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Accountability Mechanism

The Accountability Mechanism of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) exists to provide an independent and effective forum for those affected by ADB-assisted projects to voice their concerns.

The Problem-Solving Function

The problem-solving function, led by ADB’s Special Project Facilitator (SPF), assists people who are directly, materially, and adversely affected by ADB-assisted projects to find solutions to their problems. The harm can be actual present harm, or expected harm in the future. Examples of harm would be displacement, loss of livelihoods, loss of indigenous peoples culture and traditions, loss of territorial and developmental rights, and harm to the environment and natural resources.

The problem-solving function starts with consideration of the eligibility of the complaint. If accepted, the focus will be on seeking agreement among all the parties involved such as the complainant, project implementer, developing member country government or private sector sponsor, and ADB. The SPF will, however, not interfere in the internal matters of a developing member country.

The general approaches in the problem-solving function include (i) consultative dialogue, (ii) information sharing, (iii) joint fact-finding, and (iv) mediation. The SPF may also suggest various specific approaches to resolve problems, such as convening meetings, organizing and facilitating problem-solving processes, or engaging in a fact-finding review of the situation.

The problem-solving function is outcome driven. It will not focus on the identification and allocation of blame, but on finding ways to address the problems of the project-affected people.

The SPF offers an additional avenue for problem-solving, but does not supplant the project administration and problem-solving functions of ADB’s operations departments. He/she reports directly to the ADB President and recommends actions to deal with complaints. He/she will also monitor implementation of agreements resulting from the problem-solving process.

The Problem-Solving Process

The time required to resolve a complaint varies depending on its complexity, nature, and scope of the complaint; including the need to translate documents, accessing and communicating with isolated communities, and facilitating problem-solving. The maximum time allowed is two years.

Problem-solving process

  Within 21 days of the Special Project Facilitator (SPF) receiving the complaint
  • The Office of the Special Project Facilitator (OSPF) screens the complaint to determine eligibility.
  • OSPF consults with the complainants, borrower, and operations department concerned.
  • The OSPF ensures the confidentiality of complainants’ identities if requested.
  • The SPF reports the decision on eligibility to the President, with a copy to the Vice-president and operations department concerned, and the Complaint Receiving Officer.
  • OSPF informs the complainants upon determination of eligibility.

Note: The SPF forwards the complaint to the operations department if the complainants did not make prior good faith efforts to solve the problems with the operations department.

  About 120 days from determination of eligibility to complete review and assessment
  • The review may include site visits, interviews, and meetings with complainants, borrowers, and others as deemed helpful and beneficial by the SPF.
  • OSPF obtains information from the operations department and, if necessary, requests their advice and support.
  • OSPF fields fact-finding missions on its own initiative; or participates, in consultation with the operations department, in special project administration missions of the operations department.
  • OSPF completes the review and assessment, and the SPF reports the findings to the President, with a copy to the Vice-president concerned.
  • OSPF sends the findings to the complainants, borrower, and operations department, with a request for their comments.
  • The SPF
    • decides to proceed with problem solving, or
    • determines that further problem-solving efforts will not be purposeful and concludes the process.
  The time required for problem solving depends on the nature, complexity, and scope of the problems
  • OSPF assists all parties to engage in resolving the problem.
  • OSPF may facilitate a consultative dialogue, promote information sharing, undertake joint fact-finding, facilitate establishment of a mediation mechanism, and/or use other approaches to problem-solving.
  • Remedial actions involving a change in the project require approval following applicable ADB procedures, and agreement by the borrower.
  • Upon completion of step 3 (with or without agreement), the SPF submits a report to the President, with a copy to the Vice-president and operations department concerned, summarizing the complaint, steps to resolve the issues, the parties’ decisions, and the parties’ agreement, if any. OSPF provides this report to the complainants, borrower, Compliance Review Panel, and Board for information. If no agreement is reached, the problem-solving process ends.


  • A party can walk away or disengage from the problem solving process at any time. This closes the process.
  • Upon completion of step 3, the complainants can request compliance review, to be carried out in parallel with implementation and monitoring of the remedial actions (step 4).
  Generally not longer than 2 years
  • OSPF monitors the implementation by all parties of the agreed-upon remedial actions.
  • As part of the monitoring process, OSPF consults with the complainants, borrower, and operations department.
  • OSPF prepares monitoring reports on the implementation of remedial actions, to be sent to the complainants, borrower, and operations department; and submits them to the President and the Board for information.

After monitoring of remedial actions is completed, OSPF prepares a final report and submits it to the President, complainants, borrower, operations department, Compliance Review Panel, Board Compliance Review Committee, and the Board for information.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no required format. The complaint can be in the form of a simple letter addressed to the Complaints Receiving Officer with basic information about the project and the concerns of the complainants. However, a sample complaint letter is available on the web which complainants can use. Otherwise, complainants can simply fill out a complaint form which is also available on the web.

Yes. Complainants may submit their complaints in the official or national language of ADB's developing member countries.

No, the Office of the Special Project Facilitator cannot accept anonymous complaints. The persons or representatives sending the complaint must identify themselves. However, the identities of the actual complainants will be kept confidential if requested.

Yes. The Office of the Special Project Facilitator excludes the following:

  • Matters not related to ADB's actions or omissions in formulating, processing, or implementing ADB-assisted projects
  • When complainants have not made good faith efforts to address with the operations department concerned
  • Procurement of goods, services and consulting services
  • Matters already considered by the Special Project Facilitator, unless complainants have new evidence previously not available to them and unless the subsequent complaint can be readily consolidated with the earlier complaint
  • Allegations of fraud and corruption in ADB-assisted projects and by ADB staff
  • An ADB-assisted project which has been closed for 2 or more years
  • Adequacy or suitability of ADB's existing policies and procedures
  • Matters that are frivolous, malicious, trivial, or generated to gain competitive advantage

ADB takes corruption allegations very seriously and has a separate office that works on those issues. Anyone who wishes to call the attention of ADB to possible cases of corruption, fraud, coercion, collusion, abuse, conflict of interest or obstructive practice related to an ADB-financed activity should contact the Office of Anticorruption and Integrity [send an email to [email protected] or [email protected]]

Yes, you may submit a complaint as soon as you learn that an ADB project may affect you. Complaint should be addressed to the Complaints Receiving Officer.

For a complaint to be accepted by The Office of the Special Project Facilitator, there must be people who are directly affected. The Accountability Mechanism policy was designed as a recourse for people who experience direct and material harm caused by an ADB-assisted project

Yes, if complainants have serious issues regarding compliance, they may request for compliance review during the problem-solving phase. They may however, only do so after completion of step 3 in the problem-solving phase. In such cases, the problem-solving and compliance review will run in parallel.

The complainants, the executing agency or the private-project sponsor, and ADB are parties to a complaint.

If you think it might be an ADB project, you could ask the people working on the project if they know who is assisting it. You could also contact the ADB resident mission in your country and ask them. If you have access to the internet, you can check the ADB projects website to see if there is such a project listed.

Before submitting a complaint, you should contact the operations department responsible for the project you are concerned about and explain your problems and the remedy you are seeking. There should be a record of exchanges of communications between you and the operations department, showing that real effort has been made to resolve problems together.

If you don't know who is handling the project within ADB, you can visit or send your complaint to the ADB resident mission in your country. The ADB resident mission will be able to tell you the right person to contact, or it may forward your complaint to that person.

If complainants request that their identities be kept confidential, the Office of the Special Project Facilitator will respect that request and not divulge their names to other parties. In the later stages of resolving a complaint OSPF often convenes meetings among the parties, and this approach is restricted if the complainants do not wish to reveal their identities. In such cases other approaches, like individual meetings and shuttling between parties, can be pursued.

Yes, the Office of the Special Project Facilitator will publish documents related to the complaint but only with the consent of the complainants and government. Documents that are normally published are the complaint letter, the review and assessment report (RAR), monitoring reports and the Special Project Facilitator Final Report.

The Office of the Special Project Facilitator makes documents publicly available by posting them in the Complaints Registry on its website.

NGOs can play various roles in complaints to the Office of the Special Project Facilitator. NGOs can act as representatives of complainants, if the complainants themselves provide specific written authorization for the NGO to represent them. NGOs can also be advisors to complainants, act as intermediaries between complainants and the Office of the Special Project Facilitator for communications purposes. The roles of NGOs depend on the situation, can be different for each complaint, and need to be agreed upon and monitored during the problem-solving process.

The Office of the Special Project Facilitator will pay or reimburse any direct costs to the complainants, such as travel to meetings or income foregone due to attendance at meetings. However, complainants need to understand that resolving complex issues may take considerable time. The Office of the Special Project Facilitator does not cover costs of NGOs.