IFC Issues Redrafted Disclosure Policy Proposal

24 December 2010

The World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, has issued a new proposal on access to information that continues to be more restrictive than the World Bank’s own new policy.

During “Phase III” of its consultations, the IFC is organizing general and thematic consultations in different parts of the world. Phase III will run through the end of February 2011.

The IFC’s latest draft, now includes a few of the features hailed in the recent World Bank policy, such as simultaneous disclosure of certain policy documents as they are sent to the Executive Board and panel of outside experts to handle appeals.

But judging from the restrictions on disclosure, appeals may be few and far between.

The new version, extensively reorganized and tightened up,  maintains strong restrictions on the release of commercial information.

The proposed policy says transparency is  “fundamental to fulfilling its development mandate,” but goes on to stress that because of its  “mandate to promote growth of private enterprise” the IFC “respects the confidentiality” of nonpublic information from clients. One key paragraph states:

Commercially Sensitive and Confidential Information. Consistent with the practice of commercial banks and of most public sector financial institutions (for their private sector investments), IFC does not disclose to the public financial, business, proprietary or other non-public information about its clients, its member countries or other third parties. To do so would be contrary to the legitimate expectations of its clients, who need to be able to disclose to IFC detailed information without fear of compromising the confidentiality of their projects or other proprietary information in a highly competitive marketplace.

Unlike the World Bank policy, the IFC proposal does not include a “harm test” that would permit disclosure if the benefits exceeded the harm of disclosure.  The IFC , however, would permit itself to prevent disclosure if the likely harm to specific parties or interests would exceed the benefits.

The “deliberative process” exemption stresses that the organization “needs space to consider and debate.” The section says generally that the IFC “makes publicly available certain decisions, results, and agreements that result from its deliberative processes,” and then lists numerous documents it will not release.

Although the IFC will “at least” annually prepare a report on the “development effectiveness” of its work, there will be no such reports on individual projects.

As it has in the past, the IFC puts responsibility on its clients to disclose information on their projects to affected communities.

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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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