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World Bank Inspection Panel

Inspection Panel Launches “Emerging Lessons Series”

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

This blog post is co-authored by Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel, and Dilek Barlas, Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel.

The World Bank Inspection Panel this week released the first in a series of reports that draw on the main lessons from its caseload over 22 years. The lessons identified in the “Emerging Lessons Series” are intended to help build the Bank’s institutional knowledge base, enhance accountability, foster better results in project outcomes and, ultimately, contribute to more effective development.

The Panel was created in 1993 by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank as an independent mechanism to receive complaints submitted by people suffering harm allegedly caused by World Bank projects. Since then, the Panel has received 105 requests for inspection, of which it has registered 85 and investigated 32. Two additional investigations are underway.

The “Emerging Lessons Series” will include reports on the most recurrent issues in the Panel’s caseload: involuntary resettlement, environmental assessment, projects involving indigenous peoples, and requirements for consultation, participation and disclosure of information.
 
It seemed logical to start with involuntary resettlement as the topic of the first report because it has been an issue in 21 of the Panel’s 32 cases. The report identifies seven lessons from those cases:

Does it help to complain?

Jan Mattsson's picture

Masai in KenyaIt is a year since I blogged about my early impressions of the Inspection Panel and specifically a complaint from a Maasai community that was resettled to accommodate a geothermal plant in Kenya.

Since then I have heard variants of the question: Do accountability mechanisms make a difference?  In this case, I believe the Inspection Panel has made a positive contribution. But the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the Bank process, of which the Panel is only one part, must be the redress of any harm caused. Signs are encouraging, and we shall see.

We submitted our investigation report in early July. The Board meeting in October resulted in a clear direction for the future (see press release). This was followed by the Panel’s debriefing of the community and other stakeholders in Kenya. 

As we analyzed the facts it became clear the Bank had failed to bring to bear its rich experience with resettlement and the full force of its safeguard policies. This had negative repercussions for many of the project-affected people, especially the poor and vulnerable.

In a nutshell, the requirement to engage resettlement expertise was not met, consultations were hampered by the absence of Maa language and by sidelining the traditional Maasai authority structure, and there was no effective monitoring against a comprehensive socio-economic baseline. We also highlighted many positive aspects, including the climate-neutral generation of electricity and the investment in new infrastructure for schools and dwellings in the resettlement area.

Strengthened accountability in a changing world

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel at the World Bank, shares his thoughts on the Panel's new Pilot for Early Solutions and describes its success in the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project in Paraguay.

Roman archesRichard Branson believes in accountability. When he founded Virgin Galactic, the first company to offer commercial trips to space, he promised to be on board during the inaugural flight so that he would be the first saying “oops” if need be (let’s hope not). Similarly, the tradition is that the Captain of a ship is the last one to abandon it, if things go wrong, and to go down with it if necessary (the Captain of the “Costa Concordia” being a recent exception to this rule). In earlier times, Roman engineers stood under the arches they designed as the capstone was set in place, so that the full force of their mistakes would be unleashed upon their heads. Regardless of the definition of accountability used, spotting it is easy when it is there.

The Inspection Panel was designed more than 20 years ago, at a time when both the Bank and the world were quite different. Today, information travels instantaneously, and the challenges of development are ever more pressing and complex. This new world demands ever stronger levels of accountability. At the Panel, we define successful accountability as the process through which redress is provided to people that have suffered harm when things have gone wrong, and lessons are learned by the Institution so that the same mistakes are not repeated.

One example of successful accountability is the recently concluded Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project (PRODERS) case in Paraguay. This is a Bank-financed project aimed at supporting participatory rural development with indigenous populations. Last July, we received a complaint from indigenous people from the Departments of San Pedro and Caaguazú in Paraguay claiming that consultation within the PRODERS project had broken down. Through discussions with World Bank management, we learned that the project team had developed an Action Plan geared to working closely with the government to resolve the impediments for effective indigenous participation. We also learned that the requesters wanted a quick solution to their participation problems, rather than to wait for the results of a potentially lengthy Panel process.

Risk and Accountability: What Role for the Inspection Panel?

Alf Jerve's picture

The World Bank wants to speed up. To meet the needs of clients and find new solutions to development challenges its appetite for taking risks must change. Accountability mechanisms, like the Inspection Panel, are often accused of causing staff to become risk averse – of slowing down the speed. The Panel has been set up to give people affected by Bank-supported projects an avenue for raising their concerns, knowing that the complaint will be handled by a body independent of those who man age the project. We call it citizen-driven accountability. Does this slow down speed or does it allow for speeding up because it improves the braking system? Fast cars need good brakes.

The answer is not simply one or the other. The Panel has stated on several occasions that it recognizes risk-taking is an essential part of development work, and that the Bank needs to be able to take the risks that go along with innovation, and venture into challenging circumstances where risks and potential rewards may be high. Effective safeguard policies provide means to identify and manage risks, which at times may slow down speed and rightly so. At the same time, citizen-driven accountability helps to enable risk-taking by providing a safety net for affected people in the event that risks materialize.