ADB Issues Second Draft of Revised Disclosure Policy

5 November 2004


The release of the revised policy triggered a second public comment period, with a deadline of Nov. 24. Getting a decision by ADB board in early 2005 is the goal.

The more detailed draft is accompanied by various appendices, including a lengthy accounting of the operational documents produced by the ADB and a description of whether they would be disclosed under the proposed policy. Another appendix describes recent transparency policy changes at other international financial institutions. Click here to view the second draft: http://www.adb.org/Disclosure/default.asp

The 37-page proposed policy begins with a summary of recent global trends in public access to information and shifts into an analysis of the implications for the ADB, frequently suggesting that greater transparency is the goal. For example, “It is clear that if ADB does not adapt to the new era of greater openness, it will find itself out of step with its comparator institutions, the practices of many government of member countries, and public expectations.”

The ADB’s “traditionally modest approach,” the draft reflects, “is no longer suited to the external context within which it operates.” It also affirms that “ADB experience has demonstrated that greater openness and information sharing have improved the quality of operations.”

The ADB continues to pair the revision of its disclosure policy with a revamped Public Communications Policy, despite some criticisms of this combination during its recently concluded public comment period and series of 15 consultations. A summary of the consultations indicates that the ADB heard substantial support for greater transparency and proactive disclosure of more information.

After an exposition of some general principles, the ADB describes the heart of the policy in a comprehensive 16-page section entitled “The Strategy.” The policy first describes what documents will be disclosed and follows with a list of exceptions.

Among the improvements is a commitment to release draft versions of two important long-term planning documents: the Country Strategy and Program (CSP) and the Regional Cooperation Strategy and Program (RCSP). In fact, the ADB anticipates disclosing an initial draft and an update prior to the Management Review Meeting. This suggestion of two preliminary drafts being released represents movement from the first draft, which suggested the possibility of discretionary disclosure. Under current policy neither is disclosed until after board endorsement.

Regarding the development of other broad ADB policies and strategies, the draft says that “on a rolling basis” a list of these efforts to be undertaken in the upcoming year will be released. Also contemplated is the release of at least one draft of policy or strategy papers, although it is not clear that the final draft will be disclosed.

Concerning proposed projects, the draft policy continues to restrict the pre-meeting release of the draft Report and Recommendations of the President (RRP), the key project assessment sent to the board. During earlier stages of the project-assessment process, however, the ADB draft policy would make some improvements in the amount of available information about a proposed project, and in the timing it its release. The bank indicates it will develop communications plans for high-profile projects.

Minutes and summaries of board meetings would be more freely available under the proposed policy. By including summaries in the category of releasable materials, the ADB appears to be moving beyond most other institutions. The draft also envisions the release of a board agenda three weeks in advance of the meeting.

Another improvement would be the disclosure of country performance ratings.

There are 16 exceptions contained in the proposed policy, including internal communications within the organization, confidential business information, and information that would prejudice member governments’ ability to manage their economies.

The draft still includes an independent appeals mechanism, a key demand of transparency activists, who also would like to see a broader definition of who may file and know how long a decision will take.

By Toby McIntosh

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

ABOUT IFTI WATCH

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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