Skip to main content

Marginalized communities "excluded" from World Bank Inspection Panel review, complains India's civil society

Counterview Desk
Senior civil society activists, including Medha Patkar, Bharat Patel and Nityanand Jayaraman, have criticised the Working Group of the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE), entrusted to “review of the Inspection Panel’s Toolkit to determine whether it should be revised to enhance the Panel’s effectiveness”, saying, its design would exclude marginalizes communities.
While appreciating the World Bank on forming the Working Group on the occasion of Inspection Panel’s (IPN's) 25th Anniversary, civil society organizations (CSOs) in an open letter, have criticised the Bank for giving less than a fortnight to seek comments on this issue. The activists and researchers demanded to extend the deadline by at least two months in the interest of the sanctity of the process.
They demanded wider publicity is given to ensure better participation in the process. “The current consultation is designed and carried out to exclude affected communities, for whom the Inspection Panel is established,” the signatories said.
Demanding suo moto powers, the activists wrote that in the projects where Inspection Panel knows severe impacts of the projects — especially the Category A projects which entail high-risk — it should have powers to take suo moto investigation as well as actions. “The IPN should proactively look out for the involvement of the potentially affected communities and facilitate their observations/complaints… to ensure timely intervention and to minimise the damages caused to people,” the letter added.
The letter follows a recent meeting of the Working Group on International Financial Institutions – a network of over 50 CSOs and grassroots organisations in India – to reflect on India’s Experience of Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAMs), in the context of Inspection Panel’s 25 years.
During the deliberations, in which both the Inspection Panel and Compliance Ombudsman Advisor (CAO) participated remotely, the inadequacy of IAMs in functioning independently and efficiently; lack of capacity and powers to promote and ensure accountability; failure in intervening timely to ensure that the voices of the affected people are adequately heard, addressed and issues resolved; and lack of powers to stay the progress of project construction in cases of extreme violations, were highlighted.

Text of the civil society submission to the Inspection Panel Working Group:

We are happy to note the Working Group of the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness is reviewing the Inspection Panel’s toolkit to determine whether it should be revised to enhance the Panel’s effectiveness. We take it as a positive step on IPN’s completion of 25 years. However, we demand, in the interest of the sanctity of the process, that the period is extended by at least two months and wider publicity is given to ensure better participation in the process.
Early this month, the Working Group on International Financial Institutions – a network of over 50 CSOs and grassroots organisations in India – called for a meeting to look at India’s experience of Independent Accountability Mechanisms, in the context of IPN’s 25 years. Both the IPN and CAO took part in it remotely.
During the 2 days deliberations what came out strongly was the inadequacy of IAMs when it comes to function independently and efficiently to live up to its mandate of delivering relief to affected communities in Bank-funded projects; often lacks capacity and powers to promote and ensure accountability at the Bank; fail in timely intervention to ensure that the voices of the affected people are adequately heard, addressed and issues resolved; and do not have powers to stay the progress of project construction in cases of extreme violations and makes it a fate accompli on the people.
It is in this context that we feel that the IPN Working Group’s initiative is timely.
We believe that IPN should be strengthened and not weakened, expanding its role and adding to its freedom and powers.
We have a few specific points to make:
1. Review and Consultation process:
The IPN Working Group’s consultation process seems to have designed and carried out, with no effort to reach out to affected communities, to exclude affected communities for whom the IPN is established and for its tight schedule and methodology lacks a genuine effort for meaningful consultation with communities and civil society groups. Hence we request to open up the process, give adequate time and space for the communities and CSOs, to ensure wide participation, and not holding them online, or in national capitals and metros alone. The Working Group should follow processes underpinning Principle of Free and Prior Consent, which requires this critical consultation is not rushed and ritual.
2. IPN should have suo moto powers
Currently, the onus of identifying Bank’s lending to a particular project, understanding the Bank Safeguard Policies, knowing about the existence of IPN and developing a complaint in a manner acceptable to IPN is on affected communities. This structure disempowers the communities for they are never consulted in advance with full disclosure of impacts, lenders and of compensation/rehabilitation for their losses in most of the projects. Hence in projects, IPN has knowledge about serious impacts, it should have powers to take suo moto investigation as well as actions. Particularly in cases of Category A projects, knowing that potential high risks, the IPN should proactively look out for the involvement of the potentially affected communities and facilitate their observations/complaints.
3. Timely intervention
Most often by the time affected communities get to know about Bank’s lending to a project they are dealing with and mobilise enough support to develop a complaint and reach IPN, the project is well into the construction phase, sometimes in advanced stages. That not only defeats the purpose of IPN’s mandate to “give affected people a greater voice in activities supported by the World Bank” but rather makes it a fate accompli. Hence, related to the earlier point, the IPN should have powers to take actions suo moto to ensure timely intervention and to minimise the damages caused to people and environment. IPN must assist impacted communities in developing taking their legitimate concerns through a thorough and proper review and hence must proactively interact with impacted communities as in the spirit of the Report of the Independent Review (Morse Report).
4. Powers to stay the progress of the project
In cases where the IPN recognises serious impacts and violation of Bank’s safeguard policies, IPN should have powers to stay the project until the problem is comprehensively addressed with due compensation and course correction.
5. IPN should have powers to recommend actions
IPN actions should not merely be suggestive but binding. Based on the findings of their investigation, IPN is best positioned to recommend actions, and not let it to the management/Board to suggest an action plan. Documenting the violations alone, without recommending actions to rectify them and having no powers to ensure implementation of them makes the process looks more symbolic than genuine. In the event the project proponent cannot respond appropriately and rationally to the recommendation, due corrective action should follow.
6. Powers to Monitor
IPN should have powers to monitor the progress of its recommended action plan. In cases of failure by the Bank/project proponent to implement them in a timely manner, IPN should have powers to take punitive and exemplary action against them. Punitive action should include public blacklisting of consultants.
7. Erroneous ESIA
In cases where IPN find erroneous Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), on which the project is planned and executed, IPN should stay the project and recommend a fresh ESIA because an erroneous ESIA will have irreparable damage to the environment and to people and their livelihood. In addition, such an ESIA leave to room for planning mitigation of damages. The project should be planned afresh and a new set of mitigation plans should be developed on the basis of a new ESIA. Punitive actions should be taken on the consultants/entities who prepare such ESIA, for their willful negligence puts people and environment in danger.
These are some of the preliminary comments on how to strengthen the IPN. We would be able to give more substantial comments if the consultation period is opened up and involved a wide range of people in the process.
---
Submitted by:
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya Pradesh
Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha & India Climate Justice
Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, New Delhi
Sridhar R, Environics Trust, New Delhi
Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Karnataka
Nityanand Jayaraman, Vettiver Collective, Tamilnadu
Rajendra Ravi, Institute for Democracy and Sustainability, Delhi
Ram Wangkheirakpam, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
Maglin Philomin, Teeradesa Mahila Sangathan, Kerala
Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Solidarity Group, Delhi
Anil Varghese, Delhi Forum, New Delhi
Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan, Gujarat
Awadhesh Kumar, Srijan Lokhit Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
Rajkumar Sinha, Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh, Madhya Pradesh
Vinay Baindur, Urban Governance, Bangalore
Joe Athialy, Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.