EBRD’s Information Policy Proposal Criticized; Deadline Extended

1 January 2003

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s proposed changes to its public information policy have drawn criticism from environmental groups in Central and Eastern Europe who have filed some of the first comments.

The Bank requested public comment on the revisions in October, with an initial deadline for comments of Dec. 6, but has subsequently extended the deadline until Jan. 24.

“They’re throwing us a couple of crumbs, but there’s plenty of room for improvement,” said Tomasz Terlecki, executive director of the CEE Bankwatch Network, a coalition of more than a dozen environmental groups from throughout the region, in Dec. 9 comments. “We’ve been lobbying the EBRD for a long time, pointing out the lack of public access to many important documents. They already know what needs to be changed, but they’re even ignoring their own findings.”

The press release continued: “Terlecki was referring to a policy review conducted in 2001, at which time the Bank discovered that staff often did not follow bank procedures. At the same time, many NGOs had pointed out problems with public access to documents, in particular Project Summary Documents (PSDs). Under the current proposal, many PSDs would not be released. The EBRD cites ‘client confidentiality.’ Bankwatch counters that the World Bank does not have such rules. Bankwatch is calling for all PSDs to be released without exception.”

The press release said there also should be improvement in public access to environmental analyses conducted on potential projects. “These should be available 60 days before the bank’s Board of Directors votes on funding a project.” In this regard, said the NGO, the EBRD would follow the example of other development banks such as the Asian Development Bank.

Bankwatch also called for the EBRD to release the minutes and voting records of its board meetings. “Although this falls outside of the realm of the current policy review and would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the board, it is a matter of public access to information as well.” According to the press release.

Bankwatch approved of the Bank’s proposals on translation of more documents into more, but not all, national languages. “We are very happy to see that EBRD is finally moving to end its language apartheid,” said Terlecki.

The press release is available at: http://www.bankwatch.org/press/2002/press121.html

For the full text of the comments, see: http://www.bankwatch.org/issues/ebrdpip/pip2002-review-comments.doc

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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