1. What is the Inspection Panel?
The Inspection Panel is an independent vehicle for people who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, harmed by World Bank-funded projects to bring their concerns directly to the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The Board created the Panel in 1993 to promote accountability at the Bank and to ensure that the voices of people who may be adversely affected by Bank-financed projects will be heard.
The Panel carries out this mandate through its work as an impartial fact-finding body, independent of Bank Management. In response to requests by affected people, the Panel has the power to review Bank-funded projects and determine whether Management is following its own operational policies and procedures. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure that Bank-financed projects provide social and economic benefits, and avoid harm to people or the environment.
The Panel is composed of three members of different nationalities who serve five-year terms. Members of the Panel are selected based on their ability to deal thoroughly and fairly with requests brought to them, their integrity and their independence from Bank’s Management, and their exposure to developmental issues and to living conditions in developing countries. Members of the Panel may not be employed by the Bank Group, following the end of their service on the Panel.
2. For which kinds of projects can affected people or an affected community submit a Request for Inspection to the Panel?
Requests can be submitted with regard to any project or program financed at least in part by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) or International Development Association (IDA). This means that a Request may relate to projects such as:
Projects financed by an investment loan or credit, such as infrastructure projects (roads, dams, pipelines etc), natural resource management (e.g. forestry) and rural development (e.g. land tenure).
Programs funded through development policy lending (formerly known as structural adjustment operations), such as economic, sector, legal and/or regulatory reforms (e.g. public reform, land administration programs, etc.).
Projects financed through a trust fund administered by the Bank, e.g. Global Environmental Facility-funded projects;
Project/programs for which IBRD or IDA has provided only a guarantee, (not actual loan/credit).
Projects/programs co-financed with other International Financial Institutions (IFIs).
3. For which types of potential harm and impacts can a Request for Inspection be submitted to the Panel?
The Panel has the authority to investigate many different types of harm or potential harm to people or the environment that result from a failure by the World Bank to comply with its operational policies and procedures. These can include harms or potential harms to: people and livelihoods resulting from displacement and resettlement (e.g., by a dam, road, pipeline, landfill, or other infrastructure project); indigenous peoples, their culture, traditions, lands tenure and development rights; cultural property, including sacred places; natural habitats and the environment (e.g., wetlands, forests, fisheries, protected areas, etc.); dam safety; pesticides; etc...
4. How is a Request submitted, and what should it look like?
A Request needs to be submitted in writing and could be as simple as a letter addressed to the Inspection Panel with basic information about the project and concerns of the requesters. In general, a Request provides information on the items mentioned in the format suggested below (please note that the use of this format is not mandatory).
Suggested Format for a Request for Inspection
To: Executive Secretary,
The Inspection Panel
1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA
(i) We [insert names] live and/or represent others who live in the area known as [insert name of area]. Our addresses are attached.
(ii) We have suffered, or are likely to suffer, harm as a result of the World Bank's failures or omissions in the [insert name and/or brief description of the project or program] located in [insert location/country].
(iii) [Describe the damage or harm you are suffering or are likely to suffer from the project or program] __________________________________________________________.
(iv) [List (if known) the World Bank's operational polices you believe have not been observed] __________________________________________________________________.
(v) We have complained to World Bank staff on the following occasions [list dates] by [explain how the complaint was made]. We have received no response, [or] we have received a response and we are not satisfied that the explanations and answers solve our problems for the following reasons: __________________________________________________________.
(vi) We request the Inspection Panel recommends to the World Bank's Executive Directors that an investigation of these matters be carried out.
Contact address, telephone number, fax number and email address: ____________________.
List of attachments
We [do/do not] authorize you to disclose our identities.
5. Can the Request be submitted in languages other than English?
Yes. A Request can be submitted in any language. For working purposes, the Panel will translate the Request into English.
6. Does the Request need to be in writing?
Yes. The Request must be in writing with original signatures. Any other document, such as correspondence and attachments to the Request, may be sent electronically.
7. Does the Request need to cite specific Bank Policies?
No. Since 1999, it has been clarified that this is not specifically required.*
The Panel is aware that locally-affected people and Requesters may not have access to information about Bank policies. As a result, the policies need to be mentioned only if known. In cases where they are not known, the Request should describe the types of actions or omissions that it believes the World Bank or IDA may be responsible for, and describe the harm in some detail (accurately enough) so that the Panel itself may link the alleged failures and harm to specific Bank Policies.
* Under the 1999 Clarifications to the Panel Resolution, a Request simply needs to assert “in substance” that there is a serious violation of Bank Policies and Procedures.
8. Can the Request be delivered to a World Bank country office?
Yes. The Head of the country office must then issue a receipt to the Requesters and forward the Request unopened to the Panel. It is suggested that the request is submitted in an envelope that has been closed by the Requesters and addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel. It is also suggested that the Requesters inform the Inspection Panel via email or by other separate means that the request has been delivered to the Bank’s country office.
9. At what time in a project cycle can Requests be submitted?
Requests can be submitted during the design, appraisal or implementation of a project. That is, a request may be submitted even before the World Bank approves the loan/credit financing the project/program – since the first Project Information Document has been issued - and throughout project implementation. However, before presenting a Request for Inspection, Requesters must bring their concerns to the attention of Bank staff.
10. How can affected-people and Requesters keep in touch with the Panel to know of the status and progress of a Request?
The Panel is designed to be accessible and responsive to Requesters and project-affected people who come to it, and to ensure that the concerns of affected people are brought to the highest levels of decision-making of the World Bank.
The Panel wishes to encourage Requesters and affected people to stay in touch with the Panel Secretariat at any time following the submission of a Request, and especially during the course of an investigation, in order to ask questions, provide information, and learn of the status and progress of a Request (as often as they would like to). Additionally, on its own initiative, the Panel Secretariat regularly updates Requesters on the different stage of the process that a Request is going through.
The Inspection Panel may be contacted directly at any time by email at email@example.com, by telephone at 202-458-5200 or by fax at 202-522-0916 (Washington, D.C. ). It may also be contacted by mail at: The Inspection Panel, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20433, USA. Additional information about the Inspection Panel, its members, and its work is available at the Inspection Panel internet site at www.inspectionpanel.org.
11. What are the steps in the Panel review process?
In responding to a Request for Inspection, the Panel process consists of two phases. These are: the Eligibility Phase; and the Investigation Phase.
When the Panel receives and registers a Request for Inspection, it sends the Request to Bank Management for a Response. The Panel then reviews whether the Request meets certain technical eligibility criteria. Based on this review, the Panel may recommend to the Board to authorize an Investigation.
In the Investigation Phase, the Panel visits the country and meets with the Requesters and affected people to learn in detail about the issues, concerns, status and potential harms. As part of its fact-finding responsibilities, the Panel also meets with and interviews World Bank staff, government officials, civil society organizations, experts and others so that it can fully understand and investigate the claims in the Request and make its findings about Bank compliance and harm. An investigation may take a few months or more in complex cases.
On the basis of its investigation, the Panel completes and submits its Final Investigation Report to the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. Bank Management then has six weeks to prepare the Management Response and Action Plan, agreed with the Borrower, in response to the Panel’s findings. In the preparation of its Response and Action Plan, Management is required to consult with the Requesters and affected parties. After both the Panel’s and Management’s reports have been issued, the Board meets to discuss these reports and consider the Management’s proposed action plan to address the issues identified by the Panel and in the Request.
Please see the Inspection Panel Process
12. What kinds of information can the Panel access?
The Panel may examine any of the Project pertinent documents and records during an investigation and has access to all staff members and consultants involved in the design, appraisal and execution of the Project concerned, but names associated with these sources are not disclosed in the Panel’s reports. The Panel operates by the same confidentiality rules as the rest of the Bank.
13. How can the Panel process help to address and resolve the problems facing Requesters and affected people?
When the Panel presents its Investigation Report to the Board, at the end of an investigation, Management is required to prepare an action plan that responds to the Panel’s findings of non-compliance and harm. On many occasions, the action plan includes remedial steps to respond to losses of livelihoods and claims of under- or improper compensation for displaced peoples, re-orientation of project design and activities to reduce adverse social and environmental impacts, preparation of an indigenous peoples development plan, strengthening of consultation with affected people to ensure full and meaningful participation and involvement in decision-making processes, etc…
Also, in several cases the Panel process encouraged Management to directly resolve the problems raised by the Requesters. This was due to an increased attention to the Project from the Board of Executive Directors, Senior Management and Civil Society and to specific actions taken by Management to address Requesters concerns.
14. Does the Panel act as a court of law?
No. The Panel is a non-judicial, fact-finding body that acts independently, impartially and objectively in evaluating the process followed by the Bank in the design, appraisal, and implementation of specific projects/programs. The Panel does not investigate projects/programs unless it receives a formal request for inspection. Investigations do not seek to place guilt on individuals, but rather to ensure that the Bank as an institution follows its policies and procedures, avoids or mitigates harm and benefits local people and, in this way, Project affected people may meaningfully participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and the development process is improved.
15. How does the Panel contribute to the Bank’s commitment to transparency?
The Panel process is transparent. The Panel maintains a website which contains all of its reports, and issues frequent press releases. Eligibility reports (including the request for inspection and management’s response), investigation reports, and management recommendations are posted on the website shortly after the Board has made a decision on them. In addition, the content of Board decisions is made public on the Panel’s website. Copies of all reports can be requested from the Panel and Bank offices. Translations are also available.