In late April, after a contentious internal review, the World Bank Board approved changes to its Inspection Panel, the forum for citizen complaints about Bank-financed projects that harm people and the environment.
The proposal was a compromise between Northern Executive Directors who favoured the Panel as an instrument of accountability for Bank staff, and Southern Directors who felt that the Panel infringed their sovereignty. Whilst NGOs achieved some changes through letters to and meetings with Panel and Bank staff, they were disappointed with the agreement.
In return for restricting the Panel’s ability to undertake preliminary inspections, the Board has pledged to approve Panel recommendations that claims should be investigated. The Center for International Environmental Law and others have pointed out that Board involvement in ratifying Panel decisions maintains the politicisation of what this supposedly independent process.
Another concern is the redefinition of “material adverse harm” which claimants must allege is the result of Bank staff failure to follow Bank policies. Now the Panel must assess what peoples’ situation would have been like without the project, and may not assess the impact of non-accomplishments and unfulfilled expectations.
Contacts: Dana Clark, Center for International Environmental Law: Tel: + 1 202-785-8700; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Panel Resolution and clarifications can be found on: www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/ipwg/index.htm