BIC Leader Suggests More Uniform IFI Disclosure Policies

29 September 2010

International financial institutions should align their disclosure policies, according to the director of a leading advocacy group favoring more liberal IFI disclosure policies.

Chad Dobson, the executive director of the Bank Information Center in Washington, made his suggestion Sept. 28 at a forum sponsored by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy, affiliated with the American University Washington College of Law.

After commending the Bank for its new disclosure policy, Dobson outlined a number of challenges and said the Bank should work with its sister organizations to adopt more similar disclosure policies.  The current policies of the IFIs are different “just enough” to complicate things for requestors, he said.

A top World Bank official on the same program said the Bank could “show the path” and “reassure them,” but said other IFIs “need to make their own policies.”  The new Bank policy is “the most progressive” among the IFIs, according to Anne-Marie Leroy, senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank.  

The draft disclosure policy of the Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, is less liberal than the Bank’s policy that went into effect July 1, according to persons trying to promote more transparency at the IFC. (See previous report.)

Leroy said the bank has been taking a “fairly liberal” approach to requests under the new policy, indicating that only “a few” matters  await the three-man appeals  panel when it convenes sometime soon for its first meeting.

She also said the Bank may be open to revising the exemptions, called too narrow by critics, as it gains experience with them. She said that having become more transparent itself the Bank can “be more proactive” in encouraging governments to adopt freedom of information laws.

The general counsel also said that language in Section 26 of the policy giving the Bank “the right to refuse unreasonable or unsupported requests” does not imply that a requestor needs to justify a need for the information, but rather that the request needs to be specific. 

In another interpretation, Leroy said while the policy does not explicitly discuss redaction, it is not prohibited. 

Dobson, who called the policy “transformational for the institution,” urged the Bank to work on the challenges of getting information to people at local levels and training the Bank staff. Leroy noted that Bank staffers are required to take an online course on the new policy. 

Dobson also said he looks forward to working with the Bank on promised advisory groups on disclosure at the country level and on helping improve the levels of information to parliamentarians.

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Filed under: 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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