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AfDB: Ongoing Review of the Independent Review Mechanism
The AfDB’s Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) has been effective since mid-2006. The purpose of the IRM is to respond to complaints by people and communities who allege they are or likely to be adversely affected by projects financed by the AfDB because of non-compliance with the Bank’s policies and procedures.
To deal with the complaints, the IRM has two instruments, namely the independent compliance review and problem-solving (mediation). Since becoming operational, AfDB has received and registered four complaints - two for independent compliance review and two cases are currently undergoing problem solving.
One review regarding the Bujagali Hydropower and Interconnection projects in Uganda has been completed and the Bank now has to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the independent compliance review are implemented in accordance with the management’s action plan to bring the projects into compliance.
Interview with Per Eldar Sovik, Director, Compliance Review and Mediation Unit, AfDB.
Question: Why is the IRM being reviewed at this point in time? The experience to date seems rather limited with only four complaints received?
Answer: The review of the IRM is referred to in the AfDB boards resolution of 2004 which established the mechanism. The resolution states, inter alia, that the IRM shall be reviewed after three years from its effective date. Three years may sound a short period considering the time it takes to sensitize people and local communities on the existence of the mechanism and how they can make use of it. However, the IRM has gained some good experience over the last three years. Besides, the review is timely given that many other international finance institutions are currently revising their accountability instruments. I therefore believe it is important at this stage to take stock and look at how the IRM can be improved to better serve its purpose.
Question: How is the review of the IRM being conducted?
Answer: We have commissioned an independent consultant to undertake the IRM review based on the terms of references approved by the AfDB boards of directors in March 2009. The Consultant, Prof. Michelo Hansungule, is a Zambian national and Professor at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He started the assignment by visiting the Bank in July 2009 to interview many AfDB executive directors, Senior Management representatives, as well as staff members who have had some experience with the IRM over the last years. He has also talked to users of the mechanism, government officials, civil society organizations and representatives of similar mechanisms in other multilateral development banks. On September 18, 2009, he presented his preliminary findings and recommendations during an informal meeting with the boards. He has now drafted a Review Report which presents his recommendations on how IRM operations could be improved. His Draft Review Report has been posted for public consultation on the Bank’s website (www.afdb.org/irm).
Question: Why a public consultation and who can participate?
Answer: The potential users and beneficiaries of the IRM are the people and communities living in areas where the AfDB is financing projects. Since the IRM became operational, AfDB has conducted several outreach workshops to make civil society organizations from many African countries aware of the IRM. However, as we cannot reach out directly to all the local communities where the Bank is financing projects, our strategy is that these local civil society organizations (CSOs) will help us to disseminate information to potential beneficiaries of the IRM. With regard to the public consultation phase of the IRM review, we are targeting approximately 250 CSOs who have already learned about the IRM from our workshops. I sense there is a growing interest in the IRM concept among African CSOs and academics, and my hope is that they will take this opportunity to contribute to the IRM review process. In addition, I expect international NGOs with particular interest in governance and accountability issues in development projects to engage in the public consultation phase, as well as representatives of similar complaint handling mechanisms in multilateral development banks who could share their experiences and views with us.