31 July 2023

To the Editor: Development bank reform must improve accountability

I refer to “Multilateral development banks must evolve to meet urgent need for climate finance and fund other public goods” (July 25).

The authors are right that our society and planet are facing problems on a tremendous scale – for which development bank reform is vital. However, there is one major oversight in their recommendations.

I’ve seen this issue time and again in my work with Accountability Counsel, a global non-profit organisation that advocates for the rights of communities harmed by internationally-financed development projects. A project – a hydropower plant, for example – breaks ground with the intent to electrify communities with green energy; however, developers don’t seek community input, there’s no reliable forum to remedy harms, and there’s no accountability to ensure redress is delivered.

So, yes, the World Bank should lead a transformation in development finance, but only if that transformation includes increased accountability to the communities it impacts.

Civil society has already proposed a framework for the World Bank to deliver on its goals: an Evolution to Accountability Roadmap. If the World Bank finances remedies for environmental and social harm, protects communities from reprisal, and strengthens its independent accountability mechanisms, it will not only be a leader in accountability – it will make all its other ambitions more achievable.

Margaux Day, policy director, Accountability Counsel

See this letter on SCMP here.