GTI Calls EBRD Transparency Proposal Insufficient

16 May 2008

The Global Transparency Initiative April 8 expressed its “deep disappointment” at the Public Information Policy proposed by the management of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

In a letter to the EBRD Board of Directors, GTI said,Taken as a whole, we are of the view that the EBRD is completely failing to take advantage of this opportunity to become more transparent. We urge the Board to send a clear message back to the management, with instructions to propose real changes to the policy that will ensure a more open Bank.”

The draft Public Information Policy (PIP) was circulated in February and was the subject of recent consultation meetings in conjunction with meetings on proposals concerning environmental policy, The GTI opted not to participate in the consultations.

In December 2007, GTI, along with CEE Bankwatch Network, made 55 “positive, specific suggestions for improvement of the PIP, virtually none of which appear to have been adopted,” according to the letter.

The letter urged the EBRD to adopt a true presumption of disclosure, based on a system for responding to requests for information in accordance with the following: (a) minimum process guarantees; (b) an obligation to provide all information requested subject only to a narrow regime of exceptions set out in the policy; and (c) the right to request a review of any refusal to provide information from an independent body to ensure accountability. These standards are reflected in the GTI’s Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions: Claiming our Right to Know, available on the GTI website (www.ifitransparency.org).”

The letter further noted, “Although significant progress was made in terms of process guarantees with the adoption of the Information Requests Guide, the exceptions remain extremely problematical and this is an area where the draft PIP is, if anything, even weaker than the May 2006 policy. Furthermore, although the Information Requests Guide did establish an internal appeals system, no attempt has been made to establish an independent review for refusals to provide information.”

The letter noted some improvement of the organization of the policy, and reiterated earlier praise for improvements in procedures .for handling requests. It noted that other proposals in this area not incorporated.

The GTI said the exceptions to disclosure seemed to have become broader and the draft policy continues to provide suppliers of information with a veto over its release.

The performance requirements as introduced by the draft Environmental and Social Policy (ESP) transfer the responsibilities for disclosure of project-specific environmental information from the Bank to the clients. The GTI letter explained some of the negative consequences of this transfer.  “The provisions for disclosure of environmental and social information in the draft PIP support the externalization of disclosure requirements and effectively reduce EBRD’s disclosure commitments.

By Toby McIntosh

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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).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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