Information, Consultation, Participation (and the Lack Thereof)

5 December 2003

The Inter-American Development Bank and Plan Puebla-Panama

Journalist Wendy Call reports on the controversy over the IDB’s multi-billion-dollar development plan for southern Mexico and Central America, with specific attention to information access, public consultation, and participation of stakeholders (and the lack thereof).

On September 17, 2003, a representative of the Inter-American Development Bank in Guatemala, Michael Collins, called the Peten Solidarity Group for Action and Proposals (GSAPP, for its Spanish initials), inviting the oganization to a consultation on the Plan Puebla-Panama. Known as the PPP, this plan will connect southern Mexico and all eight Central American countries with highway and shipping networks, an electrical grid and large-scale industrial corridors. With a pricetag is $4.5 billion, the PPP is the brainchild of the DC-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). First announced in late 2000, the Plan Puebla-Panama has been slowly moving forward since then. (For background on the Plan Puebla-Panama, please see: http://www.iadb.org/ppp and http://www.americaspolicy.org/citizen-action/spotlight/ppp-archive.html)

A wide range of observers, from non-governmental organizations to World Bank staffers, have criticized the lack of public involvement in PPP planning. In a typical comment, the Dutch Commission for Environmental Rights notes, "It seems that there has been no public involvement at all in the development of the ideas included in the PPP."

GSAPP, a small, grassroots network in Guatemala’s northern department of Petén, has been disseminating information about the PPP for two years. After Michael Collins’ phone call, the group spread the word about the IDB meeting. Home to the vast Maya Biosphere Reserve, Petén has a large number of grassroots and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on environmental issues and community development. Many of them, including the Alliance for Life and Peace, Conservation International, Defenders of Nature, Center for Research and Popular Education, Trópico Verde, and PROPETEN, sent representatives to the September 25 meeting. Compared to similar IDB sessions held in other countries about the PPP, this meeting had unusally broad participation.

"To begin such an important visit, Mr. Marcelo Antinori was greeted with banners from the organizations rejecting the Plan Puebla Panama,"explains Ileana Valenzuela, GSAPP coordinator. Community members, NGO staffers, forest workers, and several children gathered in front of the luxurious Hotel Maya Internacional in Flores, the quaint island town in the center of the Petén Itzá lake. The group held large banners saying "Stop the Plan Puebla Panama," "This consultation isn’t working" and "IDB exploits."

Download the entire 10-page report in Adobe PDF format (172 KB)


Wendy Call works as a writer and editor in the Boston area. She is working on narrative nonfiction book entitled No Word for Welcome: Mexican Villages Face the Future.
<wendycall@world.oberlin.edu>
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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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