IAMs See Transparency Gaps at IFIs, New Report Says

19 June 2012

“Inadequate project-level consultation and information disclosure” is one of the most common problems identified by the independent fact-finding bodies connected with international financial institutions, according to a new report, “Giving Affected People a Greater Voice – 20 Years On.’

The report examines the experiences of 10 Independent Accountability Mechanisms at IFIs. IAMs began to get established in the early 1990s in the wake of the Earth Summit held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The report was released June 18 in Rio during the ongoing Rio+20 conference.

“Many of the issues articulated in complaints to the IAMs are cross-cutting, with a level of complexity that requires deeper analysis,” the report finds. It cites three dominant themes in grievances to the IAMs: concerns related to project processing and supervision; issues related to project-level consultation and disclosure; and the distribution of socio-economic benefits at the project level.

Lack of transparency is the second –most commonly seen issue, the report says.  “In just over 65 percent of complaints, communities identify what they see as inadequate project-level consultation and information disclosure, which includes engagement in decision-making and concerns about how free, prior, informed consent or broad community support are determined.”

The only larger category , at 80 percent, involves “concerns related to project due diligence—roles and responsibilities that are often shared by an IFI and the public- or private-sector entity implementing the project.”  Such concerns include project siting and the assessment, mitigation, and management of environmental impacts.

IAMs that took part in this exercise have together handled a total of 262 complaints or cases since the establishment of the first mechanism in 1993, according to the report, with complaints from 72 countries. IAMs serve two main functions, summarizes the report, “providing redress for the complainants bringing their concerns to the IAM, and providing institutional correctives and lessons for the IFI. The IAMs do not all have the same approach and mandate with respect to these objectives.”

Summarizing the positions of IAM on their own transparency, the report states:

Transparency. Transparency and public disclosure of information are fundamental to an institution’s trustworthiness. Though confidentiality is sometimes necessary, and is required when a complainant has requested it, in general IAMs are committed to public disclosure of their findings and reports. IAMs’ mandates are institutional, and thus do not target specific staff members. The focus is on the IFI’s management of a specific project as a whole, and information is not attributed to individual staff members. All the IAMs maintain public websites; though they vary somewhat, IAMs typically post the legal documents that established them, their contact information, their policies and procedures, biographical information about principals, a registry of cases for claims submitted, reports on problem-solving and compliance cases, and any final decisions and recommendations.

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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).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
1-(703) 276-7748