World Bank: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) & International Development Association (IDA) | Accountability Mechanism (AM), Dispute Resolution Service (DRS), and Inspection Panel (IP)

  • Overview

    Accountability Counsel advocates for the World Bank’s Inspection Panel to be as effective as possible for communities seeking justice for harms caused by Bank projects.  In practice, this means that the Inspection Panel must be independent, fair, transparent, predictable, and accessible.  As the first accountability office, the creation of the Inspection Panel paved the way for future offices.  Accountability Counsel strives to ensure that the Inspection Panel not only retains its best practices but also continues to evolve for the benefit of communities who need to access it.

    World Bank: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) & International Development Association (IDA)
    Created In: 1944
    Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States
    Member Countries: 189 (IBRD) & 173 (IDA)
    Largest Shareholder: The United States
    Mission: End extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity.
    The Accountability Office: The Inspection Panel
    Established in: 1993
    Functions: Compliance Review
    Visit Our Mechanism Resources Page to learn more about submitting a complaint to the Inspection Panel.

    The World Bank, one of the very first multilateral global financial institutions, was founded to facilitate reconstruction of European nations after the end of World War II. Since its founding in 1944, the bank has grown to include nearly 200 member nations. Its mission has also expanded to address extreme poverty through grants, loans, financing guarantees, and risk insurance to enable governments of developing countries to make capital improvements at concessionary rates and incentivize private sector investments in those countries.

    Some World Bank financed projects, including dams, mines, and oil pipelines, have caused environmental and human rights abuses, including forced displacement of Indigenous people, poisoned rivers, and sexual abuse of women and girls by foreign workers. When this happens, those who most need access to justice often face the greatest barriers to achieving it.  Accountability Counsel exists to bridge these barriers for communities and create accountability in global finance resulting in systemic change.

    We advocate for accountability offices that are independent, fair, transparent, professional, accessible, and effective tools for justice. For the World Bank, this means ensuring that its accountability office, the Inspection Panel, is an effective forum for communities affected by World Bank projects to raise concerns.

    Critical New Changes

    The Inspection Panel is at a critical stage in its history.  The World Bank recently adopted significant new changes to the Inspection Panel, including that a new Accountability Mechanism will be created that has a dispute resolution function. While these changes should improve access to justice for project affected communities, they have yet to be implemented.   To ensure that implementation of the changes results in an even more effective accountability mechanism than before, Accountability Counsel is contributing recommendations based on case experience to the World Bank.






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  • Our Advocacy

    Advocating for a Strong Accountability System at the World Bank

    Accountability Counsel is committed to ensuring that the World Bank’s accountability office, the Inspection Panel, is fully effective. Our work has included advocacy to address structural gaps that impede the full functioning of the Panel, as well as advocacy to ensure that the bank appropriately responds to Panel’s work, facilitates remedy for harmed communities, and implements lessons-learned in future projects. Our recent advocacy navigated a particularly closed-off and non-transparent process in order to contribute significant improvements to the transparency and fairness of the complaint process, including:

    • the addition of independent dispute resolution services for World Bank Group public-sector projects;
    • an expanded time frame for communities to file complaints; and
    • increased oversight of the implementation of management action plans to address community concerns.

    Sweeping Changes

    On March 5, 2020, following multiple sets of recommendations submitted by Accountability Counsel and our partners, the board approved a set of sweeping changes to the Panel’s toolkit and the World Bank’s accountability framework, many of which incorporate our recommendations. These changes include the unexpected creation of an entirely new accountability office called the World Bank Accountability Mechanism (AM), which will house the Inspection Panel and a new dispute resolution office called the Dispute Resolution Service (DRS). In creating the AM, the board established a new executive secretary position to oversee the DRS and administrative functions of the Panel. If implemented well, these changes will result in a greater range of tools available to communities seeking justice for harm resulting from World Bank projects.

    The Panel will remain responsible for processing complaints and making determinations on eligibility. To that regard, the board approved extending the time for communities to submit complaints related to projects approved after the new changes take effect. Going forward, the Panel may consider complaints filed up to 15 months after the closing date of the loans financing the projects. Before this change, communities harmed by projects could not submit complaints to the Panel if 95% or more of the project’s funds had been disbursed. Additionally, under limited circumstances, the board may now allow the Panel to verify bank management’s adherence to management action plans that are drafted to address project shortcomings.

    The Path Forward

    The most recent changes to the World Bank’s accountability framework amounted to a watershed moment for World Bank accountability. However, because the new Accountability Mechanism was created unexpectedly and without robust public consultation, Accountability Counsel is now proactively engaging on the procedures for implementing these changes to ensure that the terms and procedures do not compromise the independence and effectiveness of the World Bank’s accountability framework.

    See here for more information on Accountability Counsel’s advocacy to the World Bank.

  • Past Advocacy
  • Resources
    World Bank: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) & International Development Association (IDA)
    Created In: 1944
    Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States
    Member Countries: 189 (IBRD) & 173 (IDA)
    Largest Shareholder: The United States
    Mission: End extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity.
    The Accountability Office: The Inspection Panel
    Established in: 1993
    Functions: Compliance Review
    Visit the Inspection Panel’s website

    The mandate of the World Bank Group is poverty alleviation. When people talk about the World Bank, they are usually referring to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Development Association (IDA). These two institutions provide low-interest loans and grants directly to governments and the public sector for specific projects or initiatives to encourage economic growth.

    The current environmental and social policies of the World Bank are known as the “Safeguard Policies,” which govern the addressing of environmental and social issues in project design, implementation and operation, and provide a framework for consultation with communities and for public disclosure. In August 2016, the World Bank adopted a new set of environment and social policies called the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). As of 1 October, 2018, the ESF applies to all new World Bank investment project financing. With existing projects continuing to apply the Safeguard Policies, the two systems will run in parallel for an estimated seven years.

    The Accountability Office

    The Inspection Panel assesses allegations of harm to people or the environment and reviews whether the bank followed its policies and procedures. The Inspection Panel may only investigate projects financed by the public sector branches of the World Bank Group: IBRD and IDA.

    The Inspection Panel’s mission is to conduct compliance investigations regarding whether the bank complied with its own policies and procedures. Because the World Bank argues it is immune from being held accountable in courts around the world, the Inspection Panel remains the only formal way for people harmed by the World Bank to hold this institution accountable.

    Since its inception, the Panel’s independence has been challenged by those who would prefer that the bank operate with impunity, as it did from its founding after World War II up until 1994. We are working to ensure that the Inspection Panel stays independent, improves its effectiveness, and remains a robust tool for communities to seek accountability for bank operations.

    The Panel receives requests for inspection directly from people harmed, or who believe they are likely to be harmed, by World Bank projects or programs. Requests for inspection should describe the harm or expected harm to project-affected people or the environment as a result of the World Bank’s failure to comply with its own policies or procedures.

    Submit a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel if:

    • You are part of a group of two or more people (or their representative) who live in an area affected by a World Bank-financed project
    • You’ve been harmed or are likely to be harmed by a project financed by the bank’s public-sector institutions – IBRD or IDA
    • The harm has been or will be caused by the bank’s failure to fully comply with its own operational policies and procedures
    • You have already attempted to resolve the issue with bank management
    • The bank loan is less than 95 percent disbursed

    If your complaint is eligible, the Panel will investigate the bank’s compliance and issue a report to the bank’s board. Bank management will respond with an action plan to address any findings in the report of the bank’s non-compliance. In the end, the bank’s board decides what action the bank will take in relation to the project.

    For more information, see our brochure on the Inspection Panel (with SOMO), our Accountability Resource Guide, or visit the Inspection Panel’s website.

  • Documents

    Institutional Documents

    Environmental and Social Framework

    Resolution Establishing the Panel

    1996 Review of the Resolution

    1999 Clarification of the Second Review

    2020 Board Report and Recommendations on Panel Toolkit Reforms

    2020 Inspection Panel Resolution

    2020 Accountability Mechanism Resolution

    2021 Framework for Proportionality Criteria and Modalities for Independent Verification of Management Action Plan Implementation

    2021 Interim Operating Procedures of the Dispute Resolution Service

    2022 Inspection Panel Operating Procedures

    2022 Accountability Mechanism Procedures

    2022 Internal Protocols Between Accountability Mechanism and Inspection Panel

    Key Documents by Release Date

    Oct 2023 – Accountability Counsel joined The Reality of Aid Network and other civil society organizations to demand that the World Bank Group rethink the direction of its evolution because the current plan has many shortcomings, including inadequate accountability and transparency mechanisms.

    Dec 2022 – The Inspection Panel and the Accountability Mechanism issued updated procedures.

    Sept 2020 – The World Bank Group’s Board issued a new resolution for the Inspection Panel and a resolution for the new World Bank Accountability Mechanism.

    Mar 2020 – The World Bank Group’s Board approved significant changes to the Bank’s Accountability Framework, including the creation of a new Accountability Mechanism, the inclusion of a new dispute resolution function, and the decision that complaints would be eligible for 15 months after the conclusion of a project.

    Jan 2020Accountability Counsel and partners renewed calls for transparency and consultation to the Board.

    Dec 2019Accountability Counsel and partners submitted a letter to the CODE chairperson to push for public disclosure of CODE’s recommendations before any structural changes were approved.

    Jan 2019 – Accountability Counsel, and 66 global partners, submitted a joint statement to The World Bank’s Board of Directors, expressing disappointment that three important measures were not approved in the initial review of the Inspection Panel’s toolkit.

    Oct 2018 – The World Bank’s Board of Directors approved some changes to the Inspection Panel’s toolkit, including: (1) a formal recognition of the Panel’s advisory role; (2) a clarification that the Panel may review complaints related to projects financed through Bank-Executed Trust Funds; (3) express permission for the Panel to coordinate with accountability mechanisms of co-financiers to process complaints more effectively and efficiently; and (4) an update to procedures to allow the Panel to share its investigation reports with communities ahead of board consideration.

    Sep 2018 – Accountability Counsel submitted joint comments to the working group of the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) on the review of the Inspection Panel’s toolkit. Our comments addressed seven issues flagged by the bank’s notice, including advisory services and monitoring the implementation of management action plans after compliance review investigations.

    Aug 2017 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors initiated a review of the Panel’s “toolkit” for operating under the bank’s newly approved Environmental and Social Framework.

    Apr 2017 – Accountability Counsel sent a joint letter to the World Bank’s Board of Directors, calling for the participation of external stakeholders, including civil society representatives, in the selection process for a new Inspection Panel member. See a summary of AC’s engagement with the 2017 Inspection Panel Member Selection Process.

    Apr 2015 –  Accountability Counsel received a response letter from the World Bank to our joint letter calling on the bank to ensure its policies apply to all bank activities.

    Mar 2015 – Accountability Counsel led 92 organizations in submitting a letter (also available in French and Spanish) to the World Bank President, calling on the Bank to close policy loopholes and ensure that its safeguards apply to all bank activities. We also demanded that the Bank consult with civil society during its review of relevant policies. See a summary of AC’s campaign to Ensure Safeguards Apply to All Bank Activities.

    Aug 2014 – Accountability Counsel, and 20 civil society organizations from around the world, submitted a joint letter to World Bank President Kim and Inspection Panel Chair Eimi Watanabe, requesting suspension of the panel’s “pilot program” that prevents cases from reaching full investigations into social and environmental compliance issues. See a summary of the AC’s Demand for Inspection Panel “Pilot Program” Suspension.

    Feb 2014 – Accountability Counsel, and 40 civil society organizations from around the world, sent a joint letter to the Inspection Panel, demanding transparency around any changes to the panel’s secretariat and a commitment to cooling off periods to avoid a conflict of interest. See a summary of the 2014 Inspection Panel Secretariat Crisis.

    Feb 2014 – The President of the World Bank also submitted a response to former panel members, briskly discounting their views, and referencing an external review from 2011 that made a recommendation that supports the former panel members’ argument for more independence within the secretariat. The relevant paragraphs of the external review are here.

    Jan 2014 – Seven highly respected former members of the Inspection Panel, horrified to learn of the proposed changes, took the unprecedented step of sending this joint letter to the panel accusing the current panel members of undermining the panel’s prized independence and effectiveness. The current panel members’ response, dated January 30, 2014, demonstrated their lack of understanding of even the basics of the panel’s need for independence of its secretariat or an interest in its preservation.

    Jan 2014 – Accountability Counsel and other civil society organizations demand changes to the World Bank Inspection Panel’s draft operating procedures.  See a summary of the 2014 Policy Review

    Sep 2011 – Accountability Counsel submitted P4R comments to the World Bank.

    Aug 2010 – Accountability Counsel authored a report, with the support of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), titled “A Call For Reform of World Bank Group Agribusiness Policies and Practice: A Proposal to End Violations of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples’ Rights.


    Related Media

    17 Mar 2020The World Bank’s New Accountability Mechanism Through a Communities’ Lens, Margaux Day and Gregory Berry, Accountability Counsel

    11 Mar 2020 World Bank finally approves Inspection Panel reforms after 2-year standoff, Sophie Edwards, Devex

    13 Dec 2019 The case for public reforms to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, Natalie Bridgeman Fields, David Hunter, and Kris Genovese, Devex

    3 Oct 2019 Board decision could signal “vote of no confidence” in Inspection Panel, Bretton Woods Project

    14 Jan 2019 Accountability Counsel Submits Joint Statement to World Bank’s Board of Directors on its Initial Review of the Panel’s Toolkit, Accountability Counsel

    1 Nov 2018 What Jam v. IFC Should Mean to Accountability at the World Bank Group, Kindra Mohr, Accountability Counsel

    15 Oct 2018 Press Release: U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Calls for Increasing Accountability at the World Bank Group, Accountability Counsel, BIC and CIEL

    1 Oct 2018 Comments on the Review of the Inspection Panel’s ‘Toolkit, Kindra Mohr, Accountability Counsel

    1 Jul 2016 Comments to the World Bank’s Grievance Redress Service, Accountability Counsel


    For more coverage of our advocacy, please see our blog and news pages.