The Inspection Panel’s Participation at the 2023 Annual Meetings in Marrakech
Panel Chairperson Ms. Ramanie Kunanayagam and Panel Member Mark Goldsmith, representing the World Bank Inspection Panel, has just returned from the World Bank Annual meetings in Marrakech where they had the opportunity to participate on two CSO Panel sessions and several CSO meetings. In addition, the Panel Members attended a number of the Marrakech meetings where they learned how the Bank is planning to achieve its new vision “To end extreme poverty and boost prosperity on a livable planet” and received an update on the latest thinking in relation to streamlining the implementation of “the World Bank Environmental and Social Framework (ESF).
Ms. Ramanie Kunanayagam, participated as a Panelist on two Panels hosted by civil society entitled “An Evolution to Accountability Roadmap: Lessons for the Bank's New Chapter” and “Barriers to Accessing Accountability for World Bank Group-funded projects in the MENA Region”.
The first Panel included Mr. Dominique Favre, Executive Director for Switzerland, Mr. Abdoul Salaam Bello, Executive Director for Africa Group II in the World Bank Group and Ms. Janine Ferretti, Director General of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman. The session was moderated by Gregory Berry, a Policy Associate from the Accountability Counsel. Ms. Kunanayagam provided valuable perspectives on how Inspection Panel plays a crucial role in ensuring the Bank's accountability through compliance with its policies and procedures. Ms. Kunanayagam stressed the significance of embracing constructive approach and owning responsibilities to findings of Inspection Panel’s compliance investigations and the importance of transparency as a key plank to accountability. She also shared an example of a recent Panel investigation on Togo, Climate Resilience project, where climate and poverty were at the heart of investigation. She made the point that climate and poverty were not a trade off and that ‘green’ projects could also have social impacts which needed to be identified and mitigated against. The session had an engaging discussion on several key topics, including the rights of individuals affected by World Bank projects, the need to anticipate and address unintended harms resulting from Bank operations, institutional learning and the disseminating the existence of Inspection Panel as an avenue for project affected communities. Mr. Dominique Favre shared his views on the important role that Independent Accountability Mechanisms play in the Bank’s Evolution roadmap. Mr. Armand Atomate, Sr Adviser, Africa II representing Mr. Abdoul Salam Bello shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by African countries in holding the World Bank accountable. Janine Ferretti, Director General of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman, World Bank shared her thoughts on the effective remedies for affected individuals.
The second session that the Panel Chairperson participated in was convened by Arab Watch Coalition and moderated by Robi Chacha Mosenda and brought together panelists Lama Almoayed, from , Accountability Counsel; Dustin Schafer, Urgawald; Amy Ekdawi, Co-Director Arab Watch; Myriam Nahouli-Saquet, a complainant from Lebanon; and Janine Ferretti, Director General of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman at the World Bank.
One of the key issues discussed in this session was the limited number of complaints received by Accountability Mechanisms including the Inspection Panel from the MENA region since its establishment in 1993. Despite the establishment of the Grievance Redress Service in 2016, the MENA region continues to have fewer complaints compared to other regions. The panelists highlighted several factors contributing to these barriers including the shrinking civic space in the MENA region, which restricts the ability of communities and civil society organizations to voice their concerns and hold the World Bank accountable. Non-transparent lending instruments were also identified as a challenge, making it difficult for affected communities to understand the terms and conditions of the projects and their potential impacts. Existing institutional barriers and fear of retaliation were also highlighted as another crucial aspect discussed during the session. Ms. Kunanayagam agreed in the main with the reasons discussed and shared data from the Inspection Panel which also demonstrated the lack of cases from the MENA region. She recognized that access to justice mechanisms such as the Inspection Panel needed to make itself more accessible, especially to those fearing reprisals but at the same remarked that the legitimacy and influence of its impact stems from the rigor of its work and its tight legal framework as the imprimatur of the World Bank Executive Board.
In addition to taking part in a couple of Panels at the World Bank meetings, the Inspection Panel also attended several interesting World Bank/IMF sessions which highlighted the latest thinking on how the Bank is looking to ‘create a world free of poverty on a livable planet’. Concerning, environmental and social issues, there was a clear commitment to continue using the Bank’s ESF but in ways that takes more of a risk-based approach, reduces paperwork and focusses more on working borrowers and building borrow capacity on E&S issues to ensure successful implementation.
In conclusion, a useful and informative few days for the Inspection Panel in Marrakech where more light was shed on the barriers hindering communities' access to accountability and panelists provided valuable insights and recommendations for addressing these challenges, emphasizing the need for greater transparency, inclusivity, and responsiveness in the World Bank's accountability mechanisms.