Panel Chairs Interviewed on European and North American Development Podcasts
As part of a concerted move to boost awareness of the Inspection Panel globally, the outgoing and incoming Chairs delivered compelling interviews on a pair of podcasts dedicated to international affairs. The interviews provide timely insights into the Panel’s operations, challenges, and crucial role in international development.
Ramanie Kunanayagam Reveals the Panel’s Inner Workings
Dan Banik, a prominent figure in the field of international development studies, and director of The Oslo SDG Initiative, speaks with the Panel’s outgoing chair, Ramanie Kunanayagam, in an interview available here (Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Simplecast). Banik, based in Norway, is host of one of the world’s leading podcasts on international development, aptly named “In Pursuit of Development”. In this episode, Kunanayagam delves into the details of how the Panel operates, shedding light on the processes from case initiation to implementation of recommendations.
Listeners are treated to a comprehensive exploration of the Panel’s work and operating context, including explanations on how the World Bank responds to the Panel’s recommendations and the avenues through which project-affected individuals can access the vital mechanism. Kunanayagam addresses typical complaints received by the Panel, offering a glimpse into the diverse challenges by communities in which World Bank-financed projects have not been fully implemented as intended.
The conversation between Banik and Kunanayagam - who remains a Panel Member after completing her tenure as Chair in December 2023 - also touches upon the worrying trend of shrinking civil space in many World Bank borrowing countries, highlighting the importance of maintaining Panel accessibility for affected communities. The interview also covers stakeholder consultation in project areas and how the World Bank learns and amends its practices as a result of Panel investigations, creating a nuanced narrative on the complexities of international development.
Mark Goldsmith Takes the Baton and Highlights the Just Transition
In the latest episode of the “Global Get Down” podcast (Spotify), hosts Gaurav Bindra and Belle Li speak for an hour with current Panel Chair Mark Goldsmith, who is Kunanayagam’s successor. The dynamic podcast is a production of the International Relations Students Association at the University of British Columbia. During the newly aired conversation, Goldsmith provides a wealth of information about the Panel since its establishment in 1993.
The episode provides an opportunity for Goldsmith to introduce himself and his plans for the Panel to wide audience, as the podcast boasts listeners well beyond the western Canadian campus where it is recorded. Goldsmith’s accomplished career in the public and private sectors has included stints with the CDC Group, the United Kingdom’s development finance institution, now known as British International Investments, and the leading global investor in sustainable infrastructure, ACTIS, where he oversaw the company’s ESG function.
In the lively interview, Goldsmith discusses the Panel’s position within the larger World Bank Group, the Panel’s counterpart mechanism at the International Finance Corporation, the increasing practice of Requestors opting for confidentiality, and the impactful findings of Panel investigations, such as inspiring the World Bank to adopt new guidelines on mitigating gender-based violence in its operations. In his remarks, Goldsmith puts particular emphasis on the Panel’s role of being community-driven, and dedication to learning about the communities from which Complaints originate.
Importantly, Goldsmith talks about the increasing prevalent issues of climate change and a Just Transition, hinting at the likelihood that these overlapping topics will become more common features in complaints brought to the Panel. Check out the discussion on these topics beginning at the 28’58” and 41’07” marks of the episode. Special attention is given to Panel discoveries made during the investigation of the West Africa Coastal Areas Resilience Investment Project in Togo.
Catalysts for Enhanced Understanding
The appearance of the chair on these podcasts (and others), marks a significant step in in the Panel’s redoubled efforts to make its work more understandable to key stakeholders and the public. By embracing this popular medium, the Panel showcases its commitment to transparency and the dissemination of knowledge generated through its work.
These podcast episodes provide a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the role and importance of the first independent accountability mechanism at a multilateral development bank. As the Panel continues to navigate the complex landscapes of accountability and governance in international development, these publicly available interviews highlight the value of transparency and the bridge that podcasts can create between a large development institution and those interested in - or impacted by - the policies and operations of that institution.