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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.

This was the first time the Panel carried out an investigation jointly with the European Investment Bank Compliance Mechanism – EIB-CM. The alliance was certainly fruitful. At the same time, differences in mandate and approach were noteworthy. For example, the Panel report remained confidential for three and a half months before World Bank management provided its comments and before the World Bank Board deliberated upon it.

Even more importantly, the EIB-CM has problem-solving tools beyond the compliance review. In this case the parties – KenGen and the community – agreed to engage in mediation.

In another first for a Panel case, the Board decided that mediation would be a good way forward. Because of mandates on the EIB side, the independent accountability mechanism is facilitating the mediation. On the World Bank side, their counterpart is the World Bank management.

Looking ahead, there is reason to believe a good outcome is within reach.  KenGen, the implementing agency, has demonstrated a positive approach and getting this right is clearly in their longer-term business interest. The legitimate case of the complainants has no doubt been strengthened by the investigation findings as well as the decision of the World Bank Board to review the progress of the mediation.

Masai reads Inspection Panel reportCommunity members expressed gratitude to the Panel for listening to their concerns and documenting the problems they faced. In a hand-written letter they stated “The report show how careful and caring the investigations were for all the allegations of the requesters in regard to the operational policies of the World Bank especially those for indigenous peoples.”   Perhaps most impressive was the reaction of several elders when we presented a version of our investigation report in Maa during our recent visit.  They were visibly moved to see their language recognized.  This sentiment is best summarized by the Maasai community words: “We generally speaking for Maa-speaking people of East Africa say, Ashe! Ashe Oleng (Thanks! Thanks a lot) for bringing up our voices and standing firm on our behalf.”

We were also pleased to have received positive feedback from KenGen, who expressed appreciation for the Panel’s input in the resettlement process and noted that it has been “a priceless learning experience”.

Time has passed, harm to vulnerable people remains real, redress is needed.

Yes, I remain hopeful that the complaint to the Inspection Panel will help the community. I only share the wish of the affected people that the process be quicker.

Photographs courtesy of the author, Jan Mattsson
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Submitted by Serge S. on

Development, with all its challenges, sometimes offers moments of appreciation and gratitude by project affected people. Maasai elders, amazed and grateful, reading a Bank produced document in Maa-language, their own tongue, must be one of those moments. Indeed, very rewarding. It reflects the importance of communicating with people in their own language. It puts an emphasis on how such a simple act can generate often much needed good-will and participation of communities in life changing (even traumatizing) events, such as resettlement.

Submitted by MIKE H on

Thank you Jan for this update, one point you raised:

"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."

As the title of the blog is "Does it help to complain?" I wonder what the chief complaints from the Maasai people are? How did the Bank mitigate these complaints and how will their cultural, spiritual and community foundations be keep intact during the relocation process?

From the article it is also hard to tell how many people are resettling and what compensation and accommodations are being made on their behalf?

Submitted by J. Shaa on

It was great work done by the panel to investigate the banks failure to implement it's policies and intentionally avoid to implement other policies such as indigenous peoples policy and not meet the thresholds of the resettlement policy. The bank should embrace and accommodation the role of civil societies in the projects that they undertake and involved the elders and local experts in decision making organs.

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