IFI governance


MISSING RECEIPTS: How did DFIs’ covid-19 response affect human and environmental rights during the pandemic?

11 April 2022 | Minutes

Summary: In order to respond to the pandemic, the WBG and other DFIs positioned themselves as central players for the global economic and social recovery, committing billions of dollars. Civil society and communities have identified gross transparency and accountability gaps. Where has this funding gone? How have funds been utilized?

Sponsors: Arab Watch Coalition, Coalition for Human Rights in Development, DAR, Eurodad, FARN, NGO Forum on ADB, International Accountability Project.

A video recording of the event can be found here.

  • Moderator: Leandro Gomez, Coordinator of Investment and Rights Program, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) – Argentina
  • Gustavo Zullo, Researcher, International Accountability Project
  • Amy Ekdawi, Co- Director, Arab Watch Coalition
  • Eric Caldwell, Global Lead for citizen engagement, World Bank
  • Denisse Linares Suarez, Amazon program Specialist, Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales – Perú


  • Institutions have provided billions of dollars for pandemic response, but different image came from the ground. Lack of transparency on how money spent & impact on the ground. Series of national case studies evaluating impacts & outcomes. Serious implementation problems: corruption, accountability gaps, lack of transparency. Marginalized (women, indigenous, front line health care workers) often excluded from shaping IFI programs and benefitting from them. Governments suppressed information about pandemic, restricted rights and CSOs, IFIs failed due diligence.
  • Push forward privatization, debt, labour flexibilization for decades, did not change course in pandemic response as countries struggle with long term effects. Millions more in poverty, civil society is asking: where did IFI money go, how are governments going to pay for debt. This event is based on the Missing Receipts report, to discuss IFI Covid response. Report can be found here: https://rightsindevelopment.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/report-v4.pdf


  • A lot of projects, especially World Bank, have been funded with a gross lack of transparency and accountability. Civil society raised concerns about shrinking space during pandemic and ensuring the response is human rights based.
  • Early Warning System (by IAP) have been monitoring work of 15 DFIs since 2016. Want to highlight WB, IFC and MIGA. What has been the role of the IFIs? What investments have they funded? What is the WBG participation in this process?
  • From March 2020-2022 EWS tracked 8310 projects from 15 DFIs, 31.5% from WBG. Of 1500 Covid projects, 37% are WBG, for $173.21BN. This shows the huge role the World Bank has played.
  • Interactive tool: Covid-19 DFI tracker. Updated every 2 weeks:
  • https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/iaptableau/viz/EarlyWarningSystemCOVID-19ProjectsbyDevelopmentBanks_16049749996170/Main?publish=yes
  • Private companies absorbed most of the funds, as public sector passed on resources to large corporations.
  • Existing projects were repurposed or reallocated, often without due diligence and with documents being inaccessible. Examples: IMF reform demand in Colombia, private firms in Zambia and South Africa kept afloat with IFC loans.
  • Concerns about civil society being kept in the dark about how governments utilize loans, move online has made space less accessible for some.


Projects that were reconstructed (e.g. elements added to respond to Covid, such as e-learning): Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen. New projects: Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia. 3 core issues:

  1. Access to information. Especially for existing projects, couldn’t find information about the changes. There were only press releases about the new components, but documents are scattered (e.g. some under procurement, some implementation status, which provides little information). Information only available in English sometimes, even stakeholder engagement plans – they should be available in local languages. In Tunisia it was only in French, most local populations in the relevant regions don’t speak French. When researchers tried to get in touch with project leads to get more information it did not work – for example, the email provided for Iraq project just did not work, had to follow up with DC HQ to get the right one. Tunisia, people working in health ministry – all personal emails on World Bank documents, not official emails. Personnel keeps changing, access gets lost.
  2. Consultation. Mainly with government agencies, in few cases civil society was involved it was organisations that were not really involved in this field – it was just to check boxes of consultation. Said it was because of Covid, but it was online, so could have opened it up. Missing were major unions – if it’s a health sector project, national union for doctors should be involved. If it’s an education project, teacher union should be involved. It wasn’t the case. Even local officials who should coordinate implementation were left out sometimes, e.g. in Yemen.
  3. Retaliation. World Bank has a nice statement on their website about zero tolerance. But then it’s almost impossible to prove how to cases of retaliation are related to WB money – government received a lot of money to a large pot, hard to say where it went to specifically. Impossible to prove the link. There were cases of retaliation, e.g. during preparation of the project in Egypt and Jordan. World Bank should have made some effort to include unions and know something is going on.


  • We have a strategic framework for citizen engagement applying to all operational activities such as investment, country strategies, analytical work. Have target that 100% of investment projects have beneficiary feedback – role of my team is to monitor full portfolio of investment project to make sure they have engagement indicators build into the design, both for new projects and build-ons. Especially important for Covid, started with PPE, testing centers, awareness raising. Citizen engagement special interest for 2 reasons:
  1. There were many projects processed very quickly, especially focused on health & economic response, at beginning of 2020. Moved so fast, difficult to monitor for citizen engagement, so we didn’t – waited until FY 21 (starting in June).
  2. There’s been papers and research published showing importance of public trust in government to implement Covid response. Citizens follow policies (e.g. safety, vaccination) if they trust the government.
  • Noticed that there have been much more engagement to existing mechanisms, and concern about vulnerable groups that may face access issues – at least in the project design.
  • Want to highlight some things we have seen – mainly design phase, some implementation but that’s still ongoing so don’t have results yet. Grievance mechanisms, surveys, to community groups, electronic platforms. Some good practices include package of diversified mechanisms, e.g. in Sri Lanka have a multi-media approach to feedback mechanisms (surveys, hotline, community facilitators on the ground). Multi-stakeholder committees e.g. in Zambia, Nepal, Philippines, for community-level M&E. These look promising, still learning about effectiveness.
  • Quite a few include CSOs in implementations – about half of the additional financing for health and economic response have specific rules for CSO involvement.
  • Monitoring: Looking at electronic mechanisms, given restrictions on gatherings. Have come in as major instrument but have their limitations. Use of country systems has been crucial. Creation of new mechanisms have not gone as well as the use of existing systems – always encourage governments but takes time to get them up and running.
  • Feedback loop: Not only provide info and get feedback, but how does that get used. How does the government apply that information? It’s difficult to capture that in the reporting, but are providing support to teams and have case studies on how to do that. This is the most critical aspect on citizen engagement & accountability. Projects should become more effective with the feedback.


Q&A with Erik:

AE: Appreciate Bank is using existing systems in the country. How does the Bank track performance of a GRM? How to make sure complaints are captured and addressed. In some cases, people had to identify themselves, should uphold anonymity. There have been complaints against specific workers in agency implementing project, means complaints sometimes not recorded. Lots of problems, how do you solve them.

EC: Anonymity is critical, strongly advise governments that should be the nature of these mechanisms. If there are cases where that’s not happening, need to work with our clients to change that. We gather information about whether complaints have been submitted, the data is usually share of complaints responded to. Don’t know depth and quality of response, have to review project reporting and give feedback, which we do, but it’s difficult to ascertain details.

From the Chat: Hi from ASAPSU a CSO in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. I am Kenneth, the Advocacy Officer of the CSO. Thank for these insightful interventions. We led a study in West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire-Sénégal) that showed some challenges in the follow up of the Bank after the funding delivered to public sector during the pandemic. One of them is the lack of involvement of civil society and its capacities to participate and follow up on these funding. My question is:  how is the Bank making sure that its funding for COVID 19 and more broadly for health emergencies do impact efficiently the communities and are adapted to their local needs and environment?

EC: Consultations are required, but extent to which there is an integrated mechanism of community engagement differs between projects. Especially vulnerable groups, important to have intermediaries who know better how the World Bank and government work and can facilitate intervention of these groups who may otherwise struggle to participate. So CSOs are really key to that. They know local culture, language. Especially in the initial response with lockdowns, community facilitators going around following government guidelines was critical to inform people. Otherwise, tough to get information and high risk of misinformation.

Jocelyn Medallo (IAP): IAP and partners have been trying to fill the information gap. It was already an uphill battle before the pandemic, now it’s even worse. A local partner in Turkmenistan working on public health literacy has been attempting to obtain basic information about a WB project, and information about the stakeholder engagement plan from the World Bank since February 2021 – with not much progress. She got a very generic document from the gov website. Turkmenistan very oppressive of civil society, anything coming from the gov about public consultation is usually manipulated. If you don’t have civil society voices, will miss out on risks. WB has the capacity to push for this engagement, what will you change/do?

EC: Acknowledge difficulty. One of the main challenges is that things move fast, in procurement period slowdown. Also internal challenge to keep up with pace of implementation. For stakeholder engagement plans, a lot tended to be generic bc they went through quickly, to be updated later with more specific. In some cases there wasn’t an engagement o build on and had to start from scratch. Don’t know a lot of details about Turkmenistan, don’t have a large presence there so likely these mechanisms will have had to be established anew. To use the communities – much more hands-on accessibility within communities, again differs between countries – strong structures in Ghana, Philippines. In others (probs like Turkmenistan) these aren’t there, but should make use of whatever national orgs there are that have connection on the ground and can facilitate feedback to national level.

Farwa Sial (Eurodad): Can we have more clarity on the reallocated/recycled projects that were highlighted in the report and in the slides?

EC: If there is an existing project, purpose can be adjusted to meet a different need. Health response projects for example that were focused on health systems, then adjusted to be specific to Covid. E.g. equipment, public information, more financing added. Later on also vaccine distribution, many additional operations once vaccines became available. Multi-phase project approach – same overarching goals, but implemented in phases.


  • Please have someone browse the WB website from a user’s point of view – check emails are up to date, what info can be found.
  • Language – respect local language. There are only few days in a year to have this dialogue with civil society, yet WB can’t be bothered to pay for translators? (Referring to the lack of live interpretation at the event)
  • Bank has offices in countries, they are aware what’s going on (e.g. protests), they live there. Pay attention to the national context, what’s going on, include e.g. unions.

EC: Have discussions with access to information WG at the Bank, hopefully can make some more progress on documents shared and website accessibility. Part of a longer term agenda to make as much info available to the public as possible, and to enable people to provide feedback or asking questions.


  • Presentation about WB-supported Covid response in Peru – various health sector projects & economic response e.g. on social protection. Same issues with difficulty to access information and inability to evaluate outcomes. No info on who are the specific beneficiary groups, no priority was given to environmental protection and indigenous rights.
  • Asking for dialogue with Bank and implementation agencies. Should include specific clauses on social and environmental impacts, stronger mechanisms for indigenous participation, implementation of Escazu Agreement.

Final remarks:

GZ: About repurposed projects. It makes it harder to track projects. Another problem would be that many projects were fast tracked while many communities were not able to engage. Projects went forward regardless.

AE: Just want to ask everyone involved in preparing the panel – this has felt like being part of a global movement, so many orgs were involved, hope we can continue to work together. Really hope the Bank will solve this problem – it’s not like things were amazing before Covid, now problems have been heightened. National context – you cannot design a project where you know that there are people protesting in the streets. You can’t just ignore what is happening and pretend you don’t have employees locally who know what’s going on.