2010 – 2012 Review of the ADB Accountability Mechanism

Accountability Counsel provided input to the Asian Development Bank (“ADB”) during its review and revision of the ADB Accountability Mechanism. The 2012 ADB Revised Accountability Mechanism Policy (“2012 Policy”) was approved by the ADB’s Board of Directors on February 24, 2012 and went into effect on May 24, 2012.

Accountability Counsel’s Impact

The ADB followed a number of Accountability Counsel’s recommendations in its 2012 policy revision, and its new policy improves on the previous policy in many ways. Notably, complainants can now choose to bypass the mechanism’s problem solving function and go straight to compliance review if they so choose.

Additionally, the time to file complaints has been extended to two years after the grant or loan closing date.

Positive policy changes advocated by Accountability Counsel and adopted in the 2012 Policy include:

  1. Direct access to compliance review
  2. Ability to exit the problem-solving function at any time
  3. Ability to amend complaints
  4. Elimination of requirement that complainants specify a desired outcome or remedy in their complaint
  5. Elimination of requirement that complainants show a “good faith effort” to address the problems with the local grievance mechanisms
  6. Clarification and extension of the cut-off date for filing complaints to two years after the grant or loan closing date
  7. Extension of the accountability mechanism to include complaints about projects undertaken by financial intermediaries
  8. Addition of a Complaints Receiving Officer (CRO) who will act as a single point of entry for all complaints
  9. Creation of staggered terms for members of the Compliance Review Panel (CRP) so that there is always one member who has been on the panel for at least one year
  10. Recommended distribution of “simple, pictorial-based and user friendly descriptions” of the accountability mechanism
  11. Recommended improvements of ADB staff awareness of the accountability mechanism through workshops, orientations, and training courses
  12. Creation of a website for the mechanism that will include reports from each stage of the consultation process

A number of important recommendations were not implemented, however, which will inhibit the Accountability Mechanism from functioning in an independent, transparent, and effective way. Accountability Counsel’s ongoing concerns regarding the 2012 Policy include:

1. Eligibility of complaints remains unnecessarily limited

  • Individuals cannot file complaints
  • Representatives who file complaints on behalf of project-affected people must name the affected people, even if those people have a reasonable fear of persecution
  • Complainants must make a “good faith effort” to solve the problem with the ADB Operations Department before filing a complaint
  • Complaints cannot be filed in local or indigenous languages
  • Complaints may not be filed by people who suffer indirect, cumulative, or non-material harm from a project
  • Complaints may not be filed with the problem solving function and the compliance review function simultaneously

2. The mechanism continues to lack sufficient independence

  • Civil society members are not included in the process to appoint the Special Project Facilitator (SPF) and the Compliance Review Panel (CRP)
  • The SPF is appointed by the ADB president, reports directly to the president, and is evaluated by the president
  • There is no policy provision for the removal of the SPF and the SPF is not barred from future employment with the ADB after his or her term at the mechanism
  • The CRP work plan is still subject to ADB board and presidential oversight, and the CRP budget is subject to presidential oversight
  • While the CRP chair functions independently of other ADB staff, other staff members within the Office of the Compliance Review Panel are employed as ADB staff with no such independence

3. Visits to the project site in the course of the problem-solving or compliance review processes are still not mandatory, and they remain subject to the consent of the borrowing country

4. Management is not required to consult with complainants when developing proposals for remedial action

5. The ADB will not suspend disbursement of funds while an investigation is pending unless all parties consent

History of the ADB Accountability Mechanism Policy Review Process

In November 2010, early in the ADB’s policy review process, Accountability Counsel provided comments to the ADB regarding their existing Accountability Mechanism. On March 31, 2011, Accountability Counsel, with endorsement from 13 other civil society organizations, provided comments on the ADB’s Draft Revised Accountability Mechanism Policy.

The ADB released a Working Paper on its new 2012 Policy in April 2011, just days after we submitted our comments. Because of concerns expressed by civil society regarding the quick release of the Working Paper after the receipt of comments, the ADB created a final window for additional comments on the April 2011 Working Paper. Accountability Counsel submitted follow up comments to the ADB on May 28, 2011.

The ADB released a Second Working Paper in September 2011, followed by the final 2012 Policy, in February 2012. The new policy was approved by the board of directors on February 24, 2012 and went into effect in May 2012.