November 17, 2003
New book looks at World Bank's accountability efforts
|Tibetans protesting at the World Bank
Photo: Dana Clark
Jonathan Fox, professor of Latin American and Latino studies, is coeditor
of the new book, Demanding Accountability: Civil Society Claims and
the World Bank Inspection Panel (Lanham, MD: Rowman
Fox and coeditors Dana Clark and Kay Treakle examined the World Banks
Inspection Panel to measure its impact as a civil society tool of accountability.
The World Bank has been a lightning rod for transnational protest for
at least two decades, foreshadowing todays debate over economic
globalization, according to the editors. Created by the banks
board in 1993 in response to unprecedented pressures, the Inspection
Panel was designed to allow local people affected by bank-funded projects
to file complaints and request independent investigations into whether
or not the bank complied with its own environmental and social policies.
Calling this experiment a test case of "accountability politics,"
the editors conclude that the panel has created the opportunity for
people negatively affected by bank projects to gain some degree of international
standing, access to transnational public interest allies, potential
global media coverage, and the possibility of some tangible changes
in bank projects.
But they note that bank management and staff have tended to react defensively
to the threat of exposure of noncompliance with the institutions
environmental and social reform commitments. For the experiment to increase
its effectiveness, public interest groups and insider reformers need
to help build "mutually empowering coalitions."
Despite the uncertainties, the editors conclude that the Inspection
Panel is a "significant test case of civil society actors
capacity to promote, use, and empower institutional checks and balances."
The book was published simultaneously in India, and a Spanish-language
edition will be published in Argentina in early 2004. A summary is being
published in Japanese, and a French summary is being prepared for West
Return to Front Page