In response to the World Bank comment period for the Draft operating procedures for the Accountability Mechanism and Inspection Panel, which followed a five-year reform process, in September a group of 57 civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals submitted recommendations to improve the draft operating procedures.
In September 2020, the World Bank’s executive board announced a series of changes to the institution’s accountability system (see Observer Autumn 2021). These included the creation of a new Accountability Mechanism (AM) that would host the existing Inspection Panel (IP), the independent accountability mechanism for the World Bank’s public-lending arms (IDA and IBRD), and a newly created Dispute Resolution Service (DRS; see Observer Spring 2020). While civil society welcomed the establishment of the DRS, it voiced concerns about the risk of the AM undermining the IP’s independence and the notable lack of a remedy mechanism to address damages to affected communities (see Observer Summer 2022).
“We submitted recommendations on the draft procedures because communities impacted by World Bank projects need a fairer, more predictable, effective, community friendly and more accessible accountability process that results in remedy,” stated Margaux Day, of US-based CSO Accountability Counsel. She added, “Our recommendations are informed by multiple communities’ prior experiences with accountability mechanisms.”
World Bank Projects do not recognise international law and human rights standards that guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the project cycles, including sanctioning the loan and grant…. It must be rectified by recognising the collective, and individual rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined under these standardsShankar Limbu, LAHURNIP
World Bank lags behind other MDBs, missing critical aspects of effective monitoring and remedy
CSO concerns about these mechanisms date from the designing stages of the AM. The comments on the consultation process stressed that the draft procedures include “multiple provisions that are inconsistent with and far behind standard practice at other [Multilateral Development Banks’] accountability mechanisms,” including the need for the Board to approve both a decision to investigate and to access the dispute resolution mechanism.
The submission emphasised the need to allow cases where not all issues are resolved to be eligible for a compliance investigation by the IP, which would be in line with the standard procedures at other AMs, such as the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector arm.
As part of the comments, CSOs also urged the World Bank to provide the DRS with an explicit monitoring mandate, noting this is “critical to…the effectiveness of a dispute resolution function itself.”
Some of the other problematic issues highlighted included: The inability of the AM and IP to recommend the suspension of projects when, during a dispute resolution or investigation process, they become aware of imminent or irreversible damage; and the lack of guiding principles or a description of the roles of the AM and IP in facilitating remedy.
Commenting on the process, Shankar Limbu, of Nepal-based CSO LAHURNIP, noted, “World Bank Projects do not recognise international law and human rights standards that guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the project cycles, including sanctioning the loan and grant…. It must be rectified by recognising the collective, and individual rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined under these standards, which should be the core basis of the Bank, IP, DRS, and other associated mechanisms, when the World Bank considers investing in the Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories and natural resources.”