13 November 2020

Accountability Counsel and Partners Advance Recommendations for Strengthened Accountability at the African Development Bank

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is currently in the process of reviewing the effectiveness of its office for addressing complaints related to its financing, the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). Accountability Counsel and 53 partners from Africa and around the world recently submitted recommendations to ensure that the IRM is an effective tool to remedy impacts from AfDB projects.

Review Launched To Assess Effectiveness

Communities impacted by the AfDB’s financing have few avenues to raise grievances, and the AfDB launched the review in December 2019 to “undertake a thorough assessment of the extent to which IRM has been an effective recourse mechanism for people affected by a project.” An external consulting firm was hired to conduct the review, and the first consultation gave stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the review team’s report that analyzed the mechanism’s performance and made recommendations for how to improve it.

The report highlighted several challenges to communities having their complaints effectively handled and made corresponding recommendations to strengthen both the mechanism and the bank’s support for the mechanism. Based on our experience supporting communities around the world in raising their voices concerning impacts of internationally financed projects and our prior advocacy to improve the IRM, our recommendations agreed with most of the report’s findings and focused on removing barriers to accessing the IRM, restructuring the mechanism to increase its capacity and effectiveness, and ensuring independence from AfDB management to ensure a fair process for communities using the mechanism.

One of the key challenges for communities to access the IRM is not knowing that the office even exists, and we called on the AfDB to follow the recent developments at the Inter-American Development Bank and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and require AfDB clients – who have close contact with project affected communities – to share information about the mechanism.

Recommendations For Ensuring Effective Remediation

The ultimate goal of any IRM process should be to ensure that harm is remedied and livelihoods are restored. Our recommendations called on the AfDB to require that management action plans to fix confirmed problems with projects are developed in consultation with complainants. Additionally, Accountability Counsel, joined by Lumière Synergie pour le Développement and Inclusive Development International, submitted another set of recommendations to ensure that the AfDB has dedicated resources available to ensure remediation of harm. If these recommendations are fully implemented, the AfDB would make great inroads in ensuring that projects benefit and not harm communities and that any harm that does occur is fully addressed.

Next Steps

Accountability Counsel and partners previously advocated for a robust review process that would give stakeholders, including communities affected by AfDB projects, several opportunities to provide input. The review team is now revising its report based on the first consultation and will launch a second consultation process on the revised report. Accountability Counsel will continue to work with partners to ensure that the review results in a strengthened accountability framework at the AfDB that effectively remedies harm and leads to more sustainable projects across Africa.