management to enforce, Navin Rai, a former World Bank official who oversaw the banks protections for indigenous peoples from 2000 to 2012, told the journalists. That was how the game was played.

In response, the World Bank has said that the vast majority of its projects don't involve the resettlement of people. But it plans to improve resettlement policies to protect people and businesses affected by bank-funded projects.

In March, after ICIJ and HuffPost informed World Bank officials that the news outlets had found systemic gaps in the institutions protections for displaced families, the bank acknowledged that its oversight has been poor, and promised reforms.

We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern, Jim Yong Kim, the World Banks president, said in a statement.