The success of an advisor is best judged on how much of her advice is accepted and mainstreamed into the day to-day work of the person or institution receiving that advice. By that measure, the 2020 Advisory report of the IRM on the “Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment in GCF projects or programmes” (the “Advisory report”) has been very successful.
Two complaints filed with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel from Uganda and DRC created a seismic shift in the World Bank’s handling of SEAH at the project level. Schoolgirls and women in remote villages where a highway was being constructed with World Bank funds, were raped, sexually abused or exploited by migrant workers employed on the road building project. Some became pregnant and had to drop out of school. Others contracted AIDS. The Inspection Panel’s findings and report resulted in the Bank taking action to revise the way in which it assessed SEAH risks at the project level. The Bank put in place strengthened safeguard with a view to preventing such events in its projects in the future. The Bank also established counselling services and aided the victims in numerous ways.
Based on these cases, the IRM decided to prepare an Advisory report to the Board and the Secretariat with a view to learning lessons from the World Bank’s cases and preventing such incidents in GCF projects. The Advisory report analysed the policies of the GCF on SEAH and drew lessons from the outcomes of the two SEAH complaints that had been dealt with by the World Bank’s Inspection Panel. The IRM advised the GCF Secretariat and the Board that there were at least two options available for addressing SEAH at the project and programme level. One of these was to deal with SEAH issues arising at the project and programme level through strengthening its own environmental and social safeguards. The IRM also proposed that the GCF should develop the needed analytical tools to spot early, potential SEAH in its projects and programmes. The IRM also proposed that the GCF should beef up its staff capacity to address SEAH concerns in projects and programmes.
The Advisory report received a positive Management response from the Secretariat with whose staff the IRM worked closely in developing its advice. Many Board members were supportive of the Advisory Report’s recommendations when it was presented at the 26th meeting of the Board in August 2020.
Subsequent to the Board noting the Advisory report and the Management response, the IRM has worked closely with Secretariat staff to facilitate the mainstreaming of its recommendations. The IRM facilitated meetings between the Secretariat staff and the Chair of the World Bank’s Inspection Panel and also with the Inspector of the Global Environmental Facility. These meetings were with a view to enabling the Secretariat to gain a better understanding on how other parallel institutions dealt with SEAH at the project and programme level. The IRM staff also had discussions with the Consultant appointed by the Secretariat to develop recommendations on revisions to the GCF’s SEAH policy. The IRM has also participated in discussions with the Board and accredited observers on this matter.
The result is that the most recent SEAH policy revisions proposed by the Secretariat include key recommendations proposed by the IRM in its Advisory report. If accepted by the Board, the revised policy will become the order of the day at the GCF on preventing SEAH at the programme and project level.
Some key lessons learned by the IRM through this first experience of developing an Advisory report are:
- It is critical to conduct inclusive consultations with all relevant stakeholders at the commencement of an Advisory report. This helps to identify the right topic to address and the scope of the advice needed. It also helps to gather information on what has been done so far and what is missing with regard to the topic.
- Continuing the dialogue with the stakeholders during the Advisory report development process is another critical lesson. The conditions and circumstances applicable to advice can change rapidly. There might be relevant policy or procedural changes as well as new experiences relating to the topic of advice. For example, during the development of the IRM’s Advisory report, the SEAH policy was revised by the Board to include third party obligations. Later that part of the revision applicable to third parties was suspended by the Board with a request to the Secretariat to study the issues and report back with proposed amendments. The IRM had to keep abreast of these changes through regular stakeholder consultations. Continuing consultations with stakeholders allows the mechanism to be on top of the latest developments and to tailor its Advisory report to useful and on point advice. It also helped in eliciting a positive Management response that supported the IRM’s recommendations.
- Post advice consultations are also critical in ensuring that there is uptake of the IRM’s advice. Helping the Secretariat understand and then mainstream the IRM’s advice facilitates its early and effective uptake.
Continuing consultations facilitate the building of consensus on the topic of advice. Advice that is mainstreamed is advice that has impact. In the case of its SEAH Advisory report, the hope is that SEAH events will be eliminated or at the very least mitigated in GCF projects and programmes. Somewhere, a woman’s or schoolgirl’s life will not be shattered in the shadow of a GCF project through sexual abuse or exploitation by migrant project workers in that project.