The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) board has approved a new policy framework for the Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM) aimed at strengthening accountability and providing more effective recourse to people affected by the bank-financed operations.
The policy framework is the result of a series of internal and public stakeholder consultations that began in December 2019. This process was part of the third policy review of the bank’s Independent Review Mechanism and marked the first time that the IRM has engaged in such a comprehensive public consultation process.
The new policy represents a significant step forward for the IRM, according to its director, David Simpson.
“The new policy framework restructures the complaints mechanism to make it more accessible, efficient and predictable,” Simpson said.
“It also simplifies the complaint process for users of the Independent Recourse Mechanism, while enhancing its transparency, and providing clearer guidelines for case management.”
Stephanie Amoako, a Senior Policy Associate at Accountability Counsel, an international civil society organisation that supports communities adversely impacted by internationally financed projects, commented that “the new accountability policy, if properly implemented, better serves the needs of communities across Africa by removing barriers to access the IRM and creating a more equitable process for those using the mechanism.”
A new name accompanies the new policy as the Independent Review Mechanism will now be known as the Independent Recourse Mechanism.
The new mechanism has been restructured, replacing the previous external expert panel model with a fully integrated unit that will now lead all problem-solving and compliance review functions.
The new policy strengthens accessibility for complainants by allowing complaints to be filed by a single person and enabling the mechanism to advise communities on how to submit complaints if needed.
It adopts a zero-tolerance standard for retaliation against complainants and rejects any form of threat, intimidation, harassment, violence, or discrimination towards those that raise concerns through the Independent Recourse Mechanism.
It also requires African Development Bank management to make the Independent Recourse Mechanism better known among affected communities by disclosing information about the IRM at a project level.
The new operational rules and procedures approved by African Development Bank’s Board of Directors also provides the IRM with the ability to initiate compliance review processes in certain circumstances without a formal complaint from affected communities.
It also Increases complainants’ participation in the complaint-handling process by allowing them the opportunity to comment on draft compliance review reports before they go to the Board and commits the IRM to pursue a culturally appropriate and gender-sensitive complaint process.
The rules also allow the IRM to consider a complaint’s eligibility even in the case of parallel judicial or non-judicial proceedings. It empowers the IRM to make recommendations to the Bank on issues related to redress and remedy when individuals and communities are adversely impacted as a result of Bank-financed operations, as well as ensure that agreements reached by parties in problem-solving activities are aligned to international norms.
While the new policy enters into force with immediate effect and will apply to all new complaints, it is expected that the Independent Recourse Mechanism will require a reasonable transition period to fully implement the new policy. Where appropriate, ongoing complaints will be transitioned to the new policy over time.