The Inspection Panel Early Years (An Inside Story)

Eduardo G. Abbott


Almost thirty years have passed since the World Bank established its Inspection Panel. At the time, according to the Bank, it was, “an unprecedented means for increasing the transparency and accountability of the Bank’s operations. This was a first of its kind for an international organization-the creation of an independent mechanism to respond to claims by those whom we are most intent on help in that they have been adversely affected by the projects we finance”. When it was established, the Panel was a long-awaited breakthrough in the accountability of International Financial Institutions (IFIs), but also a tentative and experimental one. The Resolution provided that “The Executive Directors shall review the experience of the inspection function established by this Resolution after two years from the date of the appointment of the first members of the Panel”. In fact, the letters of appointment of the first Panel Members reflected this reality--they would be let go after two years if the Bank decided to terminate its Inspection Panel. The world has changed a great deal since the Panel was established - in science, technology, and politics, in advances (and setbacks) in the rights of individuals, and in the field of accountability. And the Panel has evolved—for better or for worse—during this period. In looking to the future, it is worth revisiting some of the issues and challenges that helped shape the IFIs’ first accountability mechanism in its early days, to ensure continued progress in accountability.