Emerging from the rubble of the Cold War, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was, until 2016, the newest of the big Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).
It was also one of the last of the MDBs to succumb to member state and civil society pressure to create an Accountability Mechanism (AM). AM’s enable people recourse for environmental or social harm resulting from an MDB-financed project.
This paper uses a constructivist institutionalist theoretical framework to argue that the EBRD, like other MDBs, engaged in a strategy of avoidance for implementing its AM.
Although the Bank could not reject member states demands, the EBRD sought to limit complaints against it, maintain control over, and minimise the cost of, the AM.
The Bank’s 2003 Accountability Mechanism was restrictive in what project affected people could claim led to harm, and what recourse was open to them.
Member states such as the US, along with environmental and human rights groups, challenged the Bank’s actions, contributing to its restructure in 2009.
This included a significant departure from the established practice of the AMs: it enabled complaints from environmentalists independent of a complaint from affected people in a project area.
This opened the door to more environmental claims. The article argues that the 2009 restructure is not evidence of a major shift by the Bank: while it gives more power to the AM to investigate and monitor the environmental impacts of the Bank compared with other AMs, its impact on greening the EBRD remains limited.
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. Susan has published in numerous journals, most recently in the Review of International Political Economy.
Her book, International Organisations and Global Problems: Theories and Explanations will be published in 2018 (Cambridge University Press). In 2010 she published The World Bank Group and Environmentalists: Changing International Organisation Identities (Manchester). Susan has co-edited four special editions and three books: Global Environmental Governance and the Accountability Trap (forthcoming, MIT Press with Teresa Kramarz); Owning Development (Cambridge, 2010, with Antje Vetterlein) and Global Economic Governance and the Development Practices of the Multilateral Development Banks (Routledge, 2015, with Jonathan Strand). Susan is an Associate Editor of the journal Global Environmental Politics and is Co-Convenor with Dr Teresa Kramarz (University of Toronto) of the Earth Systems Governance (ESG) Task Force ‘Accountability in Global Environmental Governance.’ Susan was the Chair of the Environmental Studies Section of the ISA from 2015 to 2017.
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.