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Highlighting 20 years of Accountability

CAO in Numbers

16 Feb 2022 Zirra Banu

Marking a new era—with the adoption and implementation of the 2021 CAO Policy—this year we released “CAO in Numbers”,  an interactive digital report gathering insights from over two decades of CAO operations.

CAO remains one of the most experienced accountability mechanisms amongst development finance institutions, handling over 200 cases since 2000. Data we gather from our work informs our approach and highlights opportunities for enhancing our impact and effectiveness.

All complaints CAO accepts must come from people who are or may be directly affected by an IFC or MIGA project. The numbers show that about half of complainants filing complaints with CAO were supported by a civil society organization or a trade union. This relays the value of engaging with civil society groups in sharing information on independent mechanisms like CAO, through which people can raise their concerns. It reflects growth in the number of cases filed by individuals, without the help of an organization, likely reflecting increased accessibility to CAO.

Since 2000, the highest number of complaints have come from Latin America and the Caribbean—which make-up close to a third of CAO’s historic caseload—followed by Europe and Central Asia, with a quarter of all cases, due to a large number of complaints filed to CAO regarding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project. Additionally, data reveals the course complainants often took, given the issues involved. For example, complainants more frequently chose dispute resolution to address concerns involving indigenous peoples.  

So, what happens once complaints become eligible and become cases? Those involved—the complainants and the company—get to choose either dispute resolution or compliance processes to address the issues. Over time, about half of complainants and companies chose dispute resolution, and half choose compliance as a way forward. Data reveals that overall, when a case moves straight to compliance, it is most often the company that chooses to go that route.

Our Dispute Resolution function works to resolve complaints through a neutral, collaborative, problem-solving approach to contribute to improved outcomes. The highest reported outcomes from dispute resolution processes are compensation (including for land, health care costs, unpaid wages, as well as non-financial compensation), ongoing engagement, and community development. Reported agreements for compensation include land return or payment for medical treatment. Data from six years of monitoring and evaluation survey responses reveal that after undergoing dispute resolution, all parties involved gain more trust in one another—so much so that respondents who reported having zero trust at the assessment stage of ongoing cases dropped from about 68 percent to about 5 percent. Trust in IFC and MIGA also rises significantly after CAO dispute resolution processes. This reveals the impact of CAO dispute resolution processes on people and also on institutions, in building a central part of the complaints resolution process—trust.

When parties go the compliance route, our Compliance function reviews IFC’s or MIGA’ s compliance with their environmental and social policies. Compliance processes have led to systemic changes and learning at IFC and MIGA. For example, CAO’s 2012 compliance audit of financial intermediaries at IFC led to significant changes in how IFC engaged with financial intermediaries—the institution reduced its exposure to high-risk clients, instituted capacity to manage high-risk labor issues, and increased resources allocated to environmental and social issues with high-risk clients.

Additionally, our Advisory function—which garners data and lessons to offer insights to help improve IFC’s and MIGA’ s performance on environmental and social sustainability—has catalyzed lasting impacts over the years. For example, CAO’s advisory work has contributed to the evolution of the IFC/MIGA policy framework, both their early safeguard policies and Sustainability Framework after 2006. Advisory’s ongoing work on facilitating access to remedy and fostering responsible exit from projects will offer guidance to IFC and MIGA as they develop their remedial actions framework, as both institutions work towards improving the outcomes and impact of their development projects for communities.

CAO in Numbers features these insights, and much more. Delve into data and take a journey through outcomes through this innovative report.

For more on CAO’s Advisory work, click here.