Real development respects human rights and is shaped by the people it is designed to benefit. However, ‘development’ – the way it is currently practised by Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) – in many cases has been associated with the dispossession of land, loss of resources, diminished livelihoods and environmental degradation. Each of the 758 complaints submitted over the past 21 years to the 11 Independent Accountability Mechanisms (IAMs) administered by DFIs covered in this report, tells the story of a community whose lives were made worse by so-called ‘development projects’. This number probably represents only the tip of the iceberg because most project-affected people are not aware of the availability of the IAMs. While the aim of this report is to ensure that people who have been harmed by these development projects receive adequate remedy, the ultimate goal of the 11 organisations1 that have authored this report is that DFIs should pursue a development model based on human rights.2 The authors would like to see less need for the IAMs because fewer people are harmed. And they would also like to make sure that complaints are handled better in the future. Until then, the accountability systems at the DFIs provide a vital but crude backstop for those people and communities that have been harmed by the current development model. The accountability system is made up of two halves – the IAM and the DFI, which in turn is composed of its management and board of directors. Each must fulfil its responsibility for the system to work and provide remedy to those who are harmed. The organisations that wrote this report undertook both quantitative and qualitative research to assess how well each functions. They drew on their own experiences as experts, as well as analysing the procedures and practices of the IAMs and DFIs, and, most importantly, the experiences of complainants. What the authors found is that the glass of accountability is half full or half empty, depending on your perspective. Complainants are undoubtedly better off than they would be in the absence of any complaint procedure, as they often have nowhere else to turn to seek redress. However, the outcome rarely provides adequate remedy for the harm that people and communities affected by development projects have experienced. Their concerns may be validated, their issues may receive attention at the international level, and sometimes, though not often enough, their lives may be changed for the better as a result of their complaints. 001 Accountability Counsel; Both ENDS; Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Central and Eastern European Bankwatch Network; Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University School of Law; Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO); Counter Balance; Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies (FUNDEPS); Inclusive Development International (IDI); Natural Justice; Program on International & Comparative Environmental Law, American University Washington College of Law. 002 For a vision of what real development looks like, see International Accountability Project, Back to Development: A Call for What Development Could Be (2015), available at bit.ly/backtodevelopment [hereinafter IAP, Back to Development]. What is preventing the system from working better for complainants? IAMs can and should do more to improve their practices. For example, they should provide complainants with regular updates on the status of their cases; they should develop procedures to prevent and respond more effectively to reprisals against complainants; they should meet their deadlines, publish complete information about their cases online, and recognise and take measures to overcome the power imbalance between complainants and the DFIs and their clients. Ultimately, however, these accountability mechanisms operate in a constrained environment constructed by the DFIs that administer them. The DFIs impede the accessibility of the IAMs from the very beginning by failing to require their clients to disclose the IAMs’ existence to project-affected people. They limit the window of time during which an IAM can accept a complaint. They do not contribute to solutions achieved through problem-solving processes. They do not consistently respond to the findings of non-compliance by their IAMs. And when they do develop an action plan to address the findings, they rarely consult adequately with the complainants. These deficiencies combined result not just in a diminished outcome for complainants but in fewer complaints that produce an outcome at all. Of all 684 concluded complaints (complaints closed or in monitoring),3 less than half (43%) were even found eligible. Just under 20% of concluded complaints resulted in a successfully negotiated settlement (8%) or a publicly disclosed compliance report (11,5%). DFI management produced action plans in only 7% of concluded cases. Whether you see the glass of accountability as half full or half empty, the authors hope there is agreement that the system can be improved. The current report provides two sets of recommendations. The first set seeks to perfect the current system by identifying best practices that should be adopted by all IAMs and DFIs. The authors of this report, however, have concluded that simply adopting best practice will not be enough to ensure that complainants receive remedy for the harms that have occurred. The current system was premised on the assumption that the DFIs would uphold their responsibility in the accountability system. However, more than 20 years after the first IAM, the Inspection Panel, was established by the World Bank in 1993, the DFIs have demonstrated that they are either unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities. A new accountability system must be established as a matter of urgency with mechanisms that are empowered to make binding decisions and DFIs that no longer claim immunity in national courts. DFIs will only revisit their development model when they are truly held accountable for the harms caused to people and communities around the world by the activities they finance.