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

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

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.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Global Hunger Index: Govt of India response pathetic, 'lacks' scientific empirical evidence

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* Come 16 October – and the world once again focused on the most basic need for a person’s survival: food! The first World Food Day was observed in 1994, to mark the launch of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Ever since, the day is marked to highlight the need and importance of food security across the world. The significance is accentuated especially in these difficult times like the C-19 povidandemic. The theme for 2021 is ‘Safe Food Now for a Healthier Tomorrow’, emphasising on the various immediate and long-term benefits of consuming safe and healthy food.

Failure of 'trickle down theory' behind India's poor Global Hunger Index rating

By Dr Gian Singh*  On October 14, 2021, two organisations, Concern Worldwide (An Irish aid agency) and WeltHungerHilfe (a German organization that researches the problem of global hunger), jointly published the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021. These organizations have included 116 countries in the world hunger rankings.