EBRD Disclosure Proposal Criticized as Insufficient

10 June 2011

The revised Public Information Policy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development  “is excessively referential to confidentiality, to the detriment to its openness principles,” according to comments made recently by the CEE Bankwatch Network and Article 19 on behalf of the Global Transparency Initiative.

The revised EBRD PIP adopts few of the proposals submitted by nongovernmental organizations during the first comment period earlier this year. “We believe that this represents a significant lost opportunity for the Bank to improve its draft,” according to the comments, which urged reconsideration of the suggestions made in January.

 “As a primary step, it needs to incorporate the Aarhus Convention into its activities,” the comment specified, referring to key European Union agreement on environmental disclosure.

“It also needs to increase the amount of information in affirmative disclosure including project level documents, environmental information, environmental and social covenants, risk assessments, and board votes and documents,” according to GTI, a network of international groups, including CEE Bankwatch Network, FreedomInfo.org and Article 19, concerned about transparency at International Financial Institutions.

“In addition, the public interest test should be improved to fully reflect the multiple information needs of the public better. Finally, the Bank should join multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the IATI [the International Aid Transparency Initiative] and EITI [the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative] and incorporate their policies into the PIP,” the groups write.

The word “confidentiality” is invoked 30 times in the draft PIP, according to the comments, concluding:

We recognize the need to protect confidential in certain circumstances. However, the overall perception that is given by the draft is unfortunately one where confidentiality is given a primary role and transparency is only as exception to that role.

The grous call for disclosure of factual and technical documents prepared in the early stages of a project. “Project based factual and technical documents, including full environmental and social impact assessment studies, should be available online and linked to PSDs [Project Summary Documents].”

Environmental Implications

Quite a number of the comments relate to disclosure about the environmental consequences of EBRD-backed projects. The paper says the Bank’s reliance on clients to make disclosures needs to be buttressed by EBRD disclosure.

While the EBRD “expects” and “will promote similar good practices amongst its client”, there is no clearly defined requirement for the client or the EBRD itself to provide access to environmental information to interested parties. This situation should be corrected.

Specifically, the groups state:

The 2008 Environmental and Social Policy provides for the disclosure by the client of full environmental and social action plans for Category A projects and summary ESAPs for Category B projects. However clients often ignore these obligations. We recommend that the EBRD disclose this environmental information and documentation for Category A and B projects routinely on EBRD website.

In addition, the comment paper says:

The EBRD should disclose in its entirety all the initial discussion papers at the time they are produced, including the Concept Clearance Memorandum, Concept Review Memorandum, Environmental Screening Memorandum, draft Environmental Summaries, Initial Environmental Examinations, Final Review Memorandum.

The EBRD should release in a timely and proactive manner all environmental and social covenants within the loan agreement between the EBRD and the project sponsor, including the client’s Environmental Action Plan, a part of the loan contract related to social and environmental impact assessment documents. The EBRD should include provisions for the disclosure of environmental and social covenants of the loan agreements as an explicit part of PSDs.

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

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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