In August 2011, the World Bank announced that it had taken the unprecedented step of suspending all new lending to Cambodia until the government complied with the Bank’s safeguard policy requirements and provided an adequate remedy to thousands of families that had been forcibly evicted from their homes around Boeung Kak Lake in connection with a World Bank land titling project.

While the primary perpetrators of human rights violations like these are typically governments or private companies, donors that provide the financial and technical support to make harmful projects possible also bear a degree of responsibility. The critical role of project financiers gives them considerable leverage over project design including avoidance and mitigation of social and environmental risks. When risks are not properly addressed, by the time they manifest into material harms, such as displacement, the donors may have already disbursed the majority of the funds committed to the project, reducing their direct leverage. However, their responsibility to hold governments accountable to environmental and social commitments remains.

Multilateral development banks have a poor track record of holding government clients to their contractual obligations after the fact, with devastating long-term impacts for affected communities. However, in rare cases, financiers have stood by the victims and wielded their leverage to insist on remedial actions, with interesting results for accountability. This chapter tells the story of one such case, the Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project and the Boeung Kak Lake evictions, where the World Bank put the brakes on business as usual for several years to stand up for the rights of affected communities.