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Workshop of the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) in Cameroon
Representatives of some Project Implementation Units (PIUs) and Civil Society organizations (CSOs) have pledged to disseminate information about the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) to the communities. They have identified and proposed to the Compliance Review and Mediation (BCRM), the lines of communication and capacity building activities that they will use in order to better engage communities and manage complaints more effectively. These are the flagship results of the workshop organized by the Compliance Review and Mediation (BCRM) on 11 and 12 January 2017 in Yaoundé, Cameroon on the theme “Handling of complaints from people adversely affected by projects financed by the African Development Bank Group”.
About 60 actors mainly from CSOs, PIUs and representatives of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and spatial planning (MINEPAT) took part in this workshop. The opening ceremony was chaired by Charles Assamba Ongodo, the Director of International Cooperation (MINEPAT), in the presence of Racine Kane, Resident Representative of the Bank Country Office in Cameroon and Sékou Touré, Director of Compliance Review and Mediation (BCRM).
The presentations by Mr. Sékou Touré on the mandate, the functions, procedures and rules of the Independent Review Mechanism, followed by case studies, resulted in successful discussions that allowed participants to become familiar with the IRM. The participants also listened to a presentation by Bakia Mbianyor, AfDB’s Senior Compliance and Safeguards Officer and discussed issues related to operational safeguard requirements and project- grievance redress mechanisms. It is on the basis of the information gathered throughout the presentations that civil society organizations and the PIUs were able to understand the interplay between development and safeguard issues and better define their roles and responsibilities on how they can support the promotion of the IRM at the grassroots where projects are implemented and the improvement of complaint management.
The opening ceremony, the plenary work and the working group sessions were the 3 highlights of the workshop.
At the close of the workshop, the participants made the following proposals:
1. Establish an effective, reliable and permanent communication system between CSOs, PIUs and BCRM on the one hand, and between CSOs and PIUs on other hand.
It was noted that no one can expect convincing results if the People adversely affected by the projects (PAPs) are not supported by one or more structures for intermediation. CSOs are best placed for this intermediation between PAPs and BCRM. The strategic axes of this communication should lead to:
- Effective use of radios. The advantage is obvious, given that PAPs are generally uneducated populations and are much more likely to listen to and understand the radio than any other medium of communication.
- Maintaining communication with CSOs. The creation of a mailing list by the BCRM will make it possible to share information on handling of cases/complaints affecting the people living near or around the project site. Furthermore, the sharing of information with the CSOs will not only improve the situation but will also enable the BCRM to better understand the problems of the PAPs and thus improve its work in future for the forthcoming workshops and the 3rd review of the mechanism to be conducted in two (2) years’ time.
2. Strengthen the capacities of CSOs and PIUs
- Communicating with people adversely affected by Bank Group financed projects through CSOs and PIUs cannot be effective if the latter do not understand the complaint management process and procedures of the IRM, the requirements of the Integrated Safeguards System and the importance of having effective Grievance Redress mechanisms. It is therefore necessary that their capacities on these issues be strengthened.
Beyond the workshop, the BCRM mission team also organized another parallel activity in the same vein. It held an information session on IRM for Bank staff based in the Bank Country Office Cameroon (CMFO).