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Civil Society Participation in the Interamerican Development Bank’s Activities and Operations: Enhancing Democratic Accountability?

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NGOs and CSOs have progressively enjoyed easy access to, and better possibilities to affect decision-making processes taking place within the Inter-American Development Bank (‘the Bank’ or the ‘IDB’), including also the most recent decisions of the IDB affecting the relationship between Spain and the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. Indeed, in particular the increasing intensity of NGO and CSO activities and their involvement in the performances and activities of the Bank and of its governing bodies at different levels and stages show that NGOs and CSOs over the last decade have become essential, though often under-recognized components of the operational structures of the internal governance of the IDB. CSOs may be, and often are, eligible to directly receive financings from the Bank. Starting from a brief introduction of the Bank followed by a set of normative arguments on the key accountability challenges facing the IDB Group, the paper will deal with the issue of NGO and CSO participation in relation to the decision-making process on the IDB Group’s financed operations, investment and programmatic lending operations. It will also consider the social and environmental accountability initiatives that derive from the Bank’s core aims of achieving poverty eradication and effective and sustainable development. In doing so, approaching the topic from an international legal perspective, the paper will first explore the broad and inclusive definition of what constitutes a ‘civil society organization’ for the IDB and its affiliated organizations. Secondly, and in more detail, it will consider the “Strategy for Promoting Citizen Participation in Bank Activities” as approved by the IDB Board of Directors in 2004 in order to expand, strengthen and systematize citizen and civil society participation in the Bank’s activities. Thirdly, the paper will focus on the Guidelines for the functioning of the Civil Society Advisory Councils (the ‘Guidelines’). Fourthly, it will describe how NGO and CSO participation is taken into account by the internal instruments of the Bank envisaging citizen and civil society participation in the IDB’s financial activities (including the most recent activities to enhance the trade and investment relationship between Spain and LAC countries). Therefore, the key features and characteristics of the Guidelines that are of special significance to NGO and CSO participation in the decision-making process on the IDB’s financed operations and in furthering the accountability of the Bank to its constituents – such as the criteria for the establishment and participation of CSOs and NGOs, the notification procedure, the meaning of ‘Civil Society Consulting Groups’, the methods for consultations at operational level, the possibilities for civil society groups and movements, including Spanish civil society groups and movements, to increase human rights and democratic accountability – will all be, in turn, the subject of specific analyses. Finally, the paper will conclude with some observations on the social and democratic accountability of the IDB to civil society and non-state actors, referring in particular to the experience of the internal accountability mechanism established by the IDB’s Board of Governors (the Bank’s highest authority) in 1994 – the Independent Investigation Mechanism of the Inter-American Development Bank (the ‘Independent Mechanism’) – that was established with the aim of “increasing the transparency, accountability, and effectiveness” of theEnhancing Democratic Accountability? 45 Bank and recently replaced by the created Independent Consultation and InvestigationMechanism (ICIM) effective on June 30, 2010.


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