ADB updated its Independent Accountability Mechanism

Similar to other Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAM) of Multilateral Financial Institutions (MFIs), about which I blogged here, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a two-tiered mechanism in place. It comprises a problem solving function and a compliance review function. The ADB’s revised IAM became effective in May 2012 and has yet to be tested by a new complaint. Will ADB’s new IAM be able to satisfy its critiques?


The origin of the IAM at the ADB dates back to 1995. At that time, the ADB established an Inspection Function. It was largely modeled after the Inspection Panel of the World Bank set up a couple of years earlier. From 1995 to 2003 the ADB received only eight requests for inspections. Of these, only two were deemed eligible and were subject to a full inspection. ADB’s 1995 IAM was revised and replaced in 2003.


According to the review of ADB’s 2003 IAM (dated Feb 2012), the ADB received 39 complaints between 2003 and 2011. Of these, 13 were found eligible for problem solving (eligibility determination for two complaints was still ongoing at the time of the review). In addition, the ADB received five requests for compliance reviews – of which four were deemed eligible.


According to ADB’s review, the infrastructure sectors (transport, water, and energy) accounted for about 80% of the complaints. Most of the complaints (about 66%) were related to resettlement (mainly insufficient compensation), inadequate information, and consultation and participation.


The review of ADB’s 2003 IAM identified the following areas for improvement:

·         Enabling direct access to compliance review

·         Establishing a single (unified) entry point

·         Addressing site visit issues

·         Enhancing independence

·         Clarifying the cutoff date

·         Clarifying the roles of compliance review

·         Improving efficiency

·         Enhancing tracking

·         Improving awareness

·         Enhancing learning and promoting a culture change


Now, the ADB’s revised 2012 IAM provides for a single entry point for the receipt of all complaints. It enables direct access to compliance reviews. The new IAM clarified and enhanced the independence of the compliance review panel. It also provides for a clearer and longer cut-off date for filing complaints. Other improvements include better tracking and monitoring of complaints, increased outreach, and a partnership approach to reduce impediments to project site visits experienced in the past.


Critiques of the ADB, such as the NGO Forum on the ADB (which also facilitated over dozen of cases filed before the ADB’s IAM), had already voiced their concerns about the published drafts and review process in a publication entitled Is ADB accountable? Evaluating the Accountability Mechanism.


Will ADB’s new IAM be able to satisfy its critiques? The proof of the pudding is in the eating…


About the author: Mehrdad Nazari (MBA, MSc, LEAD Fellow) is a Director of Prizma, a niche ESIA and CSR advisory practice. He was previously a Principal Environmental Specialist at the EBRD and spearheaded problem solving initiatives relating to the Kumtor gold mine in the Kyrgyz Republic before the EBRD set up its IAM. Mehrdad also assisted IFC’s CAO with a compliance review of the IFC relating to the Lukoil Overseas Project/Karachaganak project in Kazakhstan. Mehrdad served as an expert witness on an international arbitration case before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). He also contributes to ESIAs, stakeholder engagement, corporate responsibility and sustainability reporting and capacity building programs. Access Prizma’s latest newsletters here.