In 1993 the World Bank created a precedent under international law, opening itself up to being held to account by people negatively affected by the projects it finances in developing countries. It was the first time that a universal international organisation (IO) recognised that it had a relationship with individuals that could potentially check its activities. Within a decade of the World Bank Inspection Panel, the other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) would create similar accountability mechanisms. These accountability mechanisms embody a norm of ‘accountability as justice’ that seeks to provide recourse for environmentally and socially damaging behaviour through a formal sanctioning process. The norm has spread to other development financiers including the new Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB), bilateral development agencies, export credit agencies, and private banks. How was the emergence and spread of this norm possible? Although international law scholar/practitioners have expended considerable effort mapping the differences among the MDB’s accountability mechanisms no explanation has been provided for their creation, for why they function the way they do, and whether they help people hold the Banks to account.
Susan Park is an Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Sydney. She focuses on how state and non-state actors use formal and informal influence to make the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) greener and more accountable. She is a Senior Research Fellow of the ESG, an affiliated Faculty member of the Munk School’s Environmental Governance Lab at the University of Toronto, an External Associate of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at Warwick University, and a research affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.