IFI governance


Citizen-Led Accountability at the World Bank Group: experiences of independent recourse mechanisms

12 October 2012 | Minutes

Sponsor: Inspection Panel (WB), Compliance Adviser and Ombudsman (IFC)

This session aimed to gather CSO views, suggestions, and concerns on how to improve the current guidelines, including IMF consultation processes on policies, strategies, and Art. IV consultations.

Panelists: Alf Jerve (Chair of the World Bank Inspection Panel), Meg Taylor (Vice President and Compliance Advisor Ombudsman for IFC and MIGA, World Bank Group), Chad Dobson (Executive Director, Bank Information Center)

Facilitator: Serge Selwan


Alf Jerve, Inspection Panel (IP)

  • Origins of the IP – including development disaster projects, Rio 1992 conference
  • Members: Alf, Eimi, Zeinab; characteristics of the panel: independent, impartial, transparent
  • Interactive process with management, requestors, board
  • 80 cases, 40% investigated; most frequently problems with project supervision, environmental assessment and dealing with indigenous peoples
  • Outcomes: resource and redress, including compensation, mitigation; also some effects on the WB as an institution
  • Challenges: new lending instruments, county ownership, safeguard policy review, risksand competitiveness.

Meg Taylor, CAO

  • We are neutral, make no judgements on the merits of the cases, work on the private sector arms
  • We report to the president of the Bank, and work with an environment and social mandate
  • Performance standards and sustainability policy of the IFC are the framework; then we have 3 functions: compliance (investigations), ombudsman (dispute resolution), and advice (never on a project)
  • 100+ disputes in 35 countries; many cases in Asia; regional and sectoral distributional presented; profile of cases Conclusions/worries: development impact diluted through financial markets portfolio; role of government entities; project-level consultation and disclosure; risk management.

Chad Dobson, BIC

  • Big question between international standards and national enforcement; not sure there is acceptance of international standards anymore
  • Staff turnover at IFIs, esp at WB board, leads to questions about the usefulness of the accountability mechanisms; especially since the findings go to the board Increasing lending going to facilities not covered by the mechanism.
  • New WB president – this needs to be explained to him
  • Meg’s retirement is a potential pitfall next year.
  • Management has now tried to redress problems before they go to the IP.
  • New performance standards: not sure how they will work
  • Real question for communities on how going to the mechanisms will actually improve their lives; stronger feedback loop is needed.

Kris Genovese, CIEL

  • More interest than ever in grievance mechanisms, including Business & Human Rights
  • CAO & IP are still the best ones out there amongst all such mechanisms
  • Examples of Honduras and Guatemala cases: contact with local communities are key
  • How can the mechanisms adapt to the changing World Bank? For example half of IFC portfolio through FIs? Or how to help people affected by P4R?
  • For CSOs- we need a new big idea for how we can create better accountability.


Pol – why does the IP not have a mediation function? Japanese speaker – China is involved in many projects; how can that involvement stay within the standards of the Banks?

Alf – not sure about mediation in 1992. The logic is that if the Bank fails in policies, it becomes responsible for redress; even if there are dispute resolutions requestors should still have the right to go to the panel; on China – China is not the only player, but we need to have a global conversation on this, and a global standard

Chad Dobson – we must make sure that requestors don’t have to “exhaust all other remedies first”, that is not acceptable. On the Cambodia project – this was a shared project of many donors so that is why at the board the big countries (except the US) didn’t stick up for the requestors; at the board countries don’t want to anger each other; but the community of nations needs to think more carefully as a community, it isn’t just a question of China

Gaia Larson, WRI – please talk more about Bank changes , esp P4R and the challenges?

Kate Morris, Kate Morris Foundation Toronto – what happened to the cases that came to the IP but were not investigated?

Alf – causal relationships are very difficult to establish now because of indirect/budget support/IFIs etc – also have more principles based standards rather than rules; the WB management and board has a responsibility to think about how to have accountability – it is not just the responsibility of the IP; we should avoid discourse of compliance -noncompliance in this discussion since it creates defensiveness at management; we need an open and honest debate about the challenge of accountability; on the missing cases – some we recommended investigation but board did not approve; in others, the cases were rejected (like eligibility requirements); in other cases the concerns were addressed before we got to that stage

Vince, BIC – PPPs with the IFC performance standards in the lead but the safeguards also play a role, what is the jurisdiction? The first cases are looking risky, how will this work?

Sanae Fujita, Univ of Essex – since the standards are increasing being interpreted, are you allowed to use other sources on the assessment?

Meg – on the PPPs the performance standards that apply, both IP and CAO will have jurisdiction; we are working on MOU on how we go forward together; we already have joint cases with other institutions so we have some ways of handling this

Alf – if IDA money is there then IP has jurisdiction; but we will apply performance standards, so MOU will be about sharing experience of how to apply performance standards; on other bodies – we have to refer to standards at WB itself – but we have general language (like “broad community support”)

Meg – for FPIC, we have to look at the intent of the standards as well, new standards being implemented since January – but we need to have a track record of implementation before we can say much

Kris – WB is a specialised agency of the UN, it has the obligation to protect/respect; and the member states of the bank have obligations; we are going to press this obligation at the Bank; this can also help with consistency of standards across the Bank

Mark Rentschler, BIC – what is the link between your work and poverty eradication?

Kemi, Dare to Dream – is there a baseline for measuring best practice for NGO accountability?

Alf – not aware of NGO accountability mechanisms, but yes citizen-led accountability should apply to non-state actors along with multilateral and bilateral institutions; citizen-driven accountability is an essential component of poverty eradication, development has to be participatory, bottom- up, and this needs accountability

Meg – our work is to ensure outcomes, including monitoring function of agreements made in dispute resolution, and on non-compliance, it is a means of closing the loop; the biggest challenge is to stay relevant while the institution changes, we are having independent reviews of how we work and modifying operational guidelines

Kris – the cases at mechanisms are a wealth of information to help improve the operations of the WB; the work of CAO to get people to work together is really what development can look like

Chad – Dr. Kim talked of gender and climate change, but the mechanisms have no ability to look these issues – this shows the importance of reform at the institutions.