2013 – 2014 EBRD Policy Review
In 2013-14, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) undertook a review of their governing policies. One of the policies up for review was the EBRD’s accountability policy, which governs the Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM). The PCM is the only tool that many people in EBRD countries have to complain about and try to address problems with EBRD projects and violations of EBRD’s policies.
Accountability Counsel provided a leading voice in two rounds of comments on revisions of the PCM policy, described below, and worked in collaboration with partners on comments regarding the importance of accountability in the overall EBRD policy review.
On 7 May, 2014, the EBRD released a final version of its governing policies. Among these policies, the EBRD released the new 2014 PCM Rules and a comparison of the draft new rules to the final policy:
Many of Accountability Counsel’s key suggested changes were made in the final policy. These positive changes include:
- The window for filing a complaint is now wider — requests for compliance review can now be made up to 24 months after the date the EBRD ceases to participate in the project, instead of on the date EBRD participation ceases;
- A possible barrier to the PCM was removed — if registration of a complaint is suspended to allow requesters to attempt to first resolve issues with the project sponsor, that suspension is no longer left open-ended and indefinite;
- Parallel proceedings do not automatically bar PCM complaints – parallel complaints or proceedings brought by the complainants before other judicial or non-judicial grievance mechanisms will not necessarily preclude complaints to the PCM;
- Protections for complainants have been preserved – the PCM may waive the requirement that complainants make prior efforts to resolve issues with the EBRD or the client if doing so would be harmful to the complainants or futile. The draft revised policy had removed this provision;
- Communication and cooperation with the accountability mechanisms of co-financing institutions is now discretionary instead of mandatory;
Fairness: Complainants’ role in the process preserved
- The Complainants’ right to comment on the EBRD Management Action Plan, which is produced by the EBRD to address non-compliance, is preserved. The draft revised policy had removed this provision; and
- The final policy expressly requires that complainants be given the opportunity to comment on the draft Compliance Review report, and for their comments to be considered in the final report.
Two key issues remain that should be addressed in future EBRD PCM reforms:
- The final policy allows a PCM Expert to be appointed as a Director, Alternate Director or Director’s Adviser of the Bank at any time after the completion of his or her term as PCM Expert — this could limit the PCM’s independence; and
- The final policy provides too narrow of a window for filing of a complaint on the front end — it prohibits compliance review complaints prior to project approval, and is vague on whether requests for problem-solving initiatives may be brought prior to project approval. This prevents issues such as inadequate due diligence, consultation and disclosure from being addressed at an early stage.
How the Process Worked: The EBRD Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM) Review 2013-14
Round 1 Draft and Comments
May 29, 2013:
- Accountability Counsel authored comments submitted to the EBRD on May 29, 2013 that were joined by six other organizations. Our comments focused on the need for the PCM to properly register incoming complaints, to improve timeliness, and to restructure to improve independence. Read our 2013 Joint Comments and the attached Exhibit.
- The EBRD’s draft accountability policy has incorporated our comments relating to the PCM’s accessibility and independence. Because of our comments, the PCM’s registration criteria has been clarified and the scope of the policies applied by the PCM widened. Improvements were also made in maintaining independence from co-financing institutions’ accountability mechanisms, and overcoming language barriers faced by complainants.
Round 2 Draft and Comments
March 6, 2014:
- On January 20, 2014, the EBRD issued its revised draft accountability policy for a second round of public comment. Accountability Counsel authored comments submitted to the EBRD on March 6, 2014 that were joined by 15 other civil society organizations.
- Our comments emphasized issues that would directly affect complainants’ access to the PCM, especially the overly narrow window for complainants to file complaints, and the exclusion of complainants from participating effectively in the complaints process. Read our 2014 Joint Comments.
Broader Policy Letter
On April 25, 2014, we partnered with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Center for International Environmental Law, CEE Bankwatch and Article 19 on a Letter to the President of the EBRD regarding concerns about the broader policy update, including the accountability policy, attaching a Joint Statement.