World Bank Group Statement on Policies, Accountability Mechanisms and Stakeholder Participation in WBG Projects

June 22, 2015

[This page was updated on September 26, 2018]

Around the world, including in the most difficult and challenging environments, our work aims to advance social and economic participation and rights – including in healthcare, education, social protection, key services and basic infrastructure. Many of the places in which we work have complex political and social issues. Often, we work where others cannot or will not go. We do so because that is the only way to reach and help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The success of our work depends on the ability of all affected parties to freely express their concerns. That is why we have high standards of stakeholder engagement—to ensure that our clients achieve the best possible development outcomes. All our country strategies and projects are based on dialogue with stakeholders, including civil society.

Our ability to help eliminate poverty and improve livelihoods would be severely compromised without space for civil society to help shape development in their countries. Our environmental and social safeguard policies are designed to prevent and mitigate harm to people and the environment that may unintentionally result from Bank Group-supported operations. The Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) which, from 1 October 2018, will apply to new World Bank Investment Project Finance operations, provides broad environmental and social coverage, including important advances on transparency, non-discrimination, social inclusion, public participation, and accountability.

Those who feel they have been negatively affected by WBG projects have access to robust grievance mechanisms, like the World Bank’s Grievance Redress Service (GRS), and to the WBG’s independent accountability mechanisms, such as the Inspection Panel and the IFC Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman.

When allegations of reprisal are brought to our attention, we work—within the scope of our mandate—with appropriate parties to try to address them.

We have strong policies and mechanisms that address many concerns raised by human rights advocacy groups and civil society, and we are open to dialogue on improvements. We value the perspectives these groups bring. We will continue to work with them towards our shared goal of strengthening protections for people in the countries in which we work. 

Policies, Accountability Mechanisms and Stakeholder Participation at the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group has several complaints and accountability mechanisms designed to enable civil society and people to voice their concerns regarding projects supported by the Bank.

·       A cornerstone of our work on investment projects is helping to ensure strong protections for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and for the environment.  The World Bank’s safeguards require borrowing governments to address certain environmental and social risks in order to receive Bank funding for development projects. 

·        The ESF, which will progressively replace the safeguards starting October 2018, emphasizes the World Bank’s commitment to core values, including respect for individual dignity, transparency, accountability, consultation, participation and non-discrimination. Specifically, the ESF emphasizes more systematic stakeholder engagement and participation in all projects. Borrower governments must enable stakeholders’ views to be taken into account in project design and they must provide means for effective and inclusive engagement with project-affected parties through the project life-cycle. The ESF defines circumstances when Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected indigenous peoples/Sub-Saharan African historically traditional local communities must be obtained. The ESF also requires that every project have an inclusive and responsive grievance mechanism, accessible to all project-affected parties. The mechanism must allow for anonymous complaints.

·        The World Bank’s GRS addresses complaints related to World Bank-supported projects. Through this service, individuals and communities that may be directly and adversely affected by a World Bank-financed project can bring their concerns directly to the attention of World Bank management. The GRS ensures that complaints are being promptly reviewed and addressed by the responsible units in the World Bank. The objective is to make the World Bank more accessible for project affected communities and to help ensure faster and better resolution of project-related complaints.

·        This important work is reflected in GRS’ increasing case load. Since its creation in March 2015, the GRS has handled a total of 135 cases related to environmental and social issues. These results point to the critical role the GRS is playing within the World Bank’s accountability architecture, as an effective complement to grievance redress mechanisms at the project level and the Inspection Panel.

·        The Inspection Panel (IPN) is the Bank’s independent accountability mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project. 

·        The IPN was created in 1993 by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, as a three-member body, in an important step to increase accountability in Bank operations. The IPN provides independent investigation, subject to Board approval, to determine whether harm has occurred from noncompliance with Bank Policy in connection with the implementation of a project financed by the World Bank. The IPN was the first accountability mechanism of an MDB.

·        To date we have had 123 Requests for Inspection submitted by affected communities pertaining to 112 projects (i.e. there have been multiple Requests on some projects). Out of these 92 requests have been registered by the Panel as formally admissible; a total of 35 projects have undergone a full investigation by the Panel leading to a Management Action Plan to address the Requester's concerns (to the extent they were confirmed by the Panel's findings).

·        Management Responses on all World Bank project cases that have completed the IPN process are available on the IPN’s website (

·        The Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) was established in 1999 as the independent accountability mechanism for IFC and MIGA, the private sector arms of the World Bank Group. CAO provides redress for communities by ensuring that their concerns are heard through a process that can achieve positive solutions for all parties.  Through its three complementary roles, CAO provides independent dispute resolution services between affected communities and IFC/MIGA project sponsors, independent compliance oversight of IFC’s/MIGA’s environmental and social performance, and independent advice to IFC and MIGA on systemic environmental and social concerns. As of FY17, CAO has handled 172 cases related to IFC and MIGA projects around the world, including 54 settlements through dispute resolution and 39 investigations of IFC’s/MIGA’s compliance.  Information about these cases and IFC/MIGA management responses are available at  

·        In addition, the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) is an independent unit within the World Bank Group that has the unique function of investigating and pursuing sanctions related to allegations of fraud and corruption in Bank Group-financed activities. Individuals, government employees, and CSO members, among others, regularly report allegations to INT, and all information provided is treated confidentially.  As a result of INT’s work, referrals to member governments have led to prosecutions and convictions. Information about INT can be found here.

·        Citizen engagement and stakeholder consultations are vital parts of our country engagement model. As part of our commitment to a country-led and evidence-based development process, we adopted a new country engagement model in 2014 to put a more deliberate focus on reducing poverty and improving the lives of the poorest in every country. At the core of this model is the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), which prioritizes the WBG’s engagement in areas where our mission and the development goals of our partner countries overlap. Wide-ranging consultations with civil society, governments, academia, and other important stakeholders has been and will continue to be a crucial part of this prioritization process. Our Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) provides a strong analytical base for the CPF. In cases where lack of citizen engagement is constraining a country’s economic progress, the SCD serves as important analytical tool for reviewing key constraints in areas such as governance, transparency, access to information, voice, and agency.

·        The World Bank Group is also pursuing a goal of incorporating beneficiary feedback in 100 percent of World Bank-financed projects by 2018. It will help to allow project beneficiaries to raise important feedback about the project implementation to the implementing agency and the Bank. Such feedback could relate to the delivery of the project’s objective, but also report on problems with the implementation as they arise. This is part of a larger endeavor to increase citizen engagement in Bank group projects, through the development of a Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in World Bank Group Operations. The framework is currently being implemented and monitored by relevant units in the Bank, as well as supported by the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council consists of experts from civil society, academia, government, private sector and development partners, who were selected based on their knowledge and experience in citizen engagement as well as their ability to reach out to their constituencies with the goal of having a diverse and comprehensive range of global and specific developing country perspectives.

The Bank began measuring progress on CE in FY15. The Bank has moved from a baseline of 27% of Investment Project Financing (IPFs) approved in FY14 containing beneficiary feedback indicators in their Results Frameworks, to 90% containing the indicators by the end of FY17; and from a baseline of 60% of IPFs having a citizen-oriented project design in FY14, to 99.7% by the end of FY17. During the first semester of FY18, 95% of newly approved IPFs have beneficiary feedback indicators in their Results Frameworks, and 99% have a citizen-oriented project design. Going forward, the Bank will further deepen its focus on robust outcome indicators to measure the quality of CE mechanisms; develop regional citizen engagement plans; build client capacity to strengthen citizen’s voice by creating effective feedback loops in public policy and service delivery; and explore new partnerships with CSOs, foundations, academia and other partners to advance the CE agenda.

·       The Global Partnerships for Social Accountability (GPSA) is another cornerstone of the World Bank Group’s work on CE. The GPSA was launched in 2012 to create an enabling environment in which citizen feedback is used to solve fundamental problems in service delivery, and to strengthen the performance of public institutions in developing countries. The GPSA provides support to CSOs and governments for social accountability initiatives aimed at addressing critical governance and development challenges. This collaborative approach works through social accountability mechanisms, engaging CSOs, and giving voice to citizens. The GPSA also builds the capacity of governments to effectively respond to citizens, leading to solutions to some of the most challenging problems in service delivery, and improving the performance of public institutions.

GPSA provides funding as well as knowledge to CSOs working in GPSA member countries. These grants support specific programs and initiatives to: address critical governance and development problems through citizen feedback and participatory approaches; and strengthen civil society’s capacities for social accountability by investing in capacities of CSOs. Each activity funded by the GPSA aims to yield measurable and realistic results in one or more of the following “pillars of good governance”: transparency; participation, and voice; accountability; and learning for improved results. Results are tracked against a results framework that is developed for each project. GPSA also provides a global platform for facilitating the advancement of knowledge and learning on social accountability. It does so by leveraging the knowledge and learning generated through the GPSA as well as the knowledge of the networks of social accountability practitioners. Currently, GPSA has more than 300 partners and 52-member countries, and has funded 33 projects. 

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