World Bank Board Approves Investigation into Community Concerns of Forced Eviction by the Lubigi Drainage Channel: First case in the newly established Dispute Resolution Service
On October 20th, 2021, the World Bank Board approved the Recommendation of its accountability office, the Inspection Panel, to investigate the concerns raised by Kawaala Community members in Kampala, Uganda, regarding forced resettlement without adequate compensation to make way for the Lubigi Drainage Channel. The drainage channel is a sub project in both the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project and the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (collectively “KIIDP” or the “Project”) that is financed by the World Bank and implemented by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). This case marks the first in which parties will have an option to resolve the matter through the World Bank’s new Dispute Resolution Service, but only if the KCCA and the Bank agree to voluntarily engage with the community members to resolve their concerns and ensure a fair and dignified resettlement process for all.
In the complaint filed on June 17th, 2021 and registered (Luganda) by the Inspection Panel on July 26th, 2021, the community alleges that the project, which aims to reduce the impact of floods in Kampala, violates the Bank’s own Environmental and Social Safeguard policies and is resulting in harm to residents living and working near the channel. The requesters raised concerns with the lack of information disclosure and community consultations, particularly that they were not involved in the resettlement census undertaken for the project in 2016-2017, nor were they consulted in the formation of the 2017 Resettlement Action Plan (RAP). While the KCCA finally did begin a process to assess compensation for the forgotten community members in early 2021, requesters raise that there has been a lack of transparency in the resettlement compensation survey and that the compensation amounts offered are wholly inadequate to enable them to relocate and sustain their livelihoods elsewhere, with compensation offers that are 3.5 times lower than the current market rates and no word of any livelihoods assistance program.
They also raise other problems dating back to the first phase of the project, including lack of adequate mitigation measures to curb environmental and social impacts, resulting in an increase in flooding and related health and safety concerns, and lack of an accessible project-level grievance mechanism to receive concerns about involuntary resettlement. The community reiterates the fact that they are not against the project and that their aim is to be afforded the right to resettle with dignity.
“We are not against this project. The issue is the amount they are giving us is not enough compared to what we have on the land. The issue is inadequate compensation” – Kawaala resident
In its response to the complaint, Bank Management alleges that eviction notices issued to community members on December 3rd, 2020, are not related to the KIIDP project and further that the 155 project affected persons (PAPs) who are referred to in the Request moved into the Project area after finalization of the 2017 RAP for the Project and thus were not identified in that RAP. On this, many community members have already presented documents to the Inspection Panel proving that they have lived, worked, or farmed on the land for years, some as far back as 1948. One family’s land plot also includes the graves of their buried loved ones.
Management also reports that a supplementary RAP will be developed to compensate those who were not identified in the 2017 RAP. As KCCA works on this, it is important that they inform and facilitate adequate participation to ensure that it doesn’t repeat past problems and mistakes. Management also notes that it will continue monitoring the implementation of the 2017 RAP and also undertake an audit of the same.
First case at the newly established Dispute Resolution Service
With the Board’s approval, this case will be the first to go to the World Bank’s new Dispute Resolution Service, a recently created arm of the Bank’s accountability office that gives requesters and the borrower, in this case the KCCA, the opportunity to resolve concerns through a voluntary dialogue process. The new service was formally established on September 8th, 2020, but was only recently staffed and published Interim Procedures for Dispute Resolution on October 13th, 2021.
For requesters and borrowers alike, dispute resolution may in some cases provide an appealing opportunity to negotiate a solution to the issues raised in the complaint without a lengthy and public investigation. If either party does not agree to dispute resolution, or if the dispute resolution process does not result in an agreement, the Inspection Panel will commence its investigation, in accordance with the Panel Resolution. Requesters have already indicated their desire to explore a dispute resolution process with the KCCA, but only if the Bank also agrees to participate as an observer.
The way forward depends on the World Bank and its client
As the community’s complaint makes its way through the accountability office process, the World Bank project to fund the construction of the Lubigi drainage channel is set to close on November 30th, 2021. Complainants fear that after the project closes, their complaint will have little chance of reaching an effective result and they may lose all chance at a fair and dignified resettlement process. This concern is not unfounded: investor exit has been a repeated cause of accountability gaps when investor leverage may wane while community concerns remain unaddressed. To avoid this, the Bank should request a stay of the construction of the channel and postpone the remaining disbursements to allow for Bank management to properly supervise the completion of all resettlement Safeguards Policy obligations.
Given the longstanding history of issues with resettlement processes under KIIDP 1 and 2, complainants believe that the role of the World Bank will be critical to ensuring a fair and dignified resettlement for all displaced households. This being a World Bank funded project, the Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the issues in the project are resolved and the Bank’s policies are followed, including those ensuring a fair resettlement process that will not leave residents worse off than they were before the project came. Ensuring this will mean not only delaying final disbursement; it will also require a break from past practice at the project level.
Any supplemental resettlement action plan must be developed through a participatory process that includes the affected people it is meant to serve, who were left out of the original RAP process. The original complaint concludes with a list of demands, including a new, proper land survey and identification of project affected persons, provision of adequate compensation, and adequate time to resettle. This may provide a helpful starting point for discussion of a supplemental RAP. A dispute resolution process could provide an appropriate forum to do this, but only if the KCCA agrees and the Bank participates as an observer.