World Bank Group

The Washington-based World Bank Group, which is owned by 185 member countries, consists of five bodies:

  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
  • The International Development Association (IDA) (these first two together are known as the “World Bank”, whereas the term World Bank Group refers to all five bodies). These first two carry out lending primarily to the public sector.
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which lends to the private sector
  • The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration body, and
  • The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which provides insurance against certain types of risk for the private sector.

The bank has financed thousands of projects of all sizes, including a number of highly controversial ones. Among the most controversial is Eskom’s enormous Medupi coal power plant in South Africa. In mid-2013 the World Bank announced its new Energy Directions paper which included a commitment to limit coal financing to ‘rare circumstances’. This means that we do not expect to see the bank engaged in a large number of coal projects, however so far the World Bank has refused to publicly step back from its plans to provide a partial loan guarantee for the Kosovo C plant, also expected to be supported by a loan from the IFC, so the Group cannot yet be seen as entirely coal-free.

In addition the World Bank Group is engaged in many other controversial activities, some involving infrastructure projects, but others connected with policy advice such as privatizations and cutting public spending.

The World Bank (IBRD+IDA) has country-specific information including the contacts of local offices on specific webpages that can be accessed through www.worldbank.org/countries
To see which projects it is carrying out in your country, see the bank’s Project Information Documents – first go to ‘Projects and Programs’, then ‘View All Projects’.

For IFC projects, you will have to go to a separate website and select your country from the menu under ‘Country’.

A more detailed Tools for Activists’ guide to the World Bank is available from the Bank Information Center in English, Russian, Bahasa Indonesian, Hindi and Chinese.

POLICIES

The World Bank (IBRD+IDA) is governed by Operational Policies concerning the environmental and social impacts of the bank’s projects. They can be accessed here.

The IFC has separate policies, called Performance Standards. These, along with the bank’s Access to Information Policy, can be accessed here.

Considering the complexity of these policies, it is advisable to contact someone who already has experience working on the World Bank Group to help you with better understanding your options.

If a policy has been violated or looks set to be violated, the World Bank Group has two independent mechanisms through which citizens harmed by the projects or policies funded by the WBG can seek recourse: the Inspection Panel and the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).

The Inspection Panel is a three-member body with a permanent secretariat, housed at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington, DC. It can deal only with the bank’s failures to apply its policies in projects financed by the IDA or IBRD.

The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman oversees the IFC and MIGA. While the Inspection Panel only investigates whether the Bank has violated its own policies, the CAO has a broader mandate and can play a problem-solving role and an advisory role to IFC/MIGA management.

Although both the CAO and the Inspection Panel are part of the World Bank Group they are both considered to be independent because they are not connected to the management of the Group. The Inspection Panel reports to the World Bank Board of Directors while the CAO reports directly to the World Bank Group President. However, as with all complaint mechanisms at the international financial institutions the CAO and the Inspection Panel have their limitations, and should be used also in conjunction with other strategies such as national-level legal work, media campaigns etc.

CONTACTS

The first point of contact should be the World Bank or IFC websites or their offices in your country. The local office contacts can be found through:
World Bank: www.worldbank.org/countries
IFC

Other possibilities for finding information are the following:
World Bank Group InfoShop
Tel: +1-202-458 5454
Fax: +1-202-522 1500
Email: infoshop@worldbank.org

International Finance Corporation
Corporate Relations Unit
Tel: +1-202-476-3800
Fax: +1-202-974-4384
Email addresses for Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa are available.

The IFC’s Disclosure Policy Advisor position was established in 2006 to help the public with information requests. Ironically for someone tasked with increasing accessibility and transparency, the Advisor’s online contact form is only functioning with Internet Explorer at the time of writing…

World Bank Inspection Panel
Tel: +1-202-458-5200
Fax: +1-202-522-0916
Website: http://go.worldbank.org/B5T0N4NC90
Email: ipanel@worldbank.org

IFC/MIGA Compliance Advisor Ombudsman
Tel: +1-202-458-1973
Fax: +1-202-522-7400
Website: www.cao-ombudsman.org
Email: cao_compliance@ifc.org

Department of Institutional Integrity (for both the World Bank and IFC)
Tel: +1-202-458-7677
Fax: +1-202-522-7140
Email: investigations_hotline@worldbank.org
Website: www.worldbank.org/integrity

There are numerous civil society organisations working on the World Bank. Among those with a broad overview who may be able to help you get in touch with the right people are:

Bank Information Center
www.bicusa.org
Email: cdobson@bicusa.org
Tel. +1 (202) 737-7752
Fax. +1 (202) 737-1155

Petra Kjell (pkjell@brettonwoodsproject.org)
Programme Manager, Environment, Human Rights and Social Impacts
Bretton Woods Project
Tel: +44 (0)20 3122 0610
Email: info@brettonwoodsproject.org
www.brettonwoodsproject.org