On August 3, 2017, the Inspection Panel received a Request for Inspection of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Second Additional Financing for the High-Priority Roads Reopening and Maintenance Project (Pro-Routes). The Request was submitted by two community members living in Goma and its vicinity who alleged harm from the Bukavu-Goma road works financed under the project. The alleged harms focused on loss of property, but also included claims related to loss of livelihoods, gender-based and other physical violence against the community, labor issues and impacts on indigenous peoples. The Panel registered the Request on September 13, 2017, and received the Management Response to the Request on October 20, 2017.
A Panel team visited the DRC from November 6-11, 2017, to meet with government officials, as well as with the project contractor, World Bank staff, the supervising engineer, the Requesters and community members.
In its November 21, 2017, Report and Recommendation to the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, the Panel stated that the harms raised in the Request for Inspection and those it was able to verify in the field were of a very serious nature and linked to the project and its implementation. The Panel recommended carrying out an investigation into the alleged issues of harm and potential non-compliance with Bank policies.
On November 27, 2017, Bank management issued an update to the response it had sent the Panel on October 20, 2017. The update was provided to apprise the Board and the Panel of the most recent developments regarding the issues in the Request, and to summarize the actions the Bank planned to take immediately and over the following few weeks. Management noted it would continue to work with the government of the DRC and the Panel “to follow up on the concerns and allegations raised in the Request and to help ensure that the project does not cause or contribute to harm,” adding it would urge the government “to take appropriate action with regard to potentially ongoing abuses.” Bank management on November 27, 2017, partially suspended the DRC’s right to make withdrawals from the project credit amount.
The Board on December 8, 2017, approved the Panel’s recommendation to investigate the project.
On December 13, 2017, the Panel published its Investigation Plan, and a Panel team traveled to the project area again from January 17 to 31, 2018, to conduct the investigation visit.
The Panel submitted its Investigation Report to the Board on April 27, 2018. The Panel acknowledged that the DRC’s fragile and post-conflict context poses major project preparation and implementation challenges, but said it verified most of the claims of harm in the Request and found several instances of non-compliance with Bank Policies on Environmental Assessment, Involuntary Resettlement, and Investment Project Financing and the Bank’s Environmental Health and Safety Guidelines.
The Panel found repeated cases of gender-based violence (GBV), ranging from sexual harassment to sexual exploitation and abuse, and rape. Additional harms identified by the Panel also included livelihood impacts, particularly those related to the taking of building materials from quarries by force and without compensation, and poor community and occupational health and safety measures that lead to injuries to community members and workers. In its report, the Panel acknowledged the substantial efforts undertaken by Bank management after the receipt of the Request to seriously address the GBV and other issues related to the project.
Beyond the specific findings of harm and non-compliance, the Panel said the investigation also offered broader insights for the Bank into the risks associated with infrastructure projects in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV).
The Board considered the Panel’s Investigation Report on July 17, 2018, and at that time asked Bank Management to update its response and proposed action plan to better reflect the steps it has taken and planned to take to address the Panel’s findings. Management submitted its revised response on August 27, 2018, and the Board approved its action plan on September 7, 2018.
In its response, Management said it regretted there were areas of non-compliance with Bank policies and said it was taking “decisive steps to prevent it from happening in the future.” Specifically, Management acknowledged that project preparation and implementation “should have included a more thorough assessment of GBV risks and more robust measures to prevent and address them.” Management said it had “exerted considerable effort to date” to remedy “shortcomings” in project preparation and supervision, and that it was “fully committed” to continue its support and close supervision of the borrower’s implementation of agreed remedial actions regarding GBV and support for GBV survivors, livelihood restoration for affected communities, and the strengthening of institutional capacity of all stakeholders to manage preventive and remedial actions.
Management agreed with the Panel’s assessment that lessons from the case were also relevant for the Bank’s broader engagement in FCV environments, and said the Bank was committed to “identifying and developing effective ways to supervise project implementation when insecurity poses challenges.”
Management committed to provide the Board with a progress report on the implementation of its action plan within six months of the Board’s approval.