News & Visuals

BLOG : Strengthened Accountability In A Changing World by Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel at the World Bank, shares his thoughts on the Panel's new Pilot for Early Solutions and describes its success in the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project in Paraguay.

Richard Branson believes in accountability. When he founded Virgin Galactic, the first company to offer commercial trips to space, he promised to be on board during the inaugural flight so that he would be the first saying “oops” if need be (let’s hope not). Similarly, the tradition is that the Captain of a ship is the last one to abandon it, if things go wrong, and to go down with it if necessary (the Captain of the “Costa Concordia” being a recent exception to this rule). In earlier times, Roman engineers stood under the arches they designed as the capstone was set in place, so that the full force of their mistakes would be unleashed upon their heads. Regardless of the definition of accountability used, spotting it is easy when it is there.

The Inspection Panel was designed more than 20 years ago, at a time when both the Bank and the world were quite different. Today, information travels instantaneously, and the challenges of development are ever more pressing and complex. This new world demands ever stronger levels of accountability. At the Panel, we define successful accountability as the process through which redress is provided to people that have suffered harm when things have gone wrong, and lessons are learned by the Institution so that the same mistakes are not repeated.

One example of successful accountability is the recently concludedSustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project (PRODERS) case in Paraguay. This is a Bank-financed project aimed at supporting participatory rural development with indigenous populations. Last July, we received a complaint from indigenous people from the Departments of San Pedro and Caaguazú in Paraguay claiming that consultation within the PRODERS project had broken down. Through discussions with World Bank management, we learned that the project team had developed an Action Plan geared to working closely with the government to resolve the impediments for effective indigenous participation. We also learned that the requesters wanted a quick solution to their participation problems, rather than to wait for the results of a potentially lengthy Panel process.

For these reasons, we decided to employ the Panel’s new “Pilot for Early Solutions,” which focused on enabling the rapid implementation of the Action Plan. Consultation services were restored within a few weeks, and the requesters informed us that they were satisfied with the new consultation arrangements. My colleague, Birgit Kuba, and I travelled to Paraguay to confirm this in person. We travelled to Caaguazú, where wemet with the Requesters from both Departments and several dozen indigenous community members. They confirmed that the Action Plan had been successfully implemented and their concerns related to the consultation process resolved. The Panel thus issued aNotice of Non-Registration and Observations of the Second Pilot to Support Early Solutions on March 11, 2015.

The success of this “Paraguay Pilot” rested upon the constructive disposition of the requesters, Bank management, and the Inspection Panel to work together towards finding a pragmatic solution to a clearly-identified problem, amenable to all parties. Accountability in this case was served well, but without the need to trigger the full process.

Investigations will continue to be a necessary tool of the Panel’s set of instruments when we face more complex issues and the cases warrant it. By adopting the Pilot process in appropriate cases, we are not only striving to raise accountability standards, but also trying to find timely solutions for our most important stakeholders.