EBRD Slightly Modifies Public Information Policy

16 May 2014

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development May 7 approved modest changes to its Public Information Policy.

The new policy as only slightly different than the previous policy, which was criticized as too restrictive by nongovernmental organizations, and is still “antiquated,” one critic told FreedomInfo.org.

David Banisar, senor legal counsel for the London-based Article 19, said the new policy is “a disappointing reiteration of the existing antiquated policy which fails to achieve EBRD’s promises that they would update it based on best international practices such as those already adopted by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

“It overemphasises confidentiality and does not provide for an independent review of decisions. EBRD needs to hold meaningful consultations with civil society and develop a new policy which meets 21st century standards on transparency,” according to Banisar.

The exemptions continue to be quite broad, such as that of Section E 1.1, which says the Bank will not disclose:

“Documents intended for internal purposes only, or classified under the Bank’s internal classification regime as confidential.”

One change that has observers scratching their heads is an addition to the section, E 3, in which the Bank retains the power to release otherwise confidential information in exceptional circumstances. A final proviso has been added, stating:

“Nothing in this Section E shall preclude disclosure of information considered to be confidential under the criteria described above, provided any and all such disclosure is in full compliance with the Bank’s rules and procedures relating to the investigative process for misconduct and discipline.”

The EBRD did not reply to a FreedomInfo.org requests for a description of the changes, most of which appeared to be minor, such as revised names.

An accompanying table includes summaries of public comments and Bank responses. One example:

Comment:

What was the reason for not providing some parts of a public sector board document? Information about loan’s conditionality and additionality was classified as confidential as it is financial information received by the Bank.

The revised policy should include some provisions as to which part of the board document disclosure to the public is obligatory and not be classified as confidential.

 Reply:

 The information was not provided as the Banking team identified important issues of client relationship in this case.

Website Changes Promised 

In answer to a criticism of the EBRD website, the staff reply says:

The issues with the website have been acknowledged. They are currently being addressed and a more user-friendly website is expected to go live in May-June 2014. Forward visibility on Board agendas will also be provided to the extent possible.

At the same meeting, the Board of Directors approved two other governance policies: the Environmental and Social Policy and the Project Complaint Mechanism.

The policies have been posted on the EBRD website, along with a report on stakeholder engagement for each policy. The public comments themselves are not posted.

The revision process was “the most extensive policy consultation initiative the Bank has undertaken,” according to a press release.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags:

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
1-(703) 276-7748