The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has approved a new policy framework for the Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM).

The IRM provides individuals or communities who are adversely affected by bank-financed operations with an independent mechanism through which they can raise their concerns.

They can also seek redress and hold the bank to account for ensuring it complies with its policies and procedures related to sustainability.

The new policy is aimed at strengthening accountability and providing more effective recourse to people affected by bank-financed operations.

According to a statement from the AfDB on Friday, the policy framework is the result of series of internal and public stakeholder consultations that began in December 2019.

This process was part of the third policy review of the bank’s Independent Review Mechanism.

It further marked the first time that the IRM had engaged in such a comprehensive public consultation process.

David Simpson, Director, Compliance Review and Mediation Unit, AfDB, said the new policy represented a significant step forward for the IRM.

“The new policy framework restructures the complaints’ mechanism, to make it more accessible, efficient and predictable.

“It also simplifies the complaint process for users of the Independent Recourse Mechanism, while enhancing its transparency, and providing clearer guidelines for case management.”

Stephanie Amoako, a Senior Policy Associate at Accountability Counsel, an international civil society organisation said: “The new accountability policy, if properly implemented, better serves the needs of communities across Africa.

”This is by removing barriers to access the IRM and creating a more equitable process for those using the mechanism.”

Accountability Counsel supports communities adversely impacted by internationally financed projects.

According to the statement, a new name accompanies the new policy as the Independent Review Mechanism will now be known as ”the Independent Recourse Mechanism.”

The new mechanism has been restructured, replacing the previous external experts panel model with a fully integrated unit that will now lead all problem-solving and compliance review functions.

The new policy strengthens accessibility for complainants by allowing complaints to be filed by a single person.

It enables the mechanism to advise communities on how to submit complaints if needed.

It adopts a zero-tolerance standard for retaliation against complainants and rejects any form of threats.

It also rejects intimidation, harassment, violence, or discrimination towards those that raise concerns through the IRM.
The mechanism also requires AfDB management to make the IRM better known among affected communities by disclosing information about the mechanism at a project level.

Furthermore, the new operational rules and procedures approved by AfDB’s board also provides the IRM with some advantages.

For instance, it has the ability to initiate compliance review processes in certain circumstances without a formal complaint from affected communities.

It also increases complainants’ participation in the complaint-handling process by allowing them the opportunity to comment on draft compliance review reports before they go to the board.

The operational rules and procedures also commit the IRM to pursue a culturally appropriate and gender-sensitive complaint process.

It allows the IRM to consider a complaint’s eligibility even in the case of parallel judicial or non-judicial proceedings.

It further empowers the IRM to make recommendations to the bank on issues related to redress and remedy.

” That is when individuals and communities are adversely impacted as a result of bank-financed operations.

”As well as ensure that agreements reached by parties in problem-solving activities are aligned to international norms,” it added.

While the new policy enters into force with immediate effect and would apply to all new complaints, it is expected that the IRM would require a reasonable transition period to fully implement the new policy.

Where appropriate, ongoing complaints will be transitioned to the new policy over time.

The bank’s complaint mechanism became operational in 2006 and has received over 100 complaints submitted by civil society organisations and affected communities.

The mandate of the IRM covers both public and private sector operations of the bank group.(NAN)