Reflections on Establishing and Scaling up the IRM: The Vision

  • Article type Blog
  • Publication date 31 Jan 2022

This column was prepared by Dr Lalanath de Silva, Head of GCF's Independent Redress Mechanism. It is the first of a series of reflections on his five years serving as head of the mechanism.  

After 5+ years at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) my tenure as the first Head of its Independent Redress Mechanism (IRM) will come to an end later this year. The GCF Board of Directors will soon decide on the first five-year review of the IRM, taking stock of the activities, accomplishments, and challenges of this relatively new mechanism. This is the first in a series of reflections on my experience establishing the IRM and building it up over these years.

November 2016 was when I stepped into GTower in Songdo, South Korea to begin work at the GCF. I wasn’t alone - Ibrahim Pam, Head of the independent Integrity Unit assumed his role at the same time. The three Independent Units (IUs) of the GCF were completely new; GCF staff, until then, had no experience working with independent units, nor for that matter did the Board.  This was new territory for us all.

The GCF was conceived as the foremost climate finance institution under the aegis of the UNFCCC. By extension, the IRM would therefore contribute significantly to climate finance accountability as a forum where people adversely affected by projects and programmes of the GCF voice their grievances and have them remedied. The IRM would also serve as a forum where developing nations, disappointed when their project proposals were denied funding by the GCF Board, could file a reconsideration request.

In this context, I had a vision for the IRM which I had articulated to the Selection Committee of the Board. The IRM would be established as a state of the art redress and accountability mechanism, learning from other older mechanisms, and innovating along the way.  It would stress two key words in its name: Independence and Redress.  From a financial and human resource point of view, it would be lean and mean.  The IRM would take advantage of technological innovations in case handling but also in its outreach, advisory, and capacity building mandates. Its work would be guided by the triple slogan “just, cheap, and quick”.  I vowed to myself that during my watch, the IRM would be developed to be regarded as a leading and progressive accountability mechanism among its peer institutions.

What I did not fully appreciate, but quickly learned about and managed to navigate, is the political-economy landscape within which the GCF operates.  This was an added challenge to the teething pains any new institution would have when fitting into an older sibling in the form of the GCF Secretariat (or management).  As I look back, I can say with satisfaction that challenges faced and overcome, the lessons learned, and the outcomes achieved were fully worthwhile.  Value assessments are best when they come from independent external sources.  Thankfully, recent assessments of the IRM by independent civil society actors, peer institutions and other international financial institutions affirm that the original vision has been largely achieved, and the IRM is well on its way to serving its intended purpose.

Throughout my watch, the independence of the IRM has been honoured and fully respected by Board members, accredited observers from civil society and the private sector, National Accredited Authorities and Accredited Entities alike.  Working with the Secretariat colleagues, the IRM has been able to come to working arrangements that respect each other’s independence while, at the same time collaborating on work streams that are cross cutting.  Most importantly, the IRM has been able to keep its budgetary requirement comparatively low.  It has had a lean staff growth commensurate with its increasing case load and its capacity building and outreach activities.

This initial insight provides an overview of where we started and where we have come to.  It reflects on some of our challenges and achievements.  In my next reflection, I will reflect on my experience in updating the IRM’s mandate and drafting the Procedures and Guidelines for Board adoption.