20 October 2021

World Bank Accountability Mechanism Publishes Interim Procedures for Dispute Resolution

On October 13, 2021, the World Bank Accountability Mechanism issued Interim Operating Procedures for its new dispute resolution function, called the Dispute Resolution Service. The publication of procedures provides greater predictability to communities who avail themselves of the Accountability Mechanism to seek redress for environmental and social harm.

A dispute resolution function is a critical component of an effective accountability mechanism because it offers an opportunity for dialogue to see if environmental and social harm can be addressed. Based on our work alongside communities who engaged in dispute resolution processes at other accountability mechanisms, Accountability Counsel celebrated the creation of a dispute resolution function at the World Bank. We then called upon the World Bank to operationalize the new dispute resolution function with procedures that enshrine best international practices and provided examples of how to do so. As several complaints have been filed since the creation of the dispute resolution function, these Interim Procedures are needed to provide communities with sufficient information to navigate the Accountability Mechanism process and participate in the dispute resolution function as the full and final procedures are developed.

The Interim Procedures enshrine good practice in some ways, including stating that the Dispute Resolution Service is independent from Bank management, recognizing that community members might need to keep their identities confidential, confirming the right to representation, and condemning retaliation, and fall short of good practice in other ways, including making no mention of how the Dispute Resolution Service will monitor implementation of agreements (saying instead that there might be periodic follow-up), limiting Bank management to an observer role, and allowing parties to object to Dispute Resolution staff participation.

Accountability Counsel will benchmark the Interim Procedures in the Accountability Console. We will also evaluate how the Interim Procedures are applied in practice. The Interim Procedures are in effect until final operating procedures are written which will be developed through external consultations and will include a draft for comment. According to section 21.2, consultations will commence within one year’s time. Accountability Counsel will engage in the consultations and seek for the operating procedures to be as effective as possible for communities who engage in the dispute resolution process to defend their rights.