The World Bank Group offers loans, advice, and an array of customized resources to more than 100 developing countries. The World Bank Inspection Panel (hereafter: 'Panel') is an independent complaints mechanism for people harmed by projects funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank Group, and Trust Funds managed by the World Bank. Complaints about projects supported by the World Bank Group’s IFC or MIGA are not dealt with by the Panel, but by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman.
The Panel assesses whether the Bank has complied with its internal policies and procedures designed to safeguard people and the environment and whether any noncompliance has contributed or may contribute, to the harm described in the complaint. The process also provides opportunities for constructive interaction between the complainants (referred to as “Requesters”) and the Bank, with the aim of addressing and resolving problems.
Who can access it?
The Panel is accessible to people who are concerned about actual or potential harm resulting from Bank operations. Two or more affected persons, referred to as “Requesters”, in the country where the Bank-supported project is located can submit a complaint. Complaints are formally called a “Request for Inspection”. It can be sent directly by Requesters or through a representative.
How does it work?
Requests can relate to different types of harm or potential harm to people or the environment, including harm to people’s livelihoods, environmental degradation, forced relocation, projects affecting the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and the right of affected communities to meaningful consultation. The Panel does not deal with issues relating to procurement of goods or services, fraud, and corruption.
When both the Inspection Panel and the Office of Compliance, Advisor and Ombudsman (CAO) receive a complaint regarding a project jointly financed by IBRD or IDA (with regard to the Panel), and IFC/MIGA (with regard to CAO), the Panel will coordinate with CAO to achieve efficiencies and avoid potential duplications, consistent with the mandate and responsibilities of each mechanism.
All requests must be submitted in written form, either by mail or electronically, either to the headquarters of the World Bank Inspection Panel or to the World Bank’s country office in the country where the project is located. Complaints can be submitted in any language. Requests not submitted in English may add some days to the Panel’s determination of whether to register the request due to the time needed to translate. In case of representation, written evidence has to be enclosed with the complaint proving that the representative acts on behalf of the complainant. There is no preset lay-out for a complaint. However, some guidelines for filing a complaint including a sample form can be found here.
The request should state:
- The names of the requesters and where they live
- The title of the project in question (if known to the requesters)
- The alleged or expected harm
- The actions or omissions of Bank Management causing this harm.
- The effort from the Requesters to resolve the issue by direct appeal to Bank Management.
If the Requesters wish that their names and personal information remain confidential, they can request this in their complaint. However, for purposes of correspondence, the name of a contact person that can be made public should be provided.
The Panel process may involve four phases:
Phase 1: Receipt of Request and decision on registration of the Request
Upon receipt of the Request, the Panel will make a decision on whether or not it will register the complaint within 15 business days. To be admissible and, with that, eligible for registration, the request should not be frivolous, absurd or anonymous, should present a link between the project and the Bank and between the harm and the project, should not concern issues of procurement and should not be the same as a previous Request on which the Panel has already made a recommendation. In addition, the disbursement of the Bank’s financing should be less than 95% at the time of submission.
Phase 2: confirmation of technical eligibility and recommendation on whether to investigate
Within 21 business days after registration, Management writes a Management Response to the Panel providing:
- Their view of whether the (potential) harm can be attributed, at least in part, to their actions and/or omissions in complying with relevant policies and procedures, or are exclusively attributable to factors external to the Bank.
- Evidence of compliance with operational policies and procedures, or that it intends to comply with the policies and procedures relevant to the Requester’s claim.
Following this Management Response, the Panel will confirm the technical eligibility of the Request through conducting a field visit. During this visit, the requestors are briefed on the Management Response and the Panel process. The Panel also meets with representatives of the Borrower and the Executive Director at the Board representing the country or countries where the project is planned or is being implemented to seek further views and inputs that may be important to inform the Panel’s decision on whether to recommend an investigation. The Borrower is provided with information about the Panel and its process.
Having confirmed technical eligibility, the Panel decides whether the Request warrants an investigation. Even in case of technical eligibility, the Panel may decide not to recommend an investigation.
Based on the Panel’s recommendation the Board decides whether an investigation will be carried out. The Panel notifies the Requesters of the submission of their Report to the Board and of the Board’s decision, the latter within two weeks after the decision was made.
Phase 3: Investigation of claims raised in the Request
If the Board decides to initiate an investigation, the Panel draws up an Investigation Plan outlining the timeline and procedures to be used. The investigation, which is carried out by the Investigation Team, includes interaction with the Requesters, the Borrower and Management. The Investigation Report includes an analysis of relevant facts and information and the findings on issues of harm and compliance. If the Panel finds that an issue of alleged harm is not related to the Project or does not relate to a Bank policy or procedure, this will be stated in the report and the issue will not be further analyzed. The Panel seeks to complete the Investigation within six months following the Investigation Plan.
Phase 4: Actions following an investigation
Within six weeks of receiving the Panel’s Investigation Report, Management submits to the Board the “Management Report and Recommendation in Response to the Inspection Panel Investigation Report” (MRR). This may include remedial efforts that Management may take and/or a plan of action agreed between the Borrower and the Bank. The Panel can then submit to the board a report on the adequacy of Management’s consultations with the affected parties that form the basis for this MRR.
The Board discusses and decides on whether to approve of the MRR. Within two weeks after this decision, the Investigation Report, the MRR and the Board’s decision are publicized.
Submitting a complaint to the Panel may:
- Lead to action by World Bank management to correct the harm, either early in the process or as a result of a management action plan and Board determination and directive at the end of a Panel investigation;
- Lead to a determination by the Panel about whether violations of the World Bank policies and procedures were linked to the harm;
- Help draw attention to the harm or potential harm, generating lessons that may help avoid such harm in future Bank projects.
Monitoring and Enforcement
The Bank’s Board and Management may agree that Management will submit progress reports on the implementation of the plan of action to the Board. However, this arrangement is not included in every MRR.