Panel Chair Takes Part in CSPF Session on World Bank Accountability and Communities
Inspection Panel Chair Imrana Jalal on October 6, 2020, took part in a discussion titled “Are the World Bank Group’s Accountability Systems Working for Communities”? The session was part of the virtual Civil Society Policy Forum at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Annual Meetings and was sponsored by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Bank Information Center (BIC) and Accountability Counsel.
The session discussed the challenges faced by communities in navigating the World Bank Group's accountability systems and those faced by the World Bank Group in engaging with communities or encouraging its clients to engage with communities. The session also covered the role of the World Bank Board vis-à-vis Bank management and the Bank’s independent accountability mechanisms in ensuring the systems are effective and accessible for communities, and opportunities for further changes or improvements to the Bank’s accountability systems.
Ms. Jalal said that a lack of knowledge about the existence of independent accountability mechanisms (IAMs) like the Panel poses a challenge for communities. She said the Panel had expanded its virtual outreach to communities during the COVID-19 period and reminded participants that international financial institutions (IFIs) have a responsibility to make communities aware of the IAMs as an avenue of recourse. She said it was “fair comment” to say that complaints to IAMs had led to “mixed results” for communities but added that some cases had led to positive change. In some instances, she said, that change has been transformative, as with the changes implemented by the World Bank on handling the threat of gender-based violence in projects following the Panel’s investigation of the Transport Sector Development Project in Uganda.
In response to a question, Ms. Jalal said there is an unavoidable “natural tension” between IFI management and the IAMs but that “more candor, openness and collaboration” can help the accountability systems to function properly for communities.
Other speakers at the session included: Matthias Meis, a senior adviser to the World Bank Board of Executive Directors; Neseem Ahmad, senior director for environment and social policy and risk at the International Finance Corporation; Arntraud Hartmann, who has worked at three IAMs; Juan Pablo Orrego, a Chilean ecologist and president of Ecosistemas; and Carla Garcia Zendejas, director of CIEL’s people, land and resources program. The session was moderated by Jolie Schwarz, policy director at BIC.