IPN calls for improved supervision of environmental assessments

3 July 2017

At the April IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC, the third Emerging Lessons Series report was launched by the World Bank’s Inspection Panel (IPN, the World Bank’s accountability mechanism). This report, preceded by reports on involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples, discussed the need to improve the Bank’s environmental assessment procedures. Drawing on complaints registered since the Inspection Panel’s conception in 1993, the report provided an overview of lessons that should be integrated within future projects to allow for greater transparency and equitable project outcomes.

The report stressed the need for the Bank to conduct continuous environmental assessments of its projects and acknowledge the potential for all projects to present environmental risks regardless of their initial environmental categorisation. The report’s call for the strengthening of on-the-ground supervision through utilising “multidisciplinary expertise that goes beyond engineering to environmental and social issues” was reiterated by civil society in the discussion at the Civil Society Policy Forum meeting on the report’s launch (Bretton Woods Project Spring coverage 2017). This included Professor Richard Fuggle’s suggestion that Bank staff “prefer looking at problems on their screens in Bank offices than going out and actually coming to grips with what is happening on the ground.”

In addition to critiquing the report’s focus on a small percentage of complaints, Medha Patkar of the Indian coalition Narmada Dam Movement cautioned that while important, a focus on environmental issues cannot come at the cost of a comprehensive analysis of the social and equity consequences of projects.