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A Legacy of Promoting Accountability: Reflections from Ramanie Kunanagayam's Exit Interview

Ramanie Kunanayagam

In a candid and reflective video recording, Ramanie Kunanagayam, departing Member of the World Bank Inspection Panel, offers insights into her five-year tenure, the last two years of which she served as chair. Acting as the custodian of the first citizen-driven accountability mechanism at an international organization, Ramanie passionately upheld the Panel's mandate. In the interview, she notes that this mandate is rooted in mitigating harm to project-affected communities, and providing an access-to-justice system for those communities.

Drawing from a distinguished career in both the private and public sectors, Ramanie contrasts the approaches of the two sectors to addressing social and environmental risks. She notes that she brought pragmatism to the study of risks and an understanding of operational challenges.

Ramanie's leadership was tested during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the Panel employed creative and innovative strategies to sustain the Panel's operations and provide communities with a timely response to their investigation requests. Amidst concerns of potential retaliation and intimidation voiced by requestors, Ramanie remained steadfast in her commitment to fostering an environment of trust and security. 

In her exit interview, Ramanie underscores the imperative for the Bank to strengthen its accountability as it expands to a bigger and better development institution. She also sheds light on the intricate interplay between green infrastructure and social risks, stating that even projects aimed at addressing climate change can generate negative impacts on local populations.

Throughout her tenure, Ramanie maintained an unwavering commitment to upholding the Panel's integrity, ensuring that investigative reports maintained the highest standards of quality and rigor. Central to Ramanie's stewardship was the preservation of the Panel's independence—a cornerstone of its credibility and longevity. 

Emphasizing the imperative of safeguarding this independence, she articulates the need for advocacy and vigilance in the face of evolving dynamics. As the World Bank undergoes a comprehensive review of its Accountability Mechanism, Ramanie's parting hope resonates—a vision of a stronger Inspection Panel poised to navigate the complexities of global development.

Photo Courtesy: Dominique Chavez