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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:

  • Accurate scoping of risks is the foundation of successful resettlement programs. That includes, among other things, determining the project’s impact area, carrying out meaningful baseline studies and addressing legacy issues.
  • Meaningful consultation and participation are essential elements of involuntary resettlement programs. To make that happen, projects documents need to be made available to those facing resettlement in an accessible place, in an understandable language and format, and in advance of any meetings.
  • The choice of the appropriate resettlement instrument is the cornerstone of effective resettlement. Failure to do so could have serious consequences for those affected by the project and for the success of the project.
  • Active supervision is necessary to effectively identify and resolve problems. Even when the appropriate resettlement instrument is developed, problems that may arise during project implementation require proper oversight.
  • Compensation for project-affect persons needs to be timely and based on sound valuation methodologies. It is also important that the compensation payment process be properly communicated to people facing resettlement and conducted in a straightforward, systematic and predictable manner.
  • To be effective, a grievance redress mechanism needs to be accessible, reliable and transparent. Without a proper framework to address grievances, there is little scope to resolve complaints when they arise.
  • Livelihood restoration works best when transitional support, development assistance and culturally appropriate resettlement alternatives are provided. This requires a deliberate approach to understanding the dimensions of livelihood restoration and proper monitoring after resettlement is completed to assess whether livelihood restoration was indeed achieved. 
The report also reaches four conclusions.
First, the frequency of resettlement complaints in the Panel’s caseload con­firms that it is one of the most challenging aspects of development. Second, the Bank’s ultimate policy goal of conceiving and executing resettlements as sustainable development programs has not been achieved in many of the cases investigated by the Panel. Third, better analysis of the full economics of resettlement is needed and, finally, Panel cases have positively influenced Bank practices on involuntary resettlement.
Needless to say, Panel cases tend to highlight projects where things went wrong and they don’t necessarily reflect the Bank’s entire portfolio. Still, these lessons are important and our hope in producing the “Emerging Lessons Series” is that the rich body of knowledge provided by the Inspection Panel’s experience can be useful to the World Bank and the development community at large in further promoting accountability.

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