Displaced Cambodian Families Used Compliance Review to Secure Long Overdue Compensation
In 2014, years of campaigning and advocacy work paid off when the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Board of Directors ordered bank management to compensate and provide other types of remediation to households displaced by an ADB project.
In 2006, the ADB approved a loan to the Cambodian government aimed at rehabilitating the country’s railway system. The project resettled thousands of families living alongside the railway, leaving them with unmanageable debt, loss of income, inadequate housing and lack of access to basic services. Community members filed a complaint to the ADB’s accountability mechanism in 2012. Due to security concerns, complainants explicitly asked to keep their identities confidential, submitting their complaint through representatives at Inclusive Development International and Equitable Cambodia.
In February 2014, 17 months after finding the complaint eligible, the mechanism’s Compliance Review Panel published its final report, which found serious noncompliance with ADB policies and called on the bank to “undergo a mind shift in the treatment of resettlement, environment, and public disclosure and consultation.” The Panel recommended establishing a $3-4 million compensation deficit payment fund and a number of other remedies to bring the project into compliance. Although ADB management objected, the ADB Board approved the findings and ordered management to develop a remedial action plan. The Panel monitored implementation for five years, publishing annual reports to track the bank’s progress. By the end of the whole process, community members were significantly better off than when the complaint was filed.
Advocacy targeted at the ADB Management and Board was key to success in this case, as was the strength of the Compliance Review Panel and the mechanism’s rules, which allowed the Panel to make recommendations and required the bank to respond with a remedial action plan.
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