Private Complainants and International Organizations: A Comparative Study of the Independent Inspection Mechanisms in International Financial Institutions

Daniel Bradlow, American University Washington College of Law


This paper is a comparative study of the independent inspection mechanisms in international financial institutions. These mechanisms, which are an important development in the accountability of international organizations, allow private complainants who believe that they have been harmed or threatened with harm by the failure of these institutions to act in accordance with their own operational rules and procedures to have their complaints investigated by an independent body.

The paper is divided into three parts. In the first part I discuss the structure, functions and procedures of the World Bank's Inspection Panel, the International Finance Corporation's Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, the Inter-American Development Banks' Independent Inspection Mechanism, the Asian Development Bank's Accountability Mechanism, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Independent Recourse Mechanism, and the African Development Bank's Independent Review Mechanism. I also briefly discuss analogous mechanisms in the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the United Nations, and Export Development Canada.

The second part of the paper is a comparative analysis of these mechanisms. It compares their structures, functions and procedures and draws some conclusions of general applicability about independent inspection mechanisms.

The third part of the paper argues that all international organizations with operational responsibilities need independent inspection mechanisms. It then discusses the principles that should guide the structure, function and procedures of such mechanisms and considers various models that can be adopted for such mechanisms. It ends with a recommendation on the optimal structure for such a mechanism.