An "Early Warning System" for human rights

IAP Bank on Rights Web Home Page
The home page features the GreenInfo-created mapping system showing current World Bank projects judged of concern for human rigthts issues.
Client:   International Accountability Project

Development projects funded by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are intended to help developing countries. But sometimes they can have negative impacts on the environment, on local economics, and on human lives. By keeping tabs on project disclosures, human rights advocates can more easily review projects and make decisions more quickly as to projects requiring legal action to respect human rights.

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) fund projects of varying scale and scope, from loans to improve a city's mass transit system to funding dams which can displace the population of an entire river valley. The purpose of the Early Warning System (EWS) is to alert communities to projects relevant to them, to detect and act upon projects which may affect their human rights. Armed with information about the project and its participants, communities can submit a complaint to the MDB's grievance mechanism, or connect with organizations who can support their advocacy.

Key technical developments of the EWS include:

The data displayed on the EWS are "scraped" from several MDB websites and stored into a database. These MDBs do not provide machine-readable APIs for consuming project disclosure details, and the "scraper" for each MDB is custom-crafted. MDBs currently being scraped into the EWS, include the International Finance Corporation, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Inter-American Investment Corporation, European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

IAP personnel then use an administration interface to review the projects and add their own assessments, then tag a project for publication onto the site.

A simple yet powerful search interface is provided to search for projects, filtering by specific MDB, by the country or region of the project, and more. The results are displayed as both a list and a map. The resulting project links connect to a page with full details about the project, including links to documents and websites relevant to the project.

Project disclosure documents (PDFs) are downloaded from the source website into the EWS server, so one may visit both the original disclosure document at the MDB website, or else the EWS' own copy should the original document be unavailable.

The site exposes RSS feeds, so one may subscribe to specific project sectors, countries, or MDBs. Therefore, subscribers may receive emailed alerts when new projects come up.

Results: In April 2012, the EWS went live - the launch conference was well received and the EWS received dozens of subscribers in the first day. In early 2015, the head of the World Bank admitted major problems in their resettlement policies, creating a further opening for the work of the International Accountability Project. In 2016, the site was revisited in light of its increased scale and ongoing popularity and usefulness, and the site was reworked with an eye toward being a full-fledged microsite rather an a simple embedded map. The site was reimplemented in Django on a dedicated server and its layout was reworked entirely, the administration panel was streamlined in several ways and and expanded in others, and the storage system and back-end code was reworked entirely.

Focus:   Economic Development, Environment, Social Justice/Equity  

Services:  Interactive Solutions, Web Mapping 

Tags:   Google Maps API, environment, global, human rights, scraper, website scraping, worldwide  

“ EWS launch event in DC last week was a success! We were pleased with the turn out. Participants were quite supportive and asked great questions about the site and the project. Thanks to all of you for your work and support. Your efforts and patience are much appreciated! ”

—  Emily Joiner, Policy Program Coordinator, International Accountability Project

Project Years: 2012-2015

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