World Bank Sets Rules on Public Interest Review

21 January 2011

The World Bank Access to Information Committee has determined that the World Bank staffers, not the committee, will make the calls on requests for documents under five years old when the requester argues that disclosure is in the public interest notwithstanding valid justifications for nondisclosure.

For documents over five years old, however, the committee will make the first decision.

And the committee would get involved if requesters appeal adverse staff decisions on materials under five years old.

The delegation of authority to staff was made in order to speed up the handling of requests, according to Bank staffers and was described in the Bank’s first report on its new disclosure policy. (See previous story.)

The AIC is first line of appeals for requesters and also has begun making some interpretations of the new policy, which went into effect July. 1.

The interpretations will be recorded in the quarterly progress reports on the Access to Information Policy, according to Bank responses to queries from The AIC minutes will not be released, officials said.

More Detail

The first quarterly report (para. 26 (d)) set out the policy for administering requests for the Bank to exercise its prerogative to release materials in the public interest.

The Bank explained in more detail:

The Archives Unit and InfoShop/PICs will only refer requests for certain restricted information (i.e., corporate administrative, deliberative or financial – except banking and billing) to the AIC if the information is at least five years old and/or involves a closed operation and has not been restricted by the exercise of the Bank’s prerogative to restrict access.  Requests for such restricted information which is also less than 5 years old and/or involving an open operation or restricted by the exercise of the Bank’s prerogative to restrict access, the Archives Unit and InfoShop/PICs will deny the request based on, as relevant, the exception that applies to the document, or the Bank’s exercise of its prerogative to restrict access.

Under the Access to Information Policy the Bank can override the release of materials in exceptional circumstances, and  it also can make disclosures if the benefits of disclosure outweigh the potential harm. That portion of the policy states:

B. Bank’s Prerogative to Disclose Restricted Information

18. The Bank reserves the right to disclose, under exceptional circumstances, certain

corporate administrative information (paragraph 15), deliberative information (paragraph

16), and financial information (paragraph 17 (a), (b), and (c)) that is restricted under the

exceptions, if the Bank determines that the overall benefits of such disclosure outweigh

the potential harm to the interest(s) protected by the exception(s). In exercising this


(a) The disclosure of Board papers or Board records17 classified as “Confidential”

or “Strictly Confidential” requires Board approval.

(b) The disclosure of information provided to the Bank by a member country or a

third party in confidence requires the written consent of the member country

or the third party concerned.

(c) The disclosure of other restricted information requires the approval of the

Bank’s Access to Information Committee (see Part IV, Section E, of this

policy statement).

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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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