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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

26 April 2019

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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Inspection Panel Chair Discusses World Bank Accountability at Suva Seminar

Inspection Panel Chair Discusses World Bank Accountability at Suva Seminar

26/04/19

Multilateral banks need to be accountable to the communities they serve and the projects they finance must comply with the institution’s environmental and social policies, the chair of the World Bank Inspection Panel said on Friday.

If not, residents who believe they are being harmed by a project have the right to file complaints with and seek redress from so-called independent accountability mechanisms like the Inspection Panel (IPN), according to Imrana Jalal.

Ms. Jalal spoke at a seminar at the Suva Business Centre to raise awareness about IPN’s role. The seminar, one of several outreach events the Inspection Panel takes part in each year, was organised in partnership with the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team.

IPN was established in 1993 to provide an opportunity for affected people to complain when they believe World Bank projects are causing or may cause harm to them or their environment. It investigates the World Bank – not the borrowing country – to determine if the Bank is complying with its own environmental and social policies and procedures in projects that it finances. IPN was the first independent accountability mechanism at an international financial institution (IFI). Today, virtually all multilateral and bilateral development banks have such mechanisms.

“The Inspection Panel plays an essential role of ensuring projects comply with the World Bank’s policies and procedures, and it is independent from the World Bank management, reporting directly to the World Bank Board,” Ms. Jalal said.

“Accountability is the cornerstone of good governance and it’s important that people are aware of these mechanisms and how they can access them,” she added.

This is critical in light of the WB’s increased presence in the Pacific with the new office in Suva, which serves as a regional hub for the development institution’s work across the region. The new regional hub will be integral to the World Bank Group's delivery of more than one billion Fiji dollars’ worth of projects across six countries (Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu) in a wide range of sectors. The World Bank’s support to the region has tripled since 2016.

Ms. Jalal explained how IPN responds to complaints that cover various sectors and issues, including water supply and sanitation, energy, transport, dams, indigenous peoples, the environment, participation and disclosure and involuntary resettlement.

The Panel chair discussed IPN’s 2016 investigation of the World Bank-financed “Transport Sector Development Project” in Uganda where complainants alleged child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment of women and girls in the community by project workers.

The Inspection Panel found that there was inadequate assessment/mitigation by the World Bank of labor influx and other gender-based violence (GBV) contextual risks, weak capacity assessment and strengthening measures, no consultation with project-affected people, late recognition of the issues, inadequate supervision and lack of appropriate expertise. As a result, the Bank, which had canceled the project following the complaint, created a GBV task force and issued a note to staff on how to address labor influx in projects. It also committed to working with the government to strengthen community response to GBV within project communities and to support counseling for child survivors of sexual violence and their families.

IPN is the only accountability mechanism of an IFI to have dealt with this matter to date, Ms. Jalal said.

More than 40 people – including representatives from civil society, non-governmental organisations, development agencies and academic institutions – attended the seminar while others were able to tune in through live stream. Another similar seminar will be held at Denarau, Nadi as a side event at the Asian Development Bank’s Annual General Meeting.

“Civil society is critical to ensuring that communities know the accountability processes and assisting communities file complaints to the IPN,” Ms. Jalal said.

 Ms. Jalal is also a founding member of FWRM, a Fijian lawyer, and human rights and gender advocate, who served as Human Rights Commissioner on the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

 

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