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New Podcast Episodes Shine a Spotlight on Inspection Panel


Ramanie Kunanayagam, Chairperson of the World Bank Inspection Panel was interviewed for the SAIS Review of International Affairs Podcast (“Looking Glass”). She was joined in the interview by Dr. Dyhia Belhabib, an environmental scientist and researcher on illegal fishing, conservation, artisanal fishing, and food security, speaking on livelihood issues. Belhabib assisted the Inspection Panel in its investigation of the West Africa Coastal Areas Resilience Investment Project in Togo.

The Looking Glass is the podcast of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the graduate school of Johns Hopkins University, based in Washington, DC. SAIS is devoted to the study of international relations, diplomacy, national security, economics, and public policy. The graduate school regularly hosts world leaders for discussions and debates on international affairs.

During the episode, hosted by Kosi Ogbuli, President of the SAIS Student Government Association, Kunanayagam described the role of the Inspection Panel and presented highlights from the latest publication in the Emerging Lessons series of Inspection Panel advisory reports, Ensuring Development while Securing Livelihoods.  A key takeaway from the publication is that prior to developing any livelihood restoration measure, it is critically important to identify the types of livelihoods on which people depend, the extent and duration of the impact, and any supply chain links or dependencies associated with these livelihoods.

On the topic of designing projects to support fishing communities, Kunanayagam highlighted the risk of overlooking people on the margins of society and those who earn income but are not the primary breadwinner in their households. The latest advisory report notes the need to give attention to both natural resource-based livelihoods (derived from land, water, or forests) and non-natural resource-based livelihoods (such as entrepreneurship, small trade, or employment).

Drawing on her deep experience working with communities dependent on the ocean for their livelihoods, Belhabib observed that artisanal fisheries, including women who process fish, are “invisible” because they are not part of the formal economy. Yet these fisheries are a pillar in the economies of West African coastal communities, contributing to jobs, schooling, community cohesion and social peace. 

She noted that development interventions that give these fisheries inadequate attention can undermine local governance systems that have in some instances operated for centuries. This can lead to disastrous impacts. Belhabib added that the Inspection Panel has done an exemplary job of listening to these communities and their grievances, no matter how small, to truly understand important subtleties regarding their livelihoods. 

Kunanayagam was also interviewed by Jaffer Najar, a researcher at International Institute of Social Studies at The Hague in The Netherlands, and host of the Global Development Review Podcast, rated by the content-reader and brand monitor Feedspot as one of the world’s best international development podcasts. The podcast seeks to enhance understanding of how policies, practices and politics contribute to or challenge social justice delivery mechanisms. 

In this episode, Kunanayagam shared details of the creation of the Inspection Panel three decades ago. She also described the Inspection Panel’s procedures and dual purpose, i.e., bringing the voice of the impacted and least heard project stakeholders to the highest decision-making levels of the World Bank, and holding the institution accountable to its own policies and standards. 

Kunanayagam emphasized the importance of the Inspection Panel’s independence, cited the recent introduction of a voluntary Dispute Resolution Service within the World Bank, and noted that international experts are recruited to assist the Inspection Panel’s dedicated Members and staff in conducting investigations. During the interview, she also spoke about some of the Inspection Panel’s past cases, including the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project

That investigation was, in Kunanayagam’s assessment, a milestone case, as it led to a pause in World Bank financing for the project and a portfolio review of the transport sector in Uganda. It also spurred the creation of the World Bank Gender Based Violence (GBV) Task Force, which screens proposed projects at high risk for GBV, and to the preparation of the Good Practice Note on Assessing and Managing the Risks of Adverse Impacts on Communities from Project-Related Labor Influx.