With virtually no regard for the comments and suggestions from civilsociety, the IDB has approved the new policy of the IndependentConsultation and Investigation Mechanism (ICIM). While this doesinclude a sparse few positive aspects, it implies a setback in theprocess of strengthening the ICIM started in 2010.

On December 17th, 2014, the IDB’s Board of Executive Directors approved by consensus the new policy of the ICIM, or the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism, by which the Bank aims to respond to the concerns and complaints lodged by individuals or communities affected by “a substantial, adverse, and direct damage as a result of any potential breach by the Bank due to its operational policies in operations funded by the institution” [1] and, through this, improve the social and environmental outcomes of its operations.

According to the provisions established by the Bank itself, the aim of the recent review of the ICIM’s policies, which began in August 2013 and was recently completed in late 2014, was to “ensure that the mechanism is organized and appropriately staffed so as to meet current and future needs, and has the structure, policies, and processes needed to function effectively. “[2]

However, adopting this new policy has only confirmed the concerns of many civil society organizations that saw the review as a clear and deliberate weakening of the Mechanism and a set back to the process of strengthening it, launched in 2010.

In turn, throughout the entire review process imposed by the Bank, a series of irregularities and shortcomings have been pointed out, particularly with respect to public consultations and incorporating feedback from civil society. These irregularities question the legitimacy of the entire process.

Not only has the IDB turned a deaf ear to the claims of a number of organizations involved in the effective and participatory process of consultation for the second phase of the review of mechanism, but worse still it seems that the IDB has not taken into account the comments and suggestions made by civil society while preparing the Revised Draft ICIM Policy.

A clear example of this is the document Comments on the Revised Draft Policy that FUNDEPS, along with a group of more than 20 civil society organizations from different countries around the world, sent to the bank last September during the second phase of public consultation. Of the more than 45 comments suggesting improvements to the Mechanism made in that document, only 3 of them have been taken into account in the new policy, and only partially so.

Moreover, it is unlikely that the suggestions from other individuals and organizations from different countries of the region and of the world have been taken into account since they voiced their suggestions during the public consultation (a total of 43 written documents with comments, according to the Bank), and the new policy’s document is almost equal to the Draft provided for consultation, with the exception of some minor modifications. If analyzed comparatively, both documents are virtually identical, with only few substantial additions; the vast majority of the differences are strictly in wording. There are no more than 15 substantial changes, many of which do not even incorporate substantial improvements for the sake of forming a more effective and efficient mechanism.

In addition to this, the Revised Draft Policy has effectively covered very few of the recommendations and suggestions made by civil society during the first phase of public consultation. This can be observed from a comparative analysis of the Draft document to said comments, accessible through the Bank website.

In light of all this, one is left to wonder what the true purpose of the IDB conducting public consultations is; does the Bank really take into account the comments made by the many organizations and individuals who invest their time, effort, and resources in order to improve the functioning of the institution? … or is it a mere procedure by which the Bank legitimizes its actions without truly taking into consideration the comments made by civil society in these spaces?

Changes in the new policy

The new policy proposed by the Bank provides a number of important changes in the structure and function of the Mechanism, among which are the following:

Structure: The structure of the Mechanism has been redefined to include the following changes:

• From now on it will be lead by a ICIM´s Director, who will report to the Bank’s Executive Board and will be responsible for all ICIM’s office, administrative, and operational staff, including the two Phase Coordinators who are to work under the supervision of the Director.
• The Coordinator of the Consultation Phase will replace the figure of the Project´s Ombudsman.
• The Compliance Review Panel will no longer be permanent and will now be settled by the Compliance Review Phase Coordinator (who will act as chairman of the Panel) and two ad hoc independent experts hired for each case from a roster of experts.
• The Director of the ICIM shall be appointed by the Executive Board while Phase Coordinators shall be appointed by the Director.
• The position of Executive Secretary of the ICIM will be eliminated.

Operation: various modifications were introduced, among which stand out:

• Changes in the processing, requirements, and necessary content of applications.
• Scope: limited coverage to operations financed by the Bank with the approval of the Board (the previous policy also covered the operations financed before the approval of the Board) and up to only 24 months (2 years) after the last expenditure.
• simplified process of Eligibility of Applications establishing a sole eligibility managed by the Director of ICIM in conjunction with the Phase Coordinators.
• Elimination of the sequence requirement for cases in which applicants wish to go directly to Compliance Review Phase, yet they shall remain in the event that the applicant opts for both Phases.
• Deadlines for all stages are to be established so as to reduce response times.

It is worth mentioning that the new policy incorporates a number of provisions which, although few in number, are positive in relation to the previous policy, such as:

• Changes in the structure of the Mechanism in order to make it more effective;
• The unification of project eligibility processes into a sole process led by the Director of ICIM;
• The possibility of field trips to those countries in which the projects are carried out (during Eligibility Phase);
• The intention of making the process of Applicant Registration more structured and transparent;
• The possibility of allowing Applicants to choose either the Consultation Phase, the Compliance Review Phase, or both, thus eliminating the sequential requirement when Applicants wish to resort directly to Compliance Review Phase;
• The creation of a Roster of experts from which the two ad hoc Panel members that will accompany the Compliance Review Phase Coordinator will be selected in each particular case.

However, beyond these few positive aspects, the new policy is a serious weakening of the Mechanism, especially in terms of Accessibility and Independence, crucial aspects of an effective and efficient instrument. As such, the new ICIM Policy establishes conditions that challenge the independence of the Mechanism, creates many unnecessary barriers to its access, and renders the filing of a request by the affected parties much more complicated. (For detailed information on some of the main criticisms and suggestions made by a group of Civil Society Organizations under the ICIM review process, see the following document).

The new Policy not only means a sharp decline in the process of strengthening the Mechanism by replacing the old, inefficient IIM (Independent Investigation Mechanism) with ICIM, it also means a deterioration of other existing mechanisms of accountability in other institutions similar to the IDB. While most of these institutions’ mechanisms tend to facilitate and promote accessibility, it seems that the IDB is doing more the opposite by establishing an inaccessible mechanism, hardly independent and therefore very unreliable and ineffective.

As such, the IDB has begun 2015 by taking a preoccupying step backwards with respect to the ICIM, an instrument of great importance for environmental and protection of human rights in countries where the Bank operates. It is the responsibility of civil society to ensure that, beyond the weakening of the IDB’s accountability presented by the new policy, the mechanism works as effectively and efficiently as possible. FUNDEPS will continue to work towards that goal.

More information:

ICIM website
New Approved Version of ICIM – December 17, 2014
ICIM Policy Revised Draft – June 2014 (subject to public consultation in the second phase)
Comments on the Draft of the Revised Policy of the ICIM – September 2014 (sent to the Bank by over 20 Civil Society Organizations in the framework of the Second Phase of Public Consultations)
Summary of Major Changes Proposed for the Second Phase
Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism Policy 2010 (old policy).

Contact:
Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator  of the Global Governance Area
gon.roza@fundeps.org

[1] See section ICIM in IDB website: http://www.iadb.org/en/mici/home,1752.html
[2] Document “Revision of the structure and policy of the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (ICIM): summary of key changes.” July 30, 2014. IDB. Pp. 1. available at: https://www.fundeps.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Revised_Policy_Summary_of_Changes_in_English.pdf