When the Bank provides funds to borrowing governments for development projects, it plays an important role in overseeing the implementers' compliance with the Bank's Environmental and Social Framework. For concerned civil society organizations and project stakeholders, the Bank represents an important contact point to raise concerns or flag possible issues early on to promote development effectiveness, increase transparency and accountability, and extend project benefits to marginalized groups.
A key member of the Bank team for any project is the Task Team Leader (TTL), who coordinates project activities with the Bank and implementing agencies. The TTL is responsible for working with the Borrower throughout the project cycle to promote alignment with the Bank’s operational policies and guidelines and provide guidance to the Borrower where necessary. In order to obtain first-hand, accurate, and timely information regarding active and pipeline projects, BIC notes the importance of connecting with TTLs. Drawing on our recent experiences in West Africa, best practices for TTLs’ engagement with civil society include:
- Responsiveness and availability of TTLs to meet with interested parties. In BIC’s experience, it can sometimes be challenging to get in touch with TTLs either because of their lack of responsiveness or their lack of willingness to meet directly with local civil society groups. However, while monitoring Bank-funded projects in Liberia and in The Gambia, BIC and our partners had positive experiences interacting with several TTLs. These meetings with TTLs leading projects in both countries provided openings for discussions with implementation units and resulted in improvements in project processes and consultations. In The Gambia particularly, we had several meetings with the TTL who was responsive and open to discussing project concerns. These exchanges not only enabled BIC and our partner, the Open Society Platform Gambia (OSPG), to know early on that there was a vaccine project coming up but, they also gave us an opportunity to provide inputs into the vaccine project’s stakeholder engagement plan (SEP), thereby allowing CSOs to contribute to project design.
- Willingness of TTLs to connect partners with relevant officials at the implementation units. Our partners often have challenges scheduling meetings with government agencies in charge of project implementation. The inability to meet with implementing institutions prevents civil society from holding their governments accountable for effective project implementation. Meetings with project implementation units (PIUs) offer an important opportunity for stakeholders to seek clarifications around implementation status and consultations, share concerns around identified project gaps, contribute to risk mitigation, push for the inclusion of marginalized and project-affected groups in project benefits, and conduct advocacy aimed at improving the overall project outcomes. In our experience, we have seen that PIUs are more willing to collaborate with our partners when the TTLs establish the connections. This is the case in The Gambia, where OSPG has successfully engaged with the project coordinating unit as a result of the TTL facilitating the connection. In addition, subsequent engagements with the TTL resulted in OSPG being able to identify and contact the right persons at the PIU to discuss specific concerns and share relevant information including initial monitoring findings and a list of civil society organizations (CSOs) to invite for stakeholder consultations. In Liberia, the TTLs not only provided information on PIU contacts to reach out to but also invited BIC and our partner, Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL), to join their virtual implementation supervision mission in Liberia. Attended by their safeguards specialists and the PIU, this meeting offered us a unique opportunity to discuss concerns and push for an improved implementation of the Liberia COVID-19 emergency response project.
- Availability of TTLs to share updates and valuable information regarding project status. TTLs can provide specific information on aspects of projects that might not be fully spelled out in project documents. Having a collaborative relationship with TTLs enables CSOs to better understand the project and be able to meaningfully engage on it. In The Gambia and Liberia, BIC and our partners, OSPG and PHIL, have had several informative conversations with the TTLs that provided clarity on several projects and how they are interrelated. These conversations also enabled partners to engage with the respective implementing agencies and led to the organization of project consultations with a broader range of CSOs.
As these experiences demonstrate, establishing productive and positive relationships between TTLs and civil society organizations constitutes a useful entry point towards successful, inclusive, and effective project implementation. BIC urges the Bank and TTLs to prioritize building relationships with interested stakeholders by being responsive to meeting requests, willing to facilitate connections with PIUs, and open to share project related updates, even if the project is not effective yet or is awaiting government approval.
For more information about BIC’s work in West Africa, subscribe to our newsletter.