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The World Bank Inspection Panel: Lessons from the First Five Years


In 1993, the World Bank's board of directors responded to international environmental and human rights critics by creating a precedent -setting public accountability mechanism. Local-global civil society advocacy networks found allies in donor governments, and their message resonated with the internal World Bank concerns about the need to improve the effectiveness of its investments. Through the Inspection Panel, citizens of developing countries can now make direct grievances about the environmental and social costs of World Bank projects. Among multilateral organizations, the World Bank permits the greatest degree of citizen access. Composed of distinguished, no -World Bank development experts, the panel is a transnational entity embedded within a multilateral institution. On balance, it has been a remarkably autonomous body, permitting people negatively affected by Bank projects the opportunity to gain some degree of diplomatic standing, potential transnational public interest allies, media access, and even the possibility of some tangible concessions. In spite of its limits, the World Bank's Inspection Panel is one its most tangible institution-wide policy changes in response to almost two decades of environmental and human rights criticism. As World Bank President James Wolfensohn put it, te Inspection Panel is a "bold experiment in transparency and accountability that has worked to the benefit of all concerned."

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