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October 5, 2018, New Delhi: Medha Patkar, Bharat Patel, Nityanand Jayaraman and other members of the CSOs across India, have criticised the Working Group of the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE), the group entrusted by the Bank to “review of the Inspection Panel’s Toolkit to determine whether it should be revised to enhance the Panel’s effectiveness.”

While appreciating the World Bank on forming the Working Group on the occasion of Inspection Panel’s 25th Anniversary, the CSOs criticised the Bank for giving less than a fortnight to seek comments on this issue. The activists and researchers demanded to extend the deadline by at least two months in the interest of the sanctity of the process. They further demanded that wider publicity is given to ensure better participation in the process. “The current consultation is designed and carried out to exclude affected communities, for whom the Inspection Panel is established,” the signatories lamented.

Demanding the suo moto powers, the activists wrote that in the projects where Inspection Panel knows severe impacts of the projects —  especially the Category A projects which entail high-risk—, it should have powers to take suo moto investigation as well as actions. “The IPN should proactively look out for the involvement of the potentially affected communities and facilitate their observations/complaints… to ensure timely intervention and to minimise the damages caused to people,” the letter added.

Further, the activists reminded the World Bank of the Morse Committee Report, which led to the establishment of the Inspection Panel and insisted on assisting the impacted communities in developing their legitimate concerns through a proper review.

Drawing lessons from the various struggles, the activists demanded that in cases where the Panel recognises severe impacts and violation of Bank’s safeguard policies and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), it should have powers to stay the project till the problem is comprehensively addressed with due compensation and course correction. To ensure that the recommendations of the Panel are strictly followed, the activists suggested the IPs recommendations to be binding, with powers to monitor the progress.

It is noteworthy that earlier last month, the Working Group on International Financial Institutions – a network of over 50 CSOs and grassroots organisations in India – had organised a two-day meeting to reflect on India’s Experience of Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAMs), in the context of Inspection Panel’s 25 years. During the deliberations, in which both the Inspection Panel and Compliance Ombudsman Advisor (CAO) participated remotely, the inadequacy of IAMs in functioning independently and efficiently; lack of capacity and powers to promote and ensure accountability; failure in intervening timely to ensure that the voices of the affected people are adequately heard, addressed and issues resolved; and lack of powers to stay the progress of project construction in cases of extreme violations, were highlighted.

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