Lebanese CSOs React to Disclosure of Strategy

3 September 2010

It’s still early days for the World Bank’s new policy of disclosing certain documents in advance of Executive Board meetings, so lessons about it are just trickling in.

The policy gives interested parties a last chance to comment on upcoming decisions, but the window of opportunity is small, as some Lebanese civil society organizations learned in August.

They also were surprised to find that the Bank boasted of having conducted “extensive consultations” on the Country Partnership Strategy for Lebanon, which guides Bank lending policy there and will enable Lebanon to borrow between $375 million and $550 million over four years to finance its economic and social development program.

But in a letter to the Bank, the groups – the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU) and the Arab NGO Network for Development – said they were unaware of consultations and objected that the Bank had invited only one CSO.  The Aug. 30 letter said:

As we had not been aware of such consultations, we learned, upon inquiry, that they were held once in October 2009 with the participating CSOs picked by World Bank staff and attending by exclusive invitation. No other CSOs could have known about this consultation since it was not announced and was a closed session. Moreover, those who were invited and did attend, to whom we have spoken recently, were told that the CPS was in its very initial stages (pre-draft form) and that there would be several more consultations with civil society before the final approval. These consultations never took place as far as we understand. Considering that all projects/programs that the World Bank will fund over the next four years will fall into the framework of this CPS, it is highly egregious that there was not further consultation with civil society. 

Without previous knowledge of the strategy discussions, the groups offered only a few substantive comments, and said they would submit a more detailed reaction later.

They received the 80-page document a few days after it was released Aug. 4.  (See earlier FreedomInfo.org article.)  Under the new Bank disclosure policy, certain documents are released simultanously with their circulation fo Board members.  The Board meeting was held  Aug. 31 and approval of the policy was announced the same day. A copy of the final CPS was not released along with the press release. 

The groups did, however, offer a few specific comments.

The letter said, “It is noteworthy that despite the World Bank’s commitment to integrate disability into its analytical and operational work…  Lebanon’s CPS failed to meet this essential requirement in all tackled areas (Education, Job Markets, transport…).”

On another subject, the groups wrote:  “The CPS repeatedly makes reference to “sustainable broad-based growth” as its main objective for the coming period. While we consider this to be a positive sign, we are alarmed at the seeming absence of programs aimed at the productive sectors such as agriculture and industry.”

The letter also questioned whether the plans matched the diagnosis in the education arena.

The letter, and an article about the process, is posted on the Bank Information Center website.

Ten SD Documents Posted

So far, 10 advance documents have been released since the new simultaneous disclosure policy began July 1.

Seven of them are still posted on the Bank website on simultaneous disclosure.

It is also possible to sign up at that web page for e-mail notification of new postings.

The most recent one was: 

Brazil – Sao Paulo Trains and Signaling Project — Board Meeting Date: Sept. 21, 2010

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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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