A Guide for OPIC Clients
1. What is the Office of Accountability’s role?
The Office of Accountability (OA) was created in 2005 in order to provide OPIC clients and project-affected parties with access to a transparent, independent, predictable and fair avenue for addressing disputes that may arise around OPIC-supported projects. Either an OPIC client or affected parties (e.g. local communities or project workers) can request problem-solving services.
The OA operates separately from OPIC’s financing operations so that it can effectively and impartially implement its functions. The Director of the OA reports directly to OPIC’s President and CEO, and keeps the Board of Directors informed about the OA’s activities.
2. What is the problem-solving process?
The OA’s problem-solving service seeks to build trust and otherwise create conditions conducive for involved parties to resolve concerns and conflicts about perceived environmental or social impacts associated with OPIC-supported projects. For eligible requests, the OA will convene a problem-solving initiative at no charge for participants to develop a practical and mutually acceptable solution.
After assessing the situation on the ground, the OA may draw upon different tools that include:
- convening a dialogue table, which is typically mediated by an independent professional hired by the OA;
- facilitating direct negotiations between the parties;
- commissioning a fact-finding investigation to address technical issues; and/or
- soliciting appropriate authorities within the host country government to become constructively engaged.
Ideally, the problem-solving process results in a written agreement between the parties. The problem-solving process is completely voluntary, however, so its effectiveness depends on all parties’ willingness to participate and to stay with the process until a resolution is achieved.
3. How can the problem-solving process help my business?
OPIC and its clients frequently invest in risky environments, including post-conflict and post-disaster situations. Despite these challenges, social or environmental conflicts around the construction or operation of projects supported by OPIC are relatively rare.
The best scenario for all parties is to avoid project-related conflicts in the first place. However, they can occasionally arise for different reasons. When other options for resolving them prove ineffective, costly, or unduly time-consuming, the OA’s problem-solving service (provided without charge) may constitute an attractive option. By filing a request for problem-solving services before positions harden and become intractable, OPIC clients can reduce the risk of delays, reputational damage, legal, and other costs. See Costs and Risks Related to Unresolved Conflict.
The OA believes that both OPIC clients and affected parties benefit when they are able to build relationships that are based on mutual trust. In convening a problem-solving process, the OA takes no position on whether any allegations are accurate, but rather seeks to transform the relationship between OPIC’s client and the affected parties so that the dispute can be resolved. The problem-solving process is designed to allow the community’s and the company’s interests to be expressed and addressed. In short, the problem-solving process aims to identify practical preventative or remedial actions that improve welfare rather than to find fault or fix blame.
4. What information do I need to include in my request?
Your request should contain the following information:
- Your name, position, the name of your company, and the name and location of the project in question.
- The nature of OPIC’s support for the project (finance, insurance investment fund).
- A brief description of the conflict that has arisen with local parties around the project, and how the conflict relates to the project’s perceived environmental, social, worker rights or human rights risks or impacts.
- Efforts made to date to resolve the conflict.
- Any supporting information deemed appropriate.
5. How do I request service?
You have several options to submit a written request, depending on which is most convenient for you. Your request may be written in English or your native language.
- You may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the above information included in the body of the email.
- You may fill out the following form (Request Form for OPIC Clients) and send it as an attachment to an email to email@example.com.
- You may send a letter with the above information by mail, fax, or hand delivery.
If you are unsure of whether or not to request service, you may contact the OA Director for guidance without obligation.
Contact information for the OA is as follows:
Director, Office of Accountability
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
1100 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20527 USA
6. How will the OA decide whether or not my request is eligible?
Upon receiving a problem-solving request from an OPIC client, the OA Director first determines if the request is eligible. The OA accepts requests for service that meet the following basic criteria:
- The request concerns a project receiving OPIC support, including transactions in which OPIC has transmitted a commitment letter, but which have not yet been Board-approved.
- The OPIC client and the affected party have already tried to resolve their concerns without success.
- The issues raised in the conflict relate to the environment, labor rights, and/or human rights.
7. What happens to the request after it is submitted?
The OA will notify you that it has received your request, and will inform you as to whether or not your request is eligible. If your request is eligible, the OA will make a site visit to determine appropriate next steps. If your request is not eligible, the OA will so inform you, provide reasons for its ineligibility, and suggest other ways that the conflict might be addressed.
8. What situations are excluded from OA services?
The OA does not address personnel disputes or allegations of fraud, corruption, or other illegal activities, nor does the OA accept frivolous or malicious requests or those brought about to gain competitive advantage.