On March 13, SOMO shared a statement on the recent reforms to the World Bank’s accountability system, together with the Bank Information Center, the Center for International Environmental Law, Inclusive Development International and Accountability Counsel.
As civil society organisations that advocate for accessible, effective independent accountability mechanisms (IAMs), SOMO and the other signatories cautiously welcome the reforms that were adopted on March 5, 2020 by the World Bank’s Board of Directors. The reform package is the outcome of a review, launched nearly three years ago, that was intended to modernise the Inspection Panel’s mandate by bringing it in line with its peers and to ensure its effectiveness in light of the Board’s recent overhaul of the Bank’s social and environmental safeguards. The result, following a process that did not include an opportunity for public comment on the proposed reforms, was mixed.
While far from adopting innovative changes that would have set the bar for public accountability in development finance, the Board did approve tools, such as a dispute resolution function, that are well-established practice at other IAMs. However, the reform package also included structural changes that could undermine the independence of the Inspection Panel as well as the effectiveness of the system as whole. Ultimately, the effectiveness of these reforms will depend, in part, on the Board’s commitment to ensuring the independence of the new Accountability Mechanism and to making any adjustments necessary as the new system is operationalised.