The Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) was established by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors in 2020 as part of the World Bank Accountability Mechanism (AM) to facilitate a voluntary and independent dispute resolution option for Requesters and borrowers in the context of Requests for Inspection to the Inspection Panel.
The DRS is overseen by the World Bank Accountability Mechanism Secretary. The staff of DRS includes one or more Dispute Resolution Officers, selected and appointed by the AM Secretary, and other staff that the AM Secretary may consider necessary.
Under the process set forth in the Board resolution creating the AM, the Inspection Panel determines if a Request for Inspection is eligible for investigation and makes a recommendation to the Board. If the Panel finds the Request ineligible, and the Board agrees, the case is closed.
If, however, the Panel finds the case eligible and the Board approves, the Accountability Mechanism Secretary offers an opportunity for dispute resolution to the Requesters and the borrower. If both agree, the DRS initiates that process and the Inspection Panel’s compliance review is put on hold.
The parties to the dispute resolution then select a mediator from a pool provided by the DRS and agree on objectives, scope, stages, participants and timelines.
The scope of the dispute resolution is limited to project-related issues raised in the Request for Inspection and identified as the matters to be investigated in the Inspection Panel’s eligibility report to the Board.
The method of dispute resolution in a particular case depends on the preferences of the Requesters and borrower in consultation with the DRS, and may include consultative dialogue, information sharing, joint fact-finding, mediation, conciliation and other approaches.
Dispute resolution generally has a one-year time limit to ensure that the process is not prolonged and to incentivize the parties to reach an agreement. If both parties concur, the process can be extended for up to six months.
The dispute resolution process concludes when one of the following occurs: (i) the Requesters and borrower reach agreement; (ii) one or both Parties withdraw from the dispute resolution process; or (iii) the dispute resolution period expires.
At the conclusion of the dispute resolution process, the Accountability Mechanism Secretary issues a report to the Executive Directors, the Inspection Panel and Bank management informing them of the outcome.
If the Accountability Mechanism Secretary informs the Executive Directors that the parties have reached agreement and signed a Dispute Resolution Agreement, the case shall be considered closed. The Panel shall issue a memorandum closing the case and take no further action with respect to the request.
If the process is not successful – or if the parties earlier had not agreed to dispute resolution – the case is taken up by the Panel for a compliance investigation.