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World Bank Commitments Against Reprisals

March 2020 - Around the world, including in the most difficult and challenging environments, the World Bank’s work directly advances social and economic progress and principles through projects in sectors like better health, education, social protection or basic infrastructure. People’s voices are critical to our work and we have high standards of stakeholder engagement to ensure that our clients achieve the best possible development outcomes.

We do not tolerate reprisals and retaliation against those who share their views about Bank-financed projects. Any form of intimidation against people who comment on Bank projects, research, activities and their impact, goes against our core values of respecting the people we work for and acting with utmost integrity.

When complaints, including allegations of reprisal in connection with Bank projects, are brought to our attention, we work with appropriate parties to address them. Those who feel they have been negatively affected are entitled to seek redress through robust mechanisms and instruments.

Measures and Tools for Prevention and Redress of Reprisals and/or Retaliation

The Bank has strong commitments against reprisals and/or retaliation within its environmental and social policies and supporting guidance. Our Environmental and Social Framework[1] integrates transparency, stakeholder engagement, and accountability into our projects to achieve the best possible development outcomes.

The World Bank Environmental and Social Framework Directive on Addressing Risks and Impacts on Disadvantaged or Vulnerable Individuals or Groups highlights the need to pay particular attention to those who could be subject to retaliation or reprisals for participating in project consultations, voicing an opinion, or raising a complaint.

World Bank financed projects are also screened for the potential for gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. A Good Practice Note on  Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEA/SH) in Investment Project Financing Involving Major Civil Works contains a detailed section on grievance mechanisms. Specific measures are recommended to protect survivors from stigmatization, retaliation or reprisals, including from their own community and/or families.

The World Bank Standard Procurement Documents fully reflect the ESF and integrate all relevant aspects into the selection process and the contract. There are specific requirements for contractors to prevent reprisals as part of each contractor’s GRM, in provisions related to health and safety, and the Code of Conduct’s mandatory template.

The World Bank requires new projects to have a Grievance Mechanism for workers, as well as one for the public. The borrowing country’s labor management procedures must set out measures to prevent and address harassment, intimidation and/or exploitation. Contracted workers must be provided with a similar grievance process or be allowed to use employee grievance process.

Established in 2015, the World Bank’s Grievance Redress Service closes the gap between project-level grievance mechanisms and the independent Inspection Panel. The redress service receives complaints on environmental and social issues associated with projects and tries to resolve issues. It contributes to the Bank’s overall efforts to manage project environmental and social risks, improve stakeholder engagement and feedback, and support more sustainable project outcomes.

The World Bank Inspection Panel was established in 1993 by the Executive Board of the World Bank as an independent complaints mechanism for people who believe they have been, or are likely to be, harmed by a World Bank–funded project. The Panel has stated that “any form of retaliation threatens the integrity of the World Bank’s accountability process,” and that “a fundamental premise of the Panel’s function is that affected people can access it safely.” (See Guidelines to Reduce Retaliation Risks and Respond to Retaliation During the Panel Process)



[1] Applies to investment projects since October 1st, 2018.