Groups Urge World Bank to Expand Disclosure Policy

4 January 2013

More than 180 international development groups recently sent the World Bank a letter about its broad review of  “safeguard” policies, including some suggestions about transparency.

The safeguard policies are intended to prevent harm to communities and their surrounding environment from Bank projects and programs. The bulk of the Dec. 20 joint statement is concerned with various policy areas, such as the environment and resettlement.

In the most specific comment on transparency, the joint statement addresses the Bank’s 2010 Access to Information policy and offers ideas for further reforms. The statement says:


We welcome the Bank’s presumption of disclosure, but stress that this presumption as well as other transparency requirements must be consistently applied to ensure robust outcomes. This policy should not be rendered meaningless by the wide use of exceptions. The Bank should increasingly mandate disclosure of project documents and strategies in advance of Board consideration, rather than leaving this decision with governments. The Bank should ensure the disclosure of all identified environmental and social risks–including those that developed during implementation or that were left to be determined later by contractors. Finally, the Bank should enhance transparency of Board decisions.

Regarding accountability in general, the statement says:

The safeguard review must result in strengthened public accountability of the Bank. People affected by all types of Bank investments should have full access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to redress. Prior to deciding on investments, the Bank should ensure that all who are involved in implementing the investment are aware of their responsibilities to respect human rights and the environment. The final policies must provide sufficient detail to allow the Inspection Panel to assess compliance and ensure meaningful redress for affected communities.

Consultation Advice Given

The statement also makes specific proposals about how the Bank should conduct its consultation on the safeguard policies, which will gear up this year.

Among other things the groups ask for the publication of a “a detailed budget for the consultation process,” for disclosure of relevant information, for early dissemination of information about planned meetings, for issuance of draft minutes of consultation meetings, and for feedback on comments received.

The Bank recently extended the end of the “Phase 1” consultation until the spring meetings in April and listing likely countries where they will hold consultations. It also has announced that there will be expert focus group meetings on seven emerging areas (climate change; disability; FPIC; gender; human rights; labor; and land tenure).



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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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