Evicted & Abandoned: Behind ICIJ’s World Bank Data Investigation

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Development projects launched by the World Bank have displaced thousands of people physically or economically from their home. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist’s project, Evicted & Abandoned, proved this. They found 969 projects with resettlement issues in over 100 countries, dismantling 3.4 million people physically or economically, based on reconstructed World Bank open data.

The ICIJ adopted a “peeling the onion” strategy to conduct the investigation. According to ICIJ’s reporter Sasha Chavkin, they approached the civil rights groups first, then the Bank’s consultants, former employees and finally two current employees; most of the World Bank’s staff feared they would lose their jobs if they told the truth after many had already been laid off. With guidance from internal sources, they effectively corrected the records obtained from the files and avoided misleading information.


ICIJ reporter Sasha Chavkin shared key findings of the “Evicted and Abandoned” project.

ICIJ used rigorous data analysis techniques to “avoid making assumptions with the data,” said data journalist Cecile Schilis-Gallego. The project sifted through 60,000 documents related to the World Bank’s resettlement figures (houses, people, etc.) from development projects executed between 2004 and 2013. Inconsistency in the way the data was registered in the reports was a major problem researchers had to overcome when reconstructing the data.

To check the facts found in the data, field reporting and researching was essential, and for extensive reporting ICIJ teamed up with locally-based freelancers to do reporting on the ground.

ICIJ’s findings are accessible to journalists to browse, search, and download. The public can view the data by country and use many different filters. According to Gallego the advantages of open data lie in the possibility of getting good stories, because many news-worthy scoops are there to be dug up.

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