By Dr. Keith Kozloff, Director, OPIC Office of Accountability
One of the many ways the world has evolved since the first Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago is that local communities now have a stronger voice in the development being considered and occurring in their own backyards. One of the principles to come out of the 1992 Earth Summit stated that citizens’ access to information, participation and justice are essential to development. In the years since then many development finance institutions, including OPIC, have created their own independent accountability mechanisms (IAMs) to provide independent oversight and redress.
Accountability contributes to sustainable development by helping transform otherwise adversarial relationships between communities and developers, uncovering hidden value, managing financial risks associated with social conflict, and improving the way financial institutions implement their social and environmental policies. In a recent problem-solving process at OPIC’s Office of Accountability, for example, different parties were able to reach agreement on design and other changes to reduce the project’s impact on local communities.
As director of OPIC’s Office of Accountability, I attended the United Nations Rio+20 conference earlier this month as part of a delegation representing the accountability arms of different DFIs. We shared what we have learned in almost 20 years of experience, and reviewed our efforts to enhance the citizen participation in the development decisions that affect them.
Over the course of several days, I reached out to a variety of stakeholders to stimulate a constructive discussion on the future of IAMs. I met with leaders of the Brazilian development bank (BNDES) to exchange views on problem-solving services, and participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Fundação Getulio Vargas, which is Brazil’s leading think tank on policy, social development, and business issues, on the role of accountability in sustainable investment. I also attended the Corporate Sustainability Forum where I gleaned private sector and civil society perspectives on the application of accountability principles to the corporate world.
This focus on accountability at the conference helped the IAMs strengthen their brand to an international audience, and to promote the OPIC Office of Accountability as a resource that is available to civil society and the private sector over the course of a development project. It is an important message that I will continue to communicate to international audiences.