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

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Hindutva founders, not Congress, were actual 'proponents' of two-nation theory

By Shamsul Islam*
No other organization, in the present world, can beat Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in double-speak. In fact, what George Orwell termed as "doublespeak" would be an understatement in the case of RSS. The latest proof of this nasty case was provided by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, de facto Prime Minister and senior RSS leader in the Lok Sabha (akin to the House of Commons in England) on December 9, 2019.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ships recycling Bill 'allows' India to be turned into a landfill for foreign hazardous waste

Counterview Desk
In a letter to M Venkaiah Naidu, chairman, Rajya Sabha, senior activist Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance has said that the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to "safeguard country’s maritime environment from harmful and hazardous wastes and materials".

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

80 RTI activists killed since 2014, yet Modi govt 'refuses' to implement whistleblowers Act

By Our Representative
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over power in 2014 at the Centre, more than 80 have been killed “in their quest for information and accountability” through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a public hearing in Delhi has been told. Senior politicians from opposition parties, including Congress and Left, heard people express their anguish over the manner in which the government was treating the RTI Act, even as refusing to operationalise the Whistleblower Protection Act, passed in 2014.