→ Visit the Inspection Panel website
The Inspection Panel
of the World Bank (IBRD/IDA)
On this page you will find:
– a brief history
– an overview of some key mandate and procedure points of the current version of the Inspection’s Panel Operating Procedures:
1- The complaint
– Who can submit a complaint?
– How must complaints be submitted?
– What must complaints include and take into account?
– Causes for non-admissibility
2- Registration / Pilot approach to support early solutions
3- Eligibility to an inspection
– Technical eligibility assessment
–Decision to recommend an investigation
4- The compliance investigation procedure
– Conduct of an investigation
5- Advisory role
– direct links to Inspection Panel-related pages
« The Inspection Panel serves two important accountability functions:
a. It provides a forum for people, including those who are often poor and vulnerable, to seek recourse for harm which they believe result from Bank-supported operations. As such, the Panel is a “bottom-up” or citizen-driven accountability mechanism that responds to grievances and demands for redress. This promotes more inclusive and sustainable development by giving project-affected people a greater voice in Bank-financed projects that impact them.
b. It provides an independent and impartial assessment of claims about harm and related non-compliance with Bank policies as a check-and-balance for the Board and other concerned stakeholders. This contributes towards institutional learning and helps to improve development effectiveness of World Bank operations » (*)
The Inspection Panel of the World Bank is the first-ever created accountability mechanism of a multilateral development bank providing a forum where to seek redress and voicing their concerns about the negative impacts of international financial institutions. The Panel has mandate to investigate non-compliance allegations related to projects supported by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Agency (IDA), meaning public (sovereign) projects and public-private partnerships projects.
The Panel was established by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank through two similar resolutions: IBRD Board Resolution No. 93-10 and IDA Board Resolution No. 93-6 on September 22, 1993. The identical resolutions have been reviewed twice by the Board, in two clarifications in 1996 and 1999 The twin Resolution, the 1996 Review and the 1999 Clarification establish the governing framework of the Panel. The Inspection Panel’s Operating Procedures (its concrete functioning terms) were adopted in 1994 (1). The circumstances surrounding the creation of the Panel are heavily documented; one can find quite useful information on the creation and early cases of the Panel in these free online resources: David Hunter & Lori Udall, « The World Bank’s New Inspection Panel: Will It Increase the Bank’s Accountability?« , CIEL Paper, Nov. 1994; Dana Clark & David Hunter, « The World Bank Inspection Panel: Amplifying Citizens Voices for Sustainable Development« , CIEL Paper, 1999 ; Dana Clark, Jonathan Fox, Kay Treakle (eds.), Demanding Accountability. Civil-Society Claims and the World Bank Inspection Panel, Lanham/Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield (2003).
Contrary to the accountability mechanisms created in its wake, the Inspection Panel’s mandate used to be circumscribed to a compliance review function: it did not have any problem-solving procedure. The Operating Procedures have been revised in 2014. This new version includes an Annex 1 – Piloting a new approach to support early solutions in the Inspection Panel process (here called « the pilot approach to support early solutions ») which is intended to work as an embryo of problem-solving process and was received by NGOs with much criticism-more on this at the end of this page. A second annex on « Enhancing Consultation with Requesters and Tracking Action Plans » was added in 2016 with the ambition of offering a tiny bit of a monitoring role to the Panel. As of January 2018, the Panel has received 122 requests.
« The Panel is composed of three members of different nationalities who serve non-renewable five-year terms. Members of the Panel are selected based on their ability to deal thoroughly and fairly with the Requests brought to them, their integrity and their independence from the Bank’s Management, and their exposure to development issues and to living conditions in developing countries. Members of the Panel may not be employed by the World Bank Group following the end of their service on the Panel. In addition, staff of the World Bank Group, including Executive Directors and their advisors, can only be appointed as Panel members two years after the end of their service with the World Bank Group. (Operating Procedures, para. 7.) »
• Who can submit a complaint?
Under para. 10 of the 2014 Operating Procedures, can submit a complaint:
– « two or more people with common interests and concerns who claim that they have been or are likely to be adversely affected by a Bank-financed operation, and who are in the country where the Bank-financed project is located »
→ Anonymous complaints are not considered, but the requesters may ask for confidentiality (their identity won’t be disclosed) in the handling of the case (para. 14.) « However, for purposes of correspondence, the name of a contact person that can be made public should be provided (para. 18.) »
– a « duly appointed local representative acting on behalf of affected people. »
→ If the « Request is submitted by a local representative of the affected people, s/he must provide written evidence that s/he is acting on behalf of the people submitting the Request. » (para. 16)
– « in exceptional cases (…) a non-local representative where the party submitting the Request contends that appropriate representation is not locally available and the Board so agree at the time they consider the Request »
→ « The Request must include an explanation of the reasons for why there is no available representation in the country where the project is located or where the harm has or may occur. » (para. 16)
– « an Executive Director of the Bank in special cases of serious alleged violations of the Bank’s policies and procedures »
– « the Executive Directors acting as a Board. » (emphasis added)
• How must complaints be submitted?
In writing. No other form is necessary. Although the working language of the Panel is English, requests can be submitted in any language.
If you send your complaint by e-mail, send it to:
The Inspection Panel
Mail Stop MC 10-1007,
1818 H Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20433
You can also send it to the Bank’s country office in the country where the project is located.
Requests may also be submitted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
The phone number of the Inspection Panel is +202 458 5200 and its fax number is +202 522 0916.
• What must complaints include and take into account?
Some guidelines and a sample form for requesting an inspection can be found on the website of the Inspection Panel here (.pdf.)
It is important to note that « A Request may be submitted at any time, starting at the stage at which a Project is under consideration by Management and as long as the disbursement of the financing is less than 95%. » (para. 2.1.11)
The complaint must include (para. 12):
– « A description of how the Requesters believe that their rights or interests may be adversely affected by a Bank-financed project, and the material adverse effects (harm) that they believe they are suffering, or are likely to suffer as a result. »
– « A description of the Bank-financed project or proposed project as far as it may be known to the Requesters, stating how, in their view, the harm suffered or likely to be suffered by them is linked to the project activities that the Requesters believe may be relevant to their concerns. »
-« A description of actions or omissions of the Bank with respect to the design, appraisal and/or implementation of the Bank-financed project (including situations where the Bank is alleged to have failed in its follow-up on the Borrower’s obligations under loan agreements with respect to such policies and procedures). Requesters are not required to mention or quote specific Bank operational policies and procedures, but if known, may elaborate upon how that action or omission is a result of a failure by the Bank to follow its operational policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, the Bank’s safeguard policies. »
→ The operational policies and procedures that Management is supposed to comply with can be found here (under the « Investment Project Financing » tab)
– A description of « steps taken or efforts made to bring the issue to the attention of Bank staff (if possible, with dates, people contacted, and copies of the correspondence with the Bank), and a statement explaining why, in the Requesters’ view, the Bank’s response was inadequate. »
→ This is an important point because one eligibility criteria is that: » prior to the submission of the Request, steps were taken to bring the concerns raised in the Request directly to the attention of Bank Management, and that Management had a reasonable opportunity to respond. Requesters need not approach the Bank themselves, but the Request should describe what steps and actions were taken to make sure that the issues included in the Request were brought to the attention of the Bank, as well as Management’s response to these actions » (para. 39.)
– If the request is submitted by a representative, written evidence that s/he is acting on behalf of the people submitting the request.
• Causes for non-admissibility
Under para. 25 of the Operating Procedures, the Panel checks that:
« a. The Request is not frivolous, absurd or anonymous.
b. The project/program, which is the subject of the Request, appears to be supported, or is being considered for support, at least in part, by the Bank.
c. At least one component of the project/program which is the subject of the Request can be plausibly linked to the alleged harm.
d. The Bank’s financing for the project/program (e.g. loan, credit, grant etc.) is not closed.
e. The disbursement of the Bank’s financing is less than 95%.
f. The subject matter of the Request does not concern issues of procurement, which is the process of acquisition of goods, work and services required for a project.
[→ this type of complaint is addressed by the Grievance Redress Service of the World Bank]
g. The Request is not the same as a previous Request on which the Panel has already made a recommendation. If the Request raises similar matters as a previous Request, then the new complaint must present new evidence or circumstances related to the Requesters’ concerns. »
Within 15 business days of receipt of the request, the Panel decides on requiring additional information, or registering the request, or deciding the request is inadmissible based on the above admissibility criteria and issuing a notice of non-registration, or postponing the notice of registration by transferring requests which otherwise meet the registration criteria to Management, to find an « early solution. »
In cases which do not seem to raise broad issues and be too contentious, the Panel can postpone its decision to register the request for an inspection and to hand the case to Management, in order to find a quick, early solution. « The objective is, in specific cases, to provide an additional opportunity for Management and the Requesters to address the concerns about alleged harm raised in a Request for Inspection by postponing the Panel’s decision on registration of the Request (which otherwise meets the criteria for registration). » (para. 2 of Annex 1 to the Operating Procedures, Piloting a new approach to support early solutions in the Inspection Panel process.)
The criteria for triggering the pilot approach are (Annex 1, para. 3):
« a. The issues of alleged harm (…) are clearly defined, focused, limited in scope, and appear to be amenable to early resolution in the interests of the Requesters.
b. Management informs the Panel of steps or measures already initiated and/or planned to address the alleged harm and an anticipated timeframe for the implementation of the measures, and confirms that these are issues within the ability of Management to address at this stage.
c. The Requesters inform the Panel that they support a postponement of the decision on registration to explore this additional opportunity for early solutions, in light of steps or measures indicated by Management. »
When a complaint seems to meet the first criteria, the Panel contacts Management to see whether they believe the pilot approach would be a good way to solve the issues raised by the request. If it is so, the Panel informs the requesters. « If the Requesters also accept this approach, Management reverts promptly, normally within two weeks, with information on proposed steps and/or measures and an anticipated timeframe to address the concerns about alleged harm raised in the Request. The Panel informs the Requesters that it will postpone its decision on registration awaiting further information on the progress of Management’s efforts to address their specific concerns (para. 4.) »
The Panel issues a Notice of Receipt of a Request which explains the basis for their decision to postpone registration.
The requesters and Management keep the Panel posted about the progress made in finding a solution. At any time during the implementation of the pilot approach, the requesters can express the fact « that they are not satisfied and would like the Panel to register their Request (para. 5.) » Within three months, the Panel assesses whether the requesters are satisfied or not. If the requesters are satisfied, the Panel issues a Notice of Non-Registration. If the requesters believe their issues have not been appropriately addressed, based on the situation at this particular time, the Panel decides upon registering the request.
If the Panel finds that the complaint is admissible (see above « Causes for on-admissibility »), it sends a Notice of Registration to the requesters, the Board and the borrower – or the Executive Director of the Board who represents the borrower.
Management must provide a response to the complaint within 21 business days. It must include:
– Management’s views on « whether the claims raised by the Requesters with respect to harm or potential harm are attributable, at least in part, to Management’s own actions or omissions in complying with the relevant policies and procedures, or are exclusively attributable to the borrower or to other factors external to the Bank. »
– « Evidence that Management has complied with the relevant Bank operational policies and procedures, or that it intends to comply with the policies and procedures relevant to the Requesters’ claims. » (para. 34)
Technical eligibility assessment
The technical eligibility assessment aims at determining whether the case warrants an investigation, in light of the complaint, Management’s response and other elements. The Panel does not have the final say on the decision to warrant an investigation: it is the Board who approves the Panel’s investigations.
Upon receipt of Management’s response, the Panel decides within 21 business days whether recommending an investigation to the Board. As Para. 37 of the Operating Procedures provides, « a Panel team normally conducts a field visit to the project area to help confirm the technical eligibility of the Request and inform the Panel’s recommendation to the Board. During the field visit, the Panel team meets with the Requesters, and briefs them orally about relevant information in the Management Response, including any proposed remedial actions, as relevant to the Panel’s recommendation to the Board. Bank staff of the country office, officials of the implementing agency and other interested parties may provide relevant information. 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. »
Based on these information, the Panel confirms whether the 6 eligibility criteria are gathered together (para. 39, emphasis added):
– The affected party consists of two or more persons with common interests and concerns who are in the Borrower’s territory;
– The Request asserts in substance that a serious violation by the Bank of its operational policies and procedures has or is likely to have a material adverse effect on the requester;
– The Request asserts that its subject matter has been brought to the attention of Management and that, in the Requesters’ view, Management has failed to respond adequately demonstrating that it has followed or is taking steps to follow the Bank’s policies and procedures;
– The matter is not related to procurement;
– The related loan has not been closed or substantially disbursed [95%];
– The Panel has not made a recommendation on the subject matter or, if it has, that the request does assert that there is new evidence or circumstances not known at the time of the prior request.
The technical eligibility of the request is assessed « independently of any views that may be expressed by Management. » (para. 40)
Decision to recommend an investigation
Based on the technical eligibility assessment, the Panel decides whether it will recommend an investigation to the Board. It must explain the reasons for its decision. Please note that « The Panel may decide not to recommend an investigation even if it confirms that the technical eligibility criteria for an investigation are met » (para. 41.)
The Panel bases its decision on:
« a. Whether there is a plausible causal link between the harm alleged in the Request and the Project.
b. Whether the alleged harm and possible non-compliance by the Bank with its operational policies and procedures may be of a serious character.
c. Whether Management, in the Panel’s view, has dealt appropriately with the issues raised in the Request and demonstrated clearly that it has followed the required policies and procedures, or Management acknowledged that it did not comply with relevant policies and procedures.
d. Whether Management has provided a statement of specific remedial actions, and whether, in the judgment of the Panel and taking into account the view of the Requesters, these proposed remedial actions may adequately address the matters raised by the Request. » (para. 43)
The Panel sends its Report and Recommendation to the Board. « If the Panel recommends an investigation, it may specify the intended focus of the proposed investigation. Not all claims raised in the Request may warrant an investigation » (para. 46.) « The Panel’s Recommendation is circulated to the Board for approval within the normal distribution period, under an absence of objection procedure (currently 10 business days) » According to the 1999 Clarification, when the Panel recommends an investigation, the Board « authorize[s it] without making a judgment on the merits of the claimants’ Request, and without discussion, except with respect to the technical eligibility criteria » (para. 49.)
« Within two weeks of the Board’s decision, the Panel informs the Requesters of the Board’s decision and sends the Requesters a copy of the Panel’s Report and Recommendation. At this time, Management and the Panel also make the full Report and Recommendation (including the Request and Management Response) publicly available (barring any confidential information) » (para. 50.)
Please note that approval of an investigation by the Board does not postpone or stop the implementation of the project at issue (para. 58.) Moreover, the « existence of an investigation does not prevent Management from taking steps to address concerns raised by the Requesters during the course of the investigation. These developments will be taken into account by the Panel, as relevant, in its investigation » (para. 60.)
• Conduct of an investigation
As far as the time-frame is concerned, the Panel must adopt an investigation plan which includes a target time-frame within 4 to 6 weeks after the Board’s approval of an investigation. The Panel is supposed to complete its investigation within 6 months of the adoption of the investigation plan. However, the time-frame may be longer depending on the circumstances of the case (para. 64).
Investigations are conducted by an investigation team, led by a Panel member. Their analysis is based on (para. 54):
– the review and research of Bank documents. « Management makes available to the Panel all available project documentation »;
– the visit of the project’s country, the site(s) of the project and its impact area(s);
– meetings with requesters;
– « information from the Requesters, affected people, government officials, project authorities, and others likely to have relevant information. The latter may include representatives of other development and UN organizations, non-governmental organizations and experts »;
– interviews with individual Bank staff involved in the project, past and present;
– relevant scientific literature and publications;
– any other relevant method.
Besides, although the investigation aims at finding whether Management – not the borrower – has complied with applicable policies and procedures, « The Panel and its Investigation Team brief the Executive Director representing the Borrower on the Panel’s investigation process and plans, and consult with the Borrower and the Executive Director representing the borrowing (or guaranteeing) country during the investigation process to seek views and input that may be important to the Panel in carrying out its investigation. The Investigation Team meets with representatives of the borrower government during its visit to the country » (para. 57.)
If the same situation has been brought before another or several other international accountability mechanisms, the Panel cooperates with them « within the requirements and constraints of the mechanisms’ respective mandates, rules and procedures including requirements of confidentiality and disclosure of information » (para. 62.)
The Panel drafts an Investigation Report which includes (para. 63):
– a. An Overview and/or Executive Summary of the Request for Inspection and the Panel’s main findings.
b. A Table of Findings presenting the claims in the Request, Management Response to these claims, and the corresponding Panel findings.
c. An analysis of relevant facts and information, and 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.
d. The main report is divided into relevant chapters addressing the claims by the Requesters which constitute the focus of the investigation. For each alleged issue of harm the report will provide basic factual information on the link to the project, document the Panel’s findings with respect to the Bank’s action or omission and its compliance with relevant policies and procedures, and assess the causal link between the Bank’s non-compliance and the alleged harm. »
The Inspection Panel does not have the power to recommend remedial actions.
The final Investigation Report is sent to the Board and the President of the Bank forwards it to Management. Within 6 weeks, « Management submits to the Board the “Management Report and Recommendation in Response to the Inspection Panel Investigation Report” (MRR). The MRR normally includes proposed actions in response to the Panel’s findings. A distinction is made between remedial efforts that Management can take on its own to address Bank failure, and a plan of action agreed between the Borrower and the Bank, in consultation with the Requesters, to improve project implementation. (paras 67-68) »
The Panel assesses Management’s response: Management communicates to the Panel « the nature and the outcomes of the consultations with the affected parties on the action plan agreed between the Borrower and the Bank. The Panel may submit to the Board, for its consideration, a written or verbal report on the adequacy of these consultations. The Panel’s reporting may be based on information available to the Panel by all sources, and the Panel may decide, in consultation with the Executive Director representing the Borrower, that a country visit is needed to be able to prepare its report accurately (para. 70.) »
The Board considers both the Investigation Report and the MRR. The Board may approve the action plan included in the MRR. Within 2 weeks of the Board’s meeting, both documents are made publicly available and the Panel informs the requesters of the actions approved by the Board and sends them the Investigation Report (paras 71-73.)
The Inspection Panel does not have any mandate to monitor Management’s progress in implementing remedial actions. Its is Management who « submits to the Board progress reports on the implementation of actions following from a Panel investigation », and « the Panel makes these reports available on the Panel’s website and provides them to the Requesters (para. 74.) »
In 2016, following discussions between the Inspection Panel and the Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE), a second Annex, « Enhancing Consultation with Requesters and Tracking Action Plans », is added to the Operating Procedures. It provides that « In order to better facilitate tracking of these progress reports by the Board and other stakeholders, Management will prepare and maintain two tables to track the submission and implementation of progress reports. While the first table will include information regarding the timing of the progress reports on ongoing cases, the second table will show the progress on the implementation of each action agreed upon by the Board on a case by case basis. Management will submit these reports every six months to the Board and share with the Panel for information prior to Board submission. As is done with Management Progress Reports, these tables will be made publicly available on the World Bank and the Panel’s external websites. » (para. 6)
The 2014 Operating Procedures recognizes the value of the Panel’s work as regards the systemic lessons which can be learned from the investigation reports. They establish an advisory role for the Inspection Panel, which consists in « present[ing] systemic issues and reflections discerned from its work to the Board, Management, and the public via its Annual Report and other publications as well as through meetings with the Board and Management as and when requested. The Panel may also present such observations to the Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness in its periodic meetings (para. 79.) »
Notes (*) 2014 Operating Procedures, para. 1.1.2, <http://ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/PanelMandateDocuments/2014%20Updated%20Operating%20Procedures.pdf> (1) The text of the 1994 Operating Procedures can be found in: Inspection Panel, Accountability at the World Bank-The Inspection Panel 10 Years On, Washington DC: IBRD (2003), pp. 146-159.